Belfast Telegraph

Abortion legislation will not be implemented until new year, says Varadkar

The Irish premier said legislators may have to sit longer into the summer.

New legislation to give effect to Ireland’s abortion referendum result will not be implemented until the new year, the Irish premier has said.

Leo Varadkar said the Dail may have to sit longer into the summer to facilitate the passage of the new laws.

The Taoiseach said the Irish people had spoken and the Government wanted to legislate for abortion in Ireland as quickly as possible, but warned it could not be rushed.

“It’s important that we’ve to act with haste but not so much haste that we put through bad legislation,” he said.

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Simon Harris is to draft the legislation (Niall Carson/PA)

Health Minister Simon Harris brought a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday morning to begin drafting the detailed legislation right away as a priority.

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 Eighth Amendment – 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.

On Tuesday morning, he told reporters the process will take until the end of the year because he is determined to “get it right”.

Later Mr Varadkar told the Dail: “It’s still our anticipation that it will be the end of the year, January 1 2019, before we have fully given effect to the will of the people even with the best of intentions.

“The legislation might be through in October/November but it will be January really before we can give effect to the new regime.”

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 Simon Harris

Mr Harris said three tasks must be completed before the new law is put in place: pass the legislation, regulate the medicines involved and agree new medical guidelines.

Speaking before the cabinet meeting, he said: “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 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.”

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail, Opposition TD Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, said: “The Irish people have spoken emphatically. In a clear and decisive manner, the people, through the referendum, have voted for change, for new laws that will end the cruel inflexibility of the Eighth Amendment.

“It’s our obligation and mandate to ensure the passage of this legislation because of the urgency of the issue for many women in our society.”

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

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