Last August, the Government published a General Scheme of a Bill that would ban pro-life activities, including silent prayers, from within 100 metres of hospitals and GP surgeries. The General Scheme is now under the legislative scrutiny of the Health Committee, before being presented to the Oireachtas.
In a submission to the Health Committee, the HSE has strongly supported such legislation, claiming that “It is hugely distressing for staff and personnel, who have committed to providing a safe, high-quality termination of pregnancy service to be exposed to intimidation whilst going about their work. Access to abortion care will remain vulnerable in an environment where providers are threatened, harassed or subjected to intimidating behaviours.”
The General Scheme presented by the Government would establish a 100-metre radius around not only hospitals and GP that are currently offering abortions but also around all healthcare premises in the country, including those where abortion is not performed.
This would include silent prayer or holding a placard with a religious image, if they are perceived to be having the effect of influencing someone else.
This piece of legislation was promised after the abortion referendum of 2018 but it has been delayed because, as the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, “we do enter a difficult space in a democracy when you decide that certain opinions can’t be held, certain types of protests can’t happen.”