New Irish Legislation will prevent anti-abortion protests outside health facilities

On 7 May 2024, President Michael D. Higgins signed into law The Health (Termination of Pregnancy Services) (Safe Access Zones) Act 2024, which seeks to protect those availing of abortions from harassment or intimidation by individuals outside of healthcare centres. This Act follows the Governments ‘Women’s Health Action Plan,’ which was launched in 2021 to improve health outcomes for women in Ireland. Speaking in support of the Act, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly stated “The reality is that our country has a very dark history when it comes to women's healthcare and their reproductive rights. More than that, we had a situation until very recently whereby the most common of healthcare conditions for women not only were not being provided for, in many cases they were not even being recognised nor was the requisite training provided to our healthcare professionals.”

The Act will require all those who seek to lawfully protest, to do so no less than 100 metres of an entrance to the House of Oireachtas or any relevant healthcare premises. Within those 100 metres it will be considered an offence to engage in conduct that is likely to obstruct or impede another from accessing relevant a healthcare premises, be this through a physical manner such as following a person, getting in their way or by providing materials that is likely to influence the decision of another person, including the distribution or display of materials.   

Just over a year ago, England and Wales also signed into law the creation of ‘buffer zones’, which makes it an offence to influence, obstruct, or harass those people accessing or providing abortion care within 150 metres of a clinic hospital or any other premises providing services.  

England and Wales have experienced delays in the implementation of such zones, which has resulted in a situation where local councils such as those in London and Birmingham, have utilised older legislation in order to create a temporary form of protection to those seeking the medical service. It remains to be seen whether Ireland will experience similar difficulties in implementation.  

Click here to read the new Act.  

Click here to read the Women’s Health Action Plan 2022-2023. 



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