The Government will consider providing free contraception, in the event the Eighth Amendment is removed from the Constitution.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed his department will make proposals by the end of March to reduce crisis pregnancies.
The “nature and scope’’of measures to improve access to counselling, contraception and perinatal care will be examined by an internal Department of Health group. Chief medical officer Tony Holohan will be involved in bringing forward the proposals. Free contraception was originally proposed by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
Mr Harris yesterday introduced in the Dáil the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018, paving the way for the abortion referendum, which the Government wants to hold by the end of May. “Our underlying principle is that abortion should be safe, legal and rare, then we must do all we can to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women in every way,” he said.
Anti-abortion campaigners are predicting tens of thousands of people will march in Dublin today to oppose repeal. Organisers say the “Rally for Life” begins “a 12-week campaign that will take the message about why this proposal must be rejected to every town, village, and rural community in Ireland”.
The Eighth Amendment gives an equal right to life to the mother and the unborn.
The Minister yesterday published a paper outlining the Government’s objectives in the event of repeal. It provides for terminations without specific indication up to 12 weeks and for abortions when a mother’s life or health is at risk.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald faces pressure from within her party to clarify its policy on abortion in what is shaping up to be one of the first tests of her leadership.
The party is in favour of repeal but not in favour of allowing for abortion without restrictions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A spokesman said its ard-chomhairle will decide after St Patrick’s Day if an ard-fheis will be held in time for the May 25th referendum.
*This article was amended to correct an error on March 10th, 2018.