Minister confirms abortion report to go before Cabinet shortly

Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 00:00

Minister for Health James Reilly has confirmed he will be bringing the report of the expert group on abortion to Cabinet on Tuesday week.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One yesterday, he extended his sympathies to Ms Halappanavar’s family and said they would have input into the terms of reference for the inquiry into her death.

“I have read the report and I need to study it further. It’s a hugely complex issue that has divided the country . . . and we’re not going to solve it in a matter of weeks,” he said.

It would be a “derogation of duty” for him not to deal with the issue, he added, saying every woman had a right to have legal clarity regarding the treatment available to her.

It was his view that it could be early 2013 before a Government position was made clear.

“Doing nothing” was not an option, he said, but he had as yet not made any decision as to whether to legislate on the issue or hold a referendum.

Dr Reilly said he would need to consult before decisions were made. Both the Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties would want to be consulted.

Asked how long consultation would continue, he said he did not want to see it lasting “months and months”.

The outcome would see the introduction of definitive measures on the right of every woman to have legal clarity in relation to the treatment available to her.

Final draft

He said the final draft of the HSE’s investigation into the death of Ms Halappanavar was ready and attempts had been made to contact her husband, Praveen. Contact had also been made with his legal representatives.

According to the Minister, the only other people who had seen the report were the Taoiseach and Tánaiste. Asked whether Attorney General Máire Whelan had been provided with a copy of the report, he said a decision had been made to share the document with the two leaders in Government. If the Attorney General were provided with a copy, a case could be made for giving it to the Minister for Justice.

“Where do you stop?” Dr Reilly asked.

Ms Whelan had his “absolute support” and was a person of the highest calibre, he added.