Expert group sets out options


The report of the expert group set up to deal with how the State deals with the issue of lawful abortions is “very negative” about the option which does not require legislation, according to key passages of the report seen by RTÉ’s Prime Time.

The first option outlined is the introduction of guidelines, but this does not require primary legislation and the expert group has said it is unlikely to satisfy our obligations at the Council of Europe.

The second approach in allowing legal terminations of pregnancies where the life of the mother is at risk would be for the Minister for Health to administer regulations.

The report says “Ministers could not issue regulations without being given the power to do so by enabling legislation” and therefore “it is not likely to prove a speedier or superior solution than the other legislative options”.

The third option is for the introduction of legislation alone. The main advantage here is that it would allow the Oireachtas the “opportunity to discuss and vote on all the relevant details of the proposed legislation”.

A second advantage would be that “access to lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland would be put on a statutory and therefore a more secure footing”. The disadvantage is that this process is likely to take “a considerable period of time”, and legislation may prove “too rigid”.

The fourth option outlined is new legislation plus regulations. The advantages include that the role of the Minister for Health “would come under less scrutiny in relation to procedural matters as these would be in the legislation”.

Another advantage is that regulations could be amended relatively easily. This would allow for possible changes in clinical practice, scientific advances and any challenges arising from their implementation.

The disadvantage is the same as outlined in relation to legislation alone, and that “due to the nature of this legislation, the process of drafting and democratic scrutiny is likely to take a considerable period of time”.

This morning Sinn Féin called on the Government to now publish the report immediately.

The party's health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was "disgraceful" that the media would have details of the report while the Oireachtas remained unaware of its findings.

“The Oireachtas has been treated with contempt by the cabinet and, unless it relents, we must wait until next week before seeing the report and addressing its conclusions. The government should end this charade and publish the report immediately," he said.