Reilly hopes abortion law will be ready by summer
Minister for Health James Reilly has said a memorandum on planned abortion legislation will be brought to Cabinet next week and he hoped the new law could be produced before summer.
Dr Reilly was yesterday given the Oireachtas health committee’s 1,000-page report on the three days of hearings held last month, which he said would inform the drafting of the proposed legislation.
“The Department [of Health] are working very hard to expedite this. There’s a memo going to Government next week on the policy issues that have been raised. This body of work has helped inform us hugely on how we progress from here,” he said.
When asked when a new legal framework would be ready, he said: “I want it done as quickly as possible. I was hoping obviously that we could have something very substantial before Easter and that remains my hope.”
Asked if the planned law would be ready before the summer, he said: “I think in an ideal world that’s what I’d like to see but I mean I can’t foresee all the difficulties and potholes along the road.
Expert group report
Last November the report of the expert group set up after the 2010 European Court of Human Rights judgment against Ireland on abortion was presented to Cabinet. It contained four options for Government, but appeared to lean heavily in favour of a flexible combination of legislation and regulations.
In December the Government decided legislation and ministerial regulations were the most appropriate way of dealing with the issue.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny faces opposition within Fine Gael, with Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton the most senior critic. The focal point of contention is the inclusion of the risk of suicide as a legal ground for abortion.
The report, which is in two volumes and is available to read on the Oireachtas website, contains previously unseen submissions from a wide range of anti-abortion and pro-choice individuals and groups.
The International Symposium on Maternal Health argues abortion is never medically necessary to save a mother’s life, while Amnesty International wants “legal, safe and accessible abortion in circumstances more widely than where there is a real and substantial risk to life of the mother”.
The report also documents the oral evidence given to the committee over three days from legal and medical personnel, as well as religious representatives and other groups.
Dr Reilly said he was certain the Oireachtas hearings had informed people, some of whom had changed their views. He praised its chairman, Jerry Buttimer, and the Opposition health spokesmen, Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, for their work.
Meanwhile, former minister of state Róisín Shortall launched a blistering attack on Dr Reilly, claiming he was going to “completely dismantle our public health service and send it into freefall”.
The Dublin North West TD, who resigned as minister of state for health over primary healthcare centres in Dr Reilly’s constituency, was speaking during a Dáil debate on the Health Service Executive (Governance) Bill, which replaces the HSE board with directorates reporting directly to the Minister. She .