Proposed changes to abortion law may not be made until new year

Government seeks to stall progression on legislation People Before Profit TD is due to table in Dáil this week

Proposed changes to the State’s abortion law may not be made until the new year, it has emerged.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith will table legislation in the Dáil this week which would bring about many of the changes recommended by an independent review into the abortion law, but the Government will instead seek a one-year timed amendment.

This will effectively stall its progression through the Oireachtas for 12 months. A senior Government source confirmed that it could be the new year before the Coalition agrees what changes could be made to the termination law, although it is possible that proposals could be ready in the autumn.

An independent review recommended sweeping changes to the existing law including the decriminalisation of doctors, the removal of the mandatory three-day waiting period to access termination medication, and the introduction of a statutory obligation on healthcare workers to refrain from providing misleading information.


While members of the Oireachtas Committee on Health will move quickly to consider the review in two hearings beginning next week, a Government source said that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will need time to fully address both the operational recommendations as well as legislative proposals.

Under the Bill being tabled by Ms Smith, the three-day wait to access abortion medication would be removed. The Bill also proposes fully decriminalising abortion and removing the existing 14-year prison sentence that applies to medical professionals if they perform abortions outside the law.

The legislation also proposes reform relating to fatal foetal anomalies so that fewer women would have to travel to access abortion care.

Ms Smith’s Bill also proposes to change the 12-week limit to access abortion without reason, so that abortion could be provided on request until viability. The independent review, led by barrister Marie O’Shea, recommended extending the 12-week time limit to access abortion without condition, under certain circumstances.

Cabinet Ministers are split on proposals to change Ireland’s abortion law, with Green Party Ministers backing the removal of the three-day waiting period to access termination medication, while other members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael harbour concerns about such a move.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times