Abortion Bill will commit to exclusion zones around services

Zones of 100m-150m intended to stop women being harassed while accessing services

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring the Heads of the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Bill to Cabinet on Tuesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring the Heads of the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Bill to Cabinet on Tuesday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Government will commit to the introduction of exclusion zones of 100m-150m to prevent women facing vulgar imagery when accessing abortion services.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is to bring the Heads of the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Bill to Cabinet on Tuesday, which will outline the circumstances in which abortions will be available in this country.

As previously outlined, terminations will be permitted up to the 12th week of pregnancy without specific indication.

Beyond that, abortions will be allowed when there is a risk to the mother’s life or health up to the point of viability.

The legislation to be considered by Cabinet will clarify in law what the legal definition of “viability” is, that being the point where the pregnancy can be delivered. There is also expected to be legal clarity offered to other aspects, including in the cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The general scheme of the Bill permits terminations when the foetus is likely to die before or shortly after birth. The draft heads of the Bill are expected to clarify what “shortly after birth” means and is expected to be in the region of 28 days.

The Irish Times understands Mr Harris will also confirm his commitment to introducing exclusion zones to prevent women facing intimidation when seeking services.

The proposal will not form part of the legislation but the Minister will outline his plans next week and commit to their introduction at a later stage in the legislation.

Legal challenges

The legislation will be published after Cabinet approval but cannot be introduced in the House until the challenges to the referendum result are concluded. Three have been initiated.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly has reserved judgment and said he will issue a ruling later.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed confidence that TDs and Senators who campaigned against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment will not oppose the Government’s proposed legislation.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were allowing their TDs and Senators a free vote on the legislation, and although many Fianna Fáil TDs and some Fine Gael TDs had campaigned against repeal, he did not expect a concerted campaign to stop the legislation going through the Dáil and Seanad, he said.

“I’ve got no indication from the opposition but my sense is that the vast majority of TDs even those that campaigned for a No vote recognise the result that there was a clear 2:1 vote across the country in favour of change,” said Mr Varadkar during a visit in Cork.