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Abortion law will take until end of year, says health minister

Simon Harris said he has three tasks to complete and he is determined to ‘get it right’.

Simon Harris

Ireland’s Health Minister has said it will take until the end of the year to implement new legislation after the abortion referendum because he is determined to “get it right”.

Simon Harris said he has three tasks to complete before the new law is put in place: pass the legislation, regulate the medicines involved and agree new medical guidelines.

Speaking before a cabinet meeting in Dublin, Mr Harris also said he hopes to table the bill before the Dail ahead of the summer recess.

The Irish cabinet was meeting on Tuesday to sign off the next steps in abortion reform as Mr Harris outlined plans to fellow ministers.

Ireland voted resoundingly to reform its strict abortion laws in Friday’s referendum by a two-to-one margin, paving the way for the removal of the constitution’s all but blanket ban on terminations.

Mr Harris is to draft legislation that would allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and up to 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

Before the meeting, he said: “My department will start today engaging with the medical colleges – again we couldn’t do that until the people voted Yes.

“So meetings will commence today between the various medical colleges to look at exactly how the medical community will interact with the law of the land.

“There’s plenty of time to work through that in the coming months but it is important that there is a realism injected into the discussion about timelines.”


IRISH Abortion

IRISH Abortion

Press Association Images

IRISH Abortion

Mr Harris told RTE: “I’m determined to do this as quickly as possible but I’m also determined to get it right for women and get it right for doctors, and that’s why it will take until the end of the year to get all of those three elements in place.

“I want to get this right for women and doctors in Ireland and I’m determined to do that and I’m determined to finish the job the people have given me to do.

“I would hope that we can publish a bill, a law, in the coming weeks and if at all possible commence debate here in the coming weeks.

“It will take until the end of the year because it’s not just about the law – we have to have the law, we have to have the clinical guidelines drawn up by medical practitioners, and we also have to have the regulation of medication in Ireland – so there’s three, I suppose, big bodies of work we have to do over the coming weeks and months.

“Now that the people have voted Yes, we very much have the green light for them to do that.”

Mr Harris intends to meet Opposition leaders and fellow stakeholders this week.