Har­ris to dis­cuss abor­tion pro­pos­als

■ Num­ber of changes put for­ward to pro­posed bill by com­mit­tee

Irish Examiner - - News - Elaine Lough­lin Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent

Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris is ex­pected to reach com­pro­mise on a num­ber of changes put for­ward to the abor­tion bill.

The Ter­mi­na­tion of Preg­nancy Bill passed com­mit­tee stage this week, how­ever, Mr Har­ris will meet mem­bers of the health com­mit­tee on Tues­day to thrash out a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of amend­ments which he promised to re­view be­fore the bill goes to re­port stage.

In tan­dem with this, Mr Har­ris will next week meet those in­volved in the roll-out of ter­mi­na­tion ser­vices in­clud­ing of­fi­cials from the HSE, the Med­i­cal Coun­cil, Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians of Ire­land as well as Dr Peter Boy­lan for an up­date on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ser­vice due to be­gin in Jan­uary.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the 180 amend­ments tabled to the bill had been with­drawn by com­mit­tee mem­bers this week on the ba­sis of fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion with the min­is­ter.

It is ex­pected that Mr Har­ris will change a re­quire­ment that a woman must at­tend the same doc­tor to ac­cess abor­tion ser­vices af­ter a three day wait­ing pe­riod as she did for the ini­tial con­sul­ta­tion.

Con­cerns had been raised that es­pe­cially in a hos­pi­tal set­ting, it could be im­pos­si­ble for the same medic to at­tend to a woman due to ros­ter­ing or an­nual leave.

It is un­der­stood Mr Har­ris and his of­fi­cials in the De­part­ment of Health are work­ing on word­ing which would mean the same doc­tor would as far as is prac­ti­cal see the women on both oc­ca­sions, but would al­low for some wrig­gle room on this.

Mr Har­ris is also ex­pected to agree to re­place the word ‘ex­am­i­na­tion’ with ‘con­sul­ta­tion’ in the leg­is­la­tion.

Mem­bers of the health com­mit­tee raised con­cerns that the word ex­am­i­na­tion sug­gested that a phys­i­cal checkup would be re­quired when a woman goes to her doc­tor to seek an abor­tion.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment will not be back­ing down or mak­ing changes to other ar­eas which TDs cited as prob­lem­atic.

This in­cluded chang­ing the word “woman” to “preg­nant per­son” in the bill to make it more in­clu­sive of trans­gen­der peo­ple.

Mr Har­ris said he had re­ceived ad­vice from the at­tor­ney gen­eral that mak­ing this change could im­pact other laws.

Writ­ing to Mr Har­ris yes­ter­day, Sol­i­dar­ity-PBP TD Bríd Smith Sec­tion called for changes to the “oner­ous” three-day wait pe­riod which would be counted from cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner.

“At the very least, the three day pe­riod should com­mence from the time of ini­tial con­tact, ie when the woman seeks an ap­point­ment with a GP/med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner,” she wrote.

Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Don­nelly and Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly wrote to the min­is­ter yes­ter­day.

Ms O’Reilly said: “The min­is­ter has com­mit­ted that he would try in­so­far as is pos­si­ble to ad­dress rea­son­able points.

“We will be pleased to work in­for­mally to re­solve is­sues.”

The com­mit­tee also passed an amend­ment to al­low for a re­view of the leg­is­la­tion not later than five years af­ter the com­mence­ment of ser­vices.

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