Safe Access Zones - Q & A

Safe Access Zones

What is a Safe Access Zone?

A Safe Access Zone (SAZ) provides protected space where designated activities are not permitted.

What is their purpose?

Safe Access Zones are designed to protect women and girls accessing lawful abortion services, information, advice and counselling, and protect staff providing these services.

The law makes it illegal for these protected persons to be impeded, recorded, influenced or to be caused harassment, alarm or distress within the Safe Access Zones.

The definition of protected person in the legislation includes a person accompanying a woman/girl accessing the services, as well as the woman/girl herself. It also includes a person providing services to the protected premises as well as those working there.

What does a Safe Access Zone cover?

Under the legislation, Safe Access Zones can be established in the vicinity of health care premises providing lawful abortions, as well as at premises where information, advice or counselling about abortion services are provided. The Zones will include the protected premises where these services are provided, as well as adjoining public space between 100m-250m from entrances or exits of the protected premises.

When are they being introduced?

Five Health and Social Care Trusts decided to introduce Safe Access Zones from September 29, 2023. These will be located at:

HSC Trust



Southern Trust

Craigavon Area Hospital


Southern Trust

Daisy Hill Hospital


Belfast Trust

College Street


Belfast Trust

Bradbury Wellbeing and Treatment Centre


Northern Trust

Causeway Hospital


Western Trust

Altnagelvin Hospital


South Eastern Trust

Lagan Valley Hospital


South Eastern Trust

Ulster Hospital


Under what legislation is this being done?

SAZs are being established under legislation passed by the NI Assembly – the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act (Northern Ireland) 2023. You can read the legislation on the website.

Who is a protected person?

A protected person is a person attending protected premises for the purposes of:

  • accessing the treatment, information, advice or counselling provided there; OR
  • accompanying a person accessing the treatment, information, advice or counselling provided there, at the invitation of that person; OR
  • working in, or providing services to, the protected premises.

What are protected premises?

Protected premises are premises where treatment, information, advice or counselling relating to the lawful termination of pregnancy is provided in accordance with the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No.2) Regulations 2020, and where the approved operator of the premises has notified the Department of Health that they wish to establish a Safe Access Zone.

The Safe Access Zone includes the protected premises, as well as the public area outside the protected premises which lies within a distance between 100m-250m from each entrance to, or exit from, those premises, as set by the operator of the premises.

What is an offence?

The Act makes it a crime to do an act in a Safe Access Zone, either intentionally or recklessly, that will or might:

  • directly or indirectly influence a protected person in their decision to attend an abortion clinic; OR
  • prevent or impede their access; OR
  • harass, alarm or distress that protected person.

Who enforces the SAZ?

The PSNI has powers of enforcement under this legislation and can be contacted by a member of staff at the protected premises, or by a member of the public, in the event of any potential breach of the law.

Any breaches of the Act will be dealt with appropriately and those found guilty of an offence could face a fine of up to £2,500 (not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale).

Will these be the only Safe Access Zones?

The legislation does not set a figure for the number of SAZs in NI.

What about private addresses in Safe Access Zones?

The Safe Access Zone requirements do not apply to private properties. However, anyone living, working in or visiting private properties within the Safe Access Zone will be required to abide by the Zone requirements when in the designated public spaces.

How will I know if I am in a Safe Access Zone?

Public signage including maps will be placed at the Zones by Health Trusts/ operators of premises.

What does a Safe Access Zone cover?

A Safe Access Zone covers a protected premises in its entirety as well as the designated public space around the premises which may be between 100m and 250m from its entrance/exit. Where services are provided at hospital locations the protected premises means the entire hospital site.

Where can I find out more information about operational Safe Access Zone in my area?

More information including maps will be available on Health Trust websites.

Do Safe Access Zones just apply to health service facilities?

Non-statutory providers of information, advice or counselling about abortion services can also establish a Safe Access Zone

What abortion services are lawful in NI?

Details of abortion service provision in Northern Ireland are provided on the NI Direct website.

How will the effectiveness of Safe Access Zones be monitored?

The Safe Access Zone area is monitored by staff and the PSNI. The Department of Health will produce an annual report.

Does this impact on the right to protest or free speech?

The legislation criminalises certain actions within the strictly designated public areas in the vicinity of these services. The Supreme Court has ruled that Safe Access Zones legislation is not incompatible with the Convention rights of those who seek to express opposition to the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland. More information is available on The Supreme Court website.


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