Abortion services to be in place next January, says Harris

Exclusion zones needed to stop protesters from intimidating women accessing services

Minister for Health, Simon Harris: addresses criticisms levelled at the people who gathered in Dublin Castle for the referendum result. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Abortion services will be introduced in January, despite a delay in introducing legislation, Minister for Health Simon Harris has pledged.

Three legal challenges have been initiated to the referendum result and are likely to result in the Bill to regulate the termination of pregnancy not being introduced until September.

In a speech to be given at an event for the National Women’s Council today, Mr Harris says the Bill will be published in July regardless and will include exclusion zones preventing protesters from intimidating women accessing services.

The Minister also says though he is “not usually in favour of exclusion” he sees “all too blatantly I’m afraid, the need for exclusion zones”.


“I want to assure you also that I have asked my department to consider the legislative measures required to ensure that our maternity hospitals or any other providers of women’s health care will not be subject to the kind of offensive imagery we have seen continue to be displayed in recent weeks.

“All of these elements are necessary so that we can start new services in this country by year end.”

Conscientious objection

The legislation will also allow for conscientious objection but will not allow doctors refuse to refer women to another professional.

The result was clear and the legislation to implement its outcome must be introduced as soon as possible, he adds in his speech.

The Minister also addresses criticisms levelled at the people who gathered in Dublin Castle for the referendum result.

“When a call for compassion is met in kind, it is no small feeling. I felt that in the courtyard of Dublin Castle – not celebration, but relief from the fear of rejection.

“That sadly well-founded and real fear borne of many years of experience. Over the course of the week before the vote, I met many women and shared their apprehension about how it would go. I met no complacency, nor even confidence. The result when it came not only exceeded expectation, it surpassed our highest hopes.”

Health of women

Mr Harris also confirms that he has set up a national women’s health action plan to draw up actions on the health of women and girls; including the early childhood programme and the tobacco programme, the sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme, the perinatal and mental health programme and the maternity and infant health programme.

“Notwithstanding the many challenges which lie ahead, there can be no doubt, that we have come a long way. If we think back to the 1970s when rights were very different, purchasing contraception was illegal, women were forbidden to sit on a jury and women were expected to give up their jobs in the public sector when they got married.”