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Safe access zone legislation must be expedited and include ban on advertising – Higgins

Legislation to establish exclusion zones around medical facilities must be expedited to ensure safe access to abortion services and should include a ban on anti-abortion advertising in the surrounding areas, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dublin Mid-West TD Deputy Emer Higgins recently raised the need for a ban on advertising in areas around medical facilities providing abortion services, with An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who signaled his commitment to the issue.

Deputy Higgins said, “The Programme for Government contains a specific commitment to ‘establish exclusion zones around medical facilities’, yet to date, protests and anti-abortion advertisements continue to undermine the privacy and dignity of those accessing abortion services.

“I know that Minister Donnelly has committed to introducing legislation in the area, he signaled his intention to legislate for safe access zones back in August, but we need to see urgent progress in bringing this legislation forward to ensure women and pregnant people can access the health services they are entitled to, free from harassment.

“Not only are protests happening on a regular basis outside GPs and hospitals providing abortion services, but we’re now also seeing anti-abortion advertising outside these healthcare settings.

“Metres from the Coombe hospital, a provocative 6ft tall billboard was erected to encourage women to rethink abortion. This is a blatant attempt to cause upset, trauma and emotional turmoil and the upcoming legislation must include measures to tackle this issue.

“As the Tánaiste said, we have advertising bans in place on tobacco, alcohol etc in certain areas. There is a need now to do the same and ban advertising in exclusion zones. We have an opportunity to include such a ban in the upcoming legislation.

“We need legislation which deals with both anti-abortion demonstrations and advertising. Minister Donnelly must prioritise this legislation and ensure that it includes the necessary measures to tackle all forms of harassment and abuse faced by pregnant people,” concluded Deputy Higgins.

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