The Irish Government has approved legislation making it illegal to stage protests within 100 meters of facilities providing abortion services in Ireland.
The Safe Access Zones Bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of TDs on a vote of 117 to 10 on November 15 and will now be sent to the Seanad for consideration before going to President Michael D. Higgins for final approval.
The law will introduce 100-meter exclusion zones at the entrances and exits of all healthcare facilities providing abortion facilities, including GP practices, family planning centers, and maternity hospital.
The law allows gardaí to issue people protesting inside safe access zones with a warning, with a criminal penalty imposed if the same person continues to protest on multiple occasions.
Offenses will be prosecuted in the District Court, with a maximum penalty of a €2,500 fine or six months in prison for repeat offenders.
In a statement, the Government said the Safe Access Zones Bill would allow people to access abortion services "in safety, with dignity and privacy".
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly welcomed the passage of the Bill, stating that it would provide safety for healthcare workers and women seeking abortions alike.
"The introduction of Safe Access Zones will protect the freedom to access termination of services without impediment and the privacy and dignity of women accessing health services, as well as the service providers, and their staff in the course of their duties and responsibilities," Donnelly said in a statement.
Speaking in the Dáil last week, Donnelly said Ireland had a "dark, dark history" in terms of women's reproductive rights and said he was proposing an 18-month review of the working of the zones.
He said the timeframe would provide enough time to see if the act was working as intended.
Abortion advocacy groups called for the bill to be signed into law after a small number of anti-abortion activists staged a protest outside the gates of Cork University Hospital in September.