Abortion bill faces delays as McGrath to table amendments

Abortion legislation is at risk of delay after a TD confirmed he will be tabling amendments when the bill comes before the Dáil.

Mattie McGrath

However, Health Minister Simon Harris is also open to implementing some more immediate changes which could be brought in to assist women before the main legislation passes and a new system for terminations is introduced next January.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath, who was a strong advocate on the no side, said he will be suggesting changes to the legislation which Mr Harris is due to bring to Cabinet next month.

“I have no intention of obstructing this bill but I certainly have every intention of tabling amendments,” Mr McGrath told the Dáil.

Mr Harris is pushing to have the first stage of the bill passed by the Dáil before TDs break for their summer holidays so the legislation can be passed as quickly as possible.

Mr Harris met with some of the main stakeholders yesterday in a bid to progress with the legislation, licensing of medicines, and the drawing up of clinical guidelines.

Mr McGrath said the vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment will “be seen in the fullness of time as an historic lost opportunity to choose a better way”.

Mr McGrath hit out at Mr Harris for accusing him of “deceit and trickery” after he was not invited to a briefing of opposition spokespersons. 

“Just because I was on the no side, I was not allowed into the room. It is a disgusting, perverse, and anti-democratic action by the minister,” he claimed.

Mr Harris strongly denied this accusation and told the Dáil: “Health spokespeople were invited. Deputy Mattie McGrath is certainly not one of them.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said the Eighth Amendment will be officially repealed from the Constitution on Saturday and the focus must now turn to getting the regulations, legislation, and medical care right.

He said he had already submitted a bill to address some of the immediate measures that could be implemented.

Mr Harris has asked that this be held off for a week to allow the Department of Health focus on the main legislation, which Mr Donnelly said he was happy to do.

Stephen Donnelly

“In cases of fatal fetal abnormality, travelling to the UK for families can cost thousands of euro,” said Mr Donnelly.

“We should provide those costs to those families now and make it free. Contraception could be made free now. 

"Additional funding for counselling services could be provided. 

"Both the 1995 Act governing the provision of information and section 22 of the 2013 Act could be repealed now. That would end criminalisation.”

Labour’s Jan O’Sullivan, who fought against the introduction of the Eighth Amendment in 1983, said the referendum outcome is “hugely emotional” for her as it has “come full circle”.

She called on the Government to implement the ancillary recommendation of the Oireachtas committee to make contraception freely available. 

“I was talking to a nurse friend of mine recently who works in a GP practice. She talked about how young women, when talking about contraception, still ask, ‘How much will it cost?’

“That recommendation is therefore really important, and I say this in the context of my own history and political history.”

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