The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill was introduced by Clare Bailey MLA as a Private Member’s Bill to the Assembly in September, and passed its second reading today (Tuesday 12th October). It now moves to committee stage.
The Bill will allow the Department of Health to establish safe access zones around registered pregnancy advisory bureaux, clinics and hospitals, inside which anti-abortion harassment and intimidation cannot take place.
Clare Bailey MLA said: “I am delighted that a majority of MLAs have supported my Private Member’s Bill today. There is widespread political support for this legislation to safeguard people’s right to safely access medical care without intimidation.
“It is unacceptable that anyone is subjected to intimidation whilst simply trying to access or deliver healthcare, as has been the case at hospitals and clinics across Northern Ireland.
“Health trusts have reported the need to employ extra security personnel, installing reinforced glass windows, staff being recorded as they go about their duties, and the continued need to reorganise where services can be safely delivered without interruption.
“During my time as a clinic escort with the Marie Stopes clinic I have witnessed this campaign of harassment and intimidation first hand. I have been spat at, splashed with holy water, called a murderer and witnessed women run into oncoming traffic to try and get away from these protestors. This needs to stop, this is not protest.
“This Bill is not about closing down debate on abortion. It is about stopping the harassment and intimidation of women exercising their right to seek healthcare.”
Media contact: Jack O'Dwyer-Henry (07504410770)