Abor­tion leg­is­la­tion will not be ready un­til au­tumn

Irish Examiner - - News - Elaine Lough­lin Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

Abor­tion leg­is­la­tion is now un­likely to en­ter the Dáil be­fore the sum­mer be­cause of on­go­ing court chal­lenges to the ref­er­en­dum re­sult.

It had been planned to in­tro­duce abor­tion leg­is­la­tion to the Dáil be­fore the break in July but Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris has now said this is un­likely.

He said the At­tor­ney Gen­eral had ad­vised him that he is legally pre­vented from bring­ing leg­is­la­tion be­fore the Dáil un­til the court cases are con­cluded.

“I think it is likely that you are look­ing at an early au­tumn in­tro­duc­tion of the leg­is­la­tion in the Oireach­tas,” said Mr Har­ris

How­ever, he be­lieves par­ties and politi­cians would be open to com­ing back early from their sum­mer hol­i­days to leg­is­late for ter­mi­na­tions as soon as pos­si­ble.

Mr Har­ris said he still “on track” to have abor­tion ser­vices in place from Jan­uary 2019 af­ter he met with op­po­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives yes­ter­day.

“I am ob­vi­ously very con­scious of the fact that there are three le­gal chal­lenges be­ing taken to the peo­ple’s de­ci­sion in the courts at the mo­ment,” said Mr Har­ris.

“That is not an is­sue within my con­trol. All of the is­sues that are un­der my con­trol are pro­gress­ing very well.

“We will be ready to in­tro­duce the leg­is­la­tion as soon as we are legally able to.”

It was ex­pected that the Cab­i­net would con­sider the bill in mid-July and a Dáil de­bate would be held be­fore the re­cess to al­low the Health Com­mit­tee to scru­ti­nise it over the sum­mer. There had been a sug­ges­tion that the Dáil could even sit for a week longer in July to al­low this de­bate to take place.

Mr Har­ris said he would now be in favour of the Dáil re­turn­ing a week early to al­low leg­is­la­tion to get through the Oireach­tas as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Mean­while, Mr Har­ris is also look­ing at the in­tro­duc­tion of “ex­clu­sion zones” around hos­pi­tals and other lo­ca­tions that will pro­vide ter­mi­na­tions af­ter “vul­gar im­ages” were used by pro­test­ers out­side Dublin’s Ro­tunda Ma­ter­nity Hos­pi­tal this week.

“I am de­ter­mined that we are go­ing to have to do some­thing about this in terms of ex­clu­sion zones,” said Mr Har­ris.

“The idea that a ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal in this coun­try would find it­self hav­ing to take to Twit­ter to is­sue guid­ance to women at­tend­ing our ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tals, to make them aware of the fact that there were peo­ple protest­ing with vul­gar im­ages out­side one of our ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal, should be a cause of grave con­cern for any de­cent per­son in this coun­try, re­gard­less of their view on the Eighth Amend­ment.”

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