Government will seek to bring in abortion law as soon as practicable – Harris

Together For Yes chief says voters have given Oireachtas mandate to introduce law quickly

Pro-choice campaigners called on the Government to quickly introduce legislation to implement the decision of the people expressed in the abortion referendum as soon as possible.

 

Minister for Health Simon Harris has insisted the Government will seek to implement the decision of the people expressed in the abortion referendum as soon as is practicable.

The electorate voted by an overwhelming majority to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. The Government has proposed legislating for access to terminations up to 12 weeks. Beyond that, abortions will be only be lawful when a mother’s life or health is at risk.

Pro-choice campaigners on Sunday called on the Government to move quickly to introduce legislation to reflect the will of the people.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Harris said he will seek permission from his Cabinet colleagues on Tuesday to draft a Bill in line with the general scheme of the legislation published in advance of the referendum.

It is the Government’s intention to publish the Heads of a Bill by the summer recess, and to move to implement it when the Houses return in September, the Minister added.

‘A clear message’

“There are legislative steps that have to be taken and I will move to begin this process this week. The TDs have been told by the electorate to get on with it and do your job. The electorate are our bosses and they have sent us a clear message.”

Together For Yes campaign co-ordinator Orla O’Connor said the Irish people had given the Oireachtas a strong mandate to introduce the legislation quickly.

Co-directors of Together For Yes (left to right) Ailbhe Smyth, Gráinne Griffin and Orla O’Connor hold a final press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Co-directors of Together For Yes (left to right) Ailbhe Smyth, Gráinne Griffin and Orla O’Connor hold a final press conference in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Ms O’Connor said women will still have to travel to the United Kingdom to access abortion until any new legislation is passed and said special sittings of the Oireachtas should be considered to ensure the law is passed quickly.

There are improvements to be made to the legislation, but nothing fundamental about the proposed law should change, she added.

Mr Harris has said he will publish the heads of a Bill by the summer recess of the Dáil and seek to have it passed by the end of the year.

Ms O’Connor said the people of Ireland had spoken, and progress needs to happen on the legislation as soon as possible.

“We are waking up to an Ireland where the Irish public have supported a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to make decisions in relation to her pregnancy.

“It has been an enormous vote and an enormous indication of how Irish people feel about equality and women’s health. Life does not change for women today on many on these issues,” she said at a press conference in Dublin on Sunday.

Build on that momentum

“This referendum shows there is momentum there and momentum for driving forward.” The campaign groups will build on that momentum, Ms O’Connor added.

Ailbhe Smyth, co-ordinator of the campaign group, said this was a historic moment for the country that made women feel equal again.

Ms Smyth stressed there was more work to be done to ensure it is a safe society for women.

Minister for Health Simon Harris at his local polling station in Delgany National school, Delgany, Co Wicklow, after casting his vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Minister for Health Simon Harris at his local polling station in Delgany National school, Delgany, Co Wicklow, after casting his vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The Together For Yes campaign said the focus is now on ensuring Northern Ireland allows for access to abortion services in that jurisdiction.

The group thanked the Irish people for voting to remove the constitutional ban on abortion and to the canvassers on the ground who campaigned in their constituencies.

However, they stressed the strongest praise is for women who told their stories and made their private matters into public issues.

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