Government to include review of abortion law

Legal basis for statutory review of law after enactment to be finalised

Dr James Reilly: push to finalise the legislation follows a long meeting yesterday between the Minister for Health and Minister of State Alex White. Photograph: Irish Times

Dr James Reilly: push to finalise the legislation follows a long meeting yesterday between the Minister for Health and Minister of State Alex White. Photograph: Irish Times

 



The Government is poised to broaden the scope of its contentious legislation on abortion to provide for a statutory review of the law in the future.

With agreement close between Fine Gael and Labour on the final text of the legislation, officials from the Department of Health and the office of the Attorney General were working last night to finalise the draft law.

At issue in last-minute preparations of the legislation is the legal basis to be set out in statute for a formal review of the law some time after its enactment.


‘Technical amendments’
This is the main item for settlement by the Coalition, although other “largely technical” amendments to the scheme set out in the heads of the Bill are also under discussion. There was no provision for a review of the operation of the law when the heads of the Bill were published, although such a review was discussed in a memorandum to Cabinet when Ministers reached agreement on the scope of the law.

“There is an area which wasn’t in the heads as published but which was in the memo that went to Government that had to do with what happens if there’s an issue about the operation of the Act,” said a Government source.

The anticipation in Government circles was that the text of the legislation would be ready for presentation this morning to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. Subject to their approval, the legislation will go to the weekly meeting of Cabinet for final clearance.

It remained unclear late last night whether the text would be completed in time for sign-off by the Government today. If the Bill is indeed settled, it is likely to be published quickly.

The Government is under pressure to move swiftly in light of its plan to enact the legislation before the summer recess of the Dáil and Seanad next month.

The Coalition has indicated its willingness to prolong the current session of the houses if necessary to ensure the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill is passed into law this summer.

While a number of TDs and Senators in Fine Gael have serious reservations about the initiative, a noisy campaign against the legislation by the Pro-Life Campaign has led to further pressure on the Government. Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews confirmation that he plans to vote against the Government’s abortion legislation has put some pressure on his party colleagues with concerns about the planned law.

The push to finalise the legislation follows a long meeting yesterday between Minister for Health Dr James Reilly and Minister of State Alex White. They met at James Connolly Hospital, Dublin.


Settling the draft
The objective behind the meeting was to settle the final draft of the legislation before Mr White’s departure to Ecuador this morning for a conference on drugs. He will be away for the rest of the week, meaning there would be no opportunity for a later meeting.

The two Ministers reached agreement in mid-afternoon, at which officials were instructed to complete the drafting of the Bill.