Safe Access Zones are planned for introduction at health service locations across Northern Ireland by September 2023.
Legislation introduced by the Northern Ireland Assembly enables Safe Access Zones to be established in the vicinity of health care premises providing lawful abortions, as well as at premises where information, advice or counselling about abortion treatments are provided. The Zones will include the premises where these services are provided, as well as an area between 100m-250m from entrances or exits of the protected premises.
Once a Safe Access Zone has been established, designated activities including anti-abortion protests are prohibited within the protected area.
All Health and Social Care Trusts are planning to introduce Safe Access Zones, and detailed preparation work has been ongoing for a number of months, including mapping and signage arrangements. Engagement with stakeholders is also underway. Information on the location of each Safe Access Zone will be displayed at all protected premises and published on the Department of Health and HSC Trust websites.
The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act (Northern Ireland) 2023 was introduced by the NI Assembly to support women who are accessing legally available abortion services and staff who work at locations where these services are provided. Any actions taken in relation to Safe Access Zones by Trusts and the Department will be in full compliance with the Assembly’s legislation. The Zones will only apply to the strictly designated areas.
The Department is finalising a policy statement on Safe Access Zones as part of the preparations for their introduction.
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