Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Department of Health
200. To ask the Minister for Health the studies that have been carried out in relation to the possible erosion of fundamental rights of assembly and protest for a wide variety of reasons and causes, including industrial disputes, funerals and other events by the introduction of the proposed The Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59388/21]
The Minister for Health is committed to ensuring safe access to termination of pregnancy services, and the area remains an ongoing priority.
Since services under the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 commenced in January 2019, termination of pregnancy services have bedded in relatively smoothly to date. This is an extremely positive development, suggesting that termination of pregnancy services are becoming a normal part of the Irish healthcare system, in line with Government policy. However, the Minister is aware of reports of some protests which have caused distress to those accessing and providing services.
The Department of Health is in regular contact with the HSE and liaised with An Garda Síochána on safe access to services. The Garda National Protective Services Bureau issued a notice to all Garda stations raising awareness about the issue. It directed that any protests be monitored, and breaches of existing law dealt with. The Department has provided information on existing public order and other relevant legislation to the HSE for appropriate distribution to services that provide termination of pregnancy.
Officials in the Department of Health continue to prioritise safe access to termination of pregnancy services and to examine legislative options in this area. The Minister for Health plans to have proposals for safe access zones on the legislative programme for Spring 2022.