Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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16. To ask the Minister for Health if he will provide an update on the legislation for safe access zones around abortion services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16983/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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I am committed to ensuring safe access to termination of pregnancy services, and the area remains an ongoing priority for me, this Government and my Department, including progressing legislation this year.

However, it is important that any legislative provisions are implementable and enforceable, and that they will stand up to any legal challenges that might be brought against them. It must also be ensured that they do not cause any unintentional consequences for existing public order laws.

As the Deputy may be aware, while it was originally intended to provide for safe access to termination of pregnancy services in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, a number of complex legal and policy issues were identified during the drafting process which necessitated further deliberation and advice. These issues were further debated during the second and committee stage for the Safe Access to Termination of Pregnancy Services Bill 2021, and I wish to commend the Together for Safety group for its work on this legislative proposal which is further informing necessary considerations in this important area of work.

Officials in my Department are actively engaging with key stakeholders to work through these challenges, refine the policy position, and explore legislative options. At my request, and with the support of the Joint Committee on Health, officials met the Health Committee last week to collaboratively discuss options for overcoming the challenges that have been identified by the Department. I understand that this was a positive session, with the Committee voicing their support for bringing forward safe access legislation. I wish to thank the Committee for their time and input to support the advancement of robust legislation for safe access zones. It is important to me that the appropriate legislative solution is progressed with cross party support. My officials have listened carefully to the views and inputs of the Committee and will consider these into their ongoing work on this matter.

My Department is now settling the policy position, which is complex, and I have sought input from the Attorney General to support this process. In parallel, officials are continuing to work with an inter-departmental working group to advance these proposals and develop a robust General Scheme of a Bill.

Subject to Government approval, I plan to have proposals for safe access on the legislative programme for 2022.


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