Donnelly ‘fully committed’ to safe access zone legislation

Minister says legal issues around safe access to abortion required ‘further consideration’

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was responding to a report in the Irish Examiner that said the legislation had been shelved.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly was responding to a report in the Irish Examiner that said the legislation had been shelved. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he is “fully committed” to the introduction of legislation on safe access zones around healthcare facilities providing abortion services.

The minister’s comments come following a report in the Irish Examiner that said the legislation had been shelved.

Mr Donnelly said in a statement on Saturday that it was originally intended to provide for “safe access to termination of pregnancy services” in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018.

“However, a number of legal issues were identified which necessitated further consideration,” he said.

“Officials in the Department of Health continue to work with me to ensure safe access around medical facilities.

“I have also been engaging with a range of stakeholders and civil society groups in relation to the review of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Act which is being finalised with a view to it starting in the coming weeks.”

Mr Donnelly added that a priority for him as the health minister is women’s healthcare and “the provision of safe services for all women”.

Timeline

The Green Party’s spokesperson for health, Neasa Hourigan, said that she would like to reiterate her party’s “commitment to the development of safe access zones for abortion services”.

Ms Hourigan said the inclusion of safe access zones was “one of the most important commitments” in the Programme for Government and one that the Green Party “fought hard for”.

“Access to abortion services and the right to do so in an equitable and safe way is something the people of Ireland campaigned long and hard for and the Green Party is determined to see this aspect of the coalition’s commitments fulfilled,” she said.

“Though the confusion this morning is unfortunate it is crucial for the minister to set out a clear timeline for the completion of that legislation.

“The creation of safe access zones sits alongside the independent review of law around reproductive health care services that will begin by the end of this year.”

Labour senator Annie Hoey said repealing the 8th amendment marked a significant step forward “for taking a compassionate approach to healthcare in this country”.

“Despite their celebrations at the time, the Government no longer seem interested in ensuring safe access to abortion services for women who need it. Minister Donnelly needs to prioritise this legislation when the Oireachtas returns. If he decides not to, the Labour Party will,” she said.

“Legislation providing for access to abortion services is not enough - we also need to ensure that women have safe access and are protected when they seek out abortion services.”

In contrast, a spokeswoman for the the Pro Life Campaign, Eilís Mulroy said the Minister’s statement “shows just how subservient he is to the abortion lobby”.

She said: “The Government should never have committed to bringing forward such legislation in the first instance.

“If enacted, it would represent a gross infringement of civil liberties and freedom of expression. Some abortion supporters appear to spend most of their time looking for isolated examples to demonise and unfairly depict the pro-life movement.

“The truth however is that pro-life volunteers are extremely peaceful and respectful whenever they assemble in public. To introduce a law that specifically singles out and targets pro-lifers would be a totally unjust and discriminatory move.”