Simon Harris warns TDs against attempting to ‘frustrate or delay’ abortion bill

The Health Minister has sent a clear warning to TDs who intend to use tactics to delay abortion legislation when it comes back before the Dáil.

Simon Harris has set down an extremely tight time-frame to get the legislation through the Oireachtas before Christmas and to get doctors on board with providing termination services from the start of January.

Mr Harris will today meet Peter Boylan, who has been tasked to liaise with medical colleges to ensure robust clinical guidelines are drafted to allow services begin.

Mr Harris will today also meet officials from the HSE, the Medical Council, Irish Family Planning Association, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Start Doctors, and the Well Woman Centre to get an update on the implementation of the service.

The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 passed committee stage last week and now return to the Dáil for debate.

However, Mr Harris has said that some TDs will attempt to “frustrate or delay” the bill to roll out termination services.

He said it is now incumbent on all members of the Oireachtas to ensure this bill is enacted without delay.

“Members have a responsibility to scrutinise the legislation but there will be attempts to frustrate or delay this legislation’s enactment,” he said.

“It is important to remember women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies today have no alternative but to travel abroad to seek a termination. Nine women a day travel abroad, while three are accessing illegal abortion pills.

“The implementation of any new piece of legislation requires scrutiny but the Irish people gave a clear instruction in the referendum in May to remove the Eighth Amendment and to care for Irish women in their own country. We must act on that instruction without delay.”

Meanwhile, Mr Harris will meet with members of the Health Committee and other TDs tomorrow in a bid to find compromise on amendments which he promised to review before the bill goes to report stage.

A significant number of the 180 amendments that were tabled to the bill had been withdrawn by committee members this week on the basis of further consultation with the minister. TDs had been asked to email Mr Harris with the specific concerns they have around the bill and it is expected that the minister will be able to make some changes.

Mr Harris has already indicated that he will take suggestions from Opposition parties on board, including to change the positioning of the offences associated with the bill from the front to the back.

It is also expected that Mr Harris will change a requirement that a woman must attend the same doctor to access abortion services after a three-day waiting period as she did for the initial consultation, which could be problematic, especially in a hospital setting. Mr Harris and his officials in the Department of Health are working on wording which would mean the same doctor would as far as is practical see the woman on both occasions.

While unlikely to be added to the text of the bill, Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly had asked for assurances that women from the North would be able to access abortion services here.

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