State clear to fund abortion services

A proposal to ban the State from funding abortion services has been rejected by the vast majority of TDs in the Dáil.

The legislation to allow for the roll-out of abortion in this country is being debated at report stage in the Dáil.

Health Minister Simon Harris remains confident that the legislation can be passed before Christmas to allow for the commencement of terminations from the beginning of January.

However, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 is expected face more lengthy debate in the Dáil again this afternoon.

Independent TD Carol Nolan had moved a motion in report stage to ensure that taxpayers’ money is not used for abortions.

However, TDs voted to reject this proposal last night with just nine voting to back it and 90 TDs voting against.

TDs also debated the criminal offences attached to the Bill, which extend all the way up to a 14-year jail term, with a number of TDs asking that these sanctions be completely removed.

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said the criminal sanctions has “the potential to still have a chilling effect”.

“Even at this late stage I am pleading on these issues,” Ms Daly asked Mr Harris.

Mr Harris said the sanctions were in place to protect women from potentially dangerous and manipulative situations.

He said abortion will remain “illegal outside the circumstances where it is legal” but he stressed that “the woman should never be criminalised, I think that’s very important”.

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher agreed that “we should keep to the heads of the bill” that were published for the public to view in the run up to the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in May.

However, he added that he is “concerned” about the criminal sanctions stipulated in the bill.

He said that a friend who helps a vulnerable young girl obtain an abortion pill could be criminalised under this legislation.

The Health Minister did agree to make changes to a review of the legislation.

Mr Harris had proposed that the new laws would be reviewed after five years, but he said he had consulted with opposition parties and now accepted that it would be “prudent and sensible” to carry out this assessment after three years.

Also last night, the mandatory three-day waiting period was discussed, but changes were rejected.

A total of 65 amendments have been tabled at report stage of the bill.

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