Ministers finally discuss abortion bill

Deeply divided views among the Coalition on abortion are likely to see a Cabinet decision on draft legislation on the issue postponed until next week.

Ministers will discuss liberalising the laws for the first time today. The legislation has been in preparation for months and the matter must be dealt with shortly under a deadline agreed with the EU.

The meeting comes after Health Minister James Reilly yesterday denied there was any plan for women who are suicidal and want an abortion to have to face a panel of medical interviewers.

Senior government figures yesterday said there was agreement among Labour and Fine Gael that the Protection of Maternal Life Bill will be brought into law before the Dáil breaks in July.

However, there was no commitment from either side yesterday that the legislation would be agreed today and ministers had not seen advanced copies of the draft bill.

Dr Reilly earlier ruled out weekend reports that six doctors would be required to assess if a threat of suicide by a pregnant woman represented a real risk to her life.

“It is not the case, nor was it ever going to be the case that a woman who is in a distressed state with suicidal ideation would be subjected to an interview by six different medical people, either simultaneously or individually. That was never going to be the case,” said Dr Reilly.

He admitted there was disagreement among ministers on legislating for the X case, but added: “There are differences of opinion now. There will be when the heads are at committee; there will be when the bill is drafted and I have no doubt that when the legislation is passed there may still be still be some differences of opinion.”

A senior Government source confirmed the heads of bill on abortion would be discussed at Cabinet today. However, government sources would not say whether Dr Reilly would give ministers the actual heads of the bill.

The source said “significant agreement” had been reached on the legislation and final agreement would be secured on the new law before the summer. This is in line with a commitment given to Brussels following a 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights against Ireland on abortion.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday said the Government was intent on the legislation being dealt with by July.

Changes would provide “certainty to women and their medical practitioners”.

Labour parliamentary figures yesterday urged the Government to legislate for the X case without delay.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she had yet to see the draft legislation.

Many Fine Gael TDs oppose passing legislation to allow abortion on the grounds of a threat of suicide. European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton said: “I do not support suicide as a reason for abortion, I do not think it is backed up by the evidence. I am thinking long and hard about all aspects and I can not make a judgment until I study the document.”


Related Articles

More in this Section

Gardaí trial apps designed to keep them out on the beat

Are you a Gael, a Celt, a Viking or British? Ireland’s DNA revealed by region

Guaranteed: No hard border for North

Arts Council writes off €110k over ‘missing’ works


Breaking Stories

Over 70% of patients waited more than 6 hours to be admitted to hospital

New baby names app means we can track popularity of any name over time

'Total gridlock' in Dublin with new Luas green line disrupting traffic

Pope Francis has appointed Brendan Kelly as Bishop of Galway

Lifestyle

A heavy burden for such young shoulders caring for parents this Christmas

How to enjoy Christmas without piling on the pounds

The Islands of Ireland: Roaringwater Bay in West Cork once homed 27 people

With ancient roots the pantomime dame is still a firm favourite

More From The Irish Examiner