The Government has approved the publication of the general scheme of a bill that would set up exclusion zones around medical facilities that provide terminations of pregnancies.
The Department of Health says that the aim of the proposed legislation is to protect the safety and wellbeing of women accessing such services, as well as service providers and their staff.
The proposed Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services (Safe Access Zones)) Bill 2022, designates ‘safe access zones’ of 100 metres around healthcare settings that can lawfully provide termination-of-pregnancy services.
Certain behaviours, activities and protests will be prohibited in these zones, which will include the premises of hospitals, community care, and secondary care centres – including general practitioners.
“Conduct which intentionally or reasonably would have the effect of influencing the decision of a person in relation to availing of, or providing, termination of pregnancy services, or interfering with a person’s access to, or provision, of termination-of-pregnancy services. will be prohibited in the safe access zones,” the Department of Health says.
The general schemes lists a number of penalties for offences under the proposed legislation, ranging from fines for first offences, to up to 12 months in prison for repeat offenders.
The proposals were brought to Cabinet by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly (pictured).