No abortion legislation until court challenges concluded

Three court cases have delayed introduction of law to regulate pregnancy termination

 Minister for Health Simon Harris:  the Government denies he is considering an interim law to assist women who have received a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality and to decriminalise those who procure an abortion.   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Health Simon Harris: the Government denies he is considering an interim law to assist women who have received a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality and to decriminalise those who procure an abortion. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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The Government will not introduce any legislation to implement the outcome of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment until court challenges to the result have concluded.

Reports emerged this weekend that Minister for Health Simon Harris was considering introducing an interim law to assist women who have received a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality and to decriminalise women who procure an abortion.

Government figures have denied this and say it will seek to implement one piece of legislation, which will not be introduced until the challenge to the referendum result concludes.

However, Mr Harris is intending to commence certain aspects of the legislation earlier than others.

“The Minister is specifically looking at two areas: the ability for a doctor to give information and refer, and the decriminalisation of women.

“He hopes that both issues could be addressed and commenced this year. Abortion services would then commence in January,” the source added.

Three separate legal challenges were initiated against the result of the referendum, which took place on May 25th.

High Court

Last month, the High Court refused leave to challenge the results but Dublin woman Joanna Jordan is appealing that decision. The case will be heard on Friday.

The court cases have resulted in a delay in the introduction of legislation to regulate the termination of pregnancy.

The law remains the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which states abortion is only legal when a mother’s life is at risk including by way of suicide.

Government figures declined to comment on the court process but said it was still their ambition to introduce services by January 2019.

However, it is hopeful certain aspects of the legislation can be put in place earlier than others.

Data sharing

For example, the Government will seek to repeal the Information Act and allow doctors here share information on their patients with medical professionals in the United Kingdom before the end of the year.

It will also aim to remove the threat of 14-year prison sentence for women who procure an abortion in this country.

Government sources stressed legislation cannot be introduced in the Oireachtas until the court challenges have concluded and article 40.3.3 has been removed from the Constitution.

On May 25th, 1,429,981 people voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which granted equal recognition to the right to life of the unborn and the mother. And 723,632 voted against.

It is estimated more than 700 women have had to travel abroad since the referendum to seek a termination of their pregnancy and 237 have taken an abortion pill they purchased online.

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