The Health Minister has insisted that establishing “safe access zones” around locations offering abortion service is one of his priorities for the upcoming Dáil term.
It comes after a small number of demonstrators stood outside a practice in Galway city holding anti-abortion signs yesterday.
Pro-choice campaigners labelled the protests unacceptable and warned that the exclusion zones must be set up as soon as possible to protect vulnerable women.
This afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said Minister Simon Harris believes that “termination of pregnancy should be a normal and lawful part of healthcare provision for women.”
She said officials are currently drafting legislation that would provide for safe access to premises that can offer abortion services.
She said the legislation aims to “allow patients, service providers, healthcare staff and members of the public to enter such premises without fear of intimidation or harassment and without being subject to unwanted communications about termination of pregnancy by any means.”
The legislation will include a ban on “oral, written or visual displays” within the zones.
The spokesperson said the Government originally wanted to include the “safe access zones” within the wider abortion legislation that come into force on New Year’s Day.
However, after a number of issues were identified, a decision was taken to deal with it separately in order to ensure there was no delay to the abortion bill.
Ailbhe Smyth. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Ailbhe Smyth from the Together for Yes said protests like the one seen in Galway yesterday are unacceptable.
"[The protesters are] seeking to deter women from accessing an entirely lawful health service in this country... furthermore one which has a mandate from two-thirds of the population."
She added: "I am urging the Minister and Department of Health to move as soon as the Dáil returns... to ensure safe access zone legislation is put through the Dáil pronto pronto so that necessary sanctions can be taken against people who break it in any way.
"We need those deterrents to ensure that women are safe, that women's dignity is respected, that citizens' rights are respected in this State."
The Department of Health said work on the safe access zone legislation will be concluded as soon as possible.