Katherine Zappone backs early help from doctors

Women having to travel abroad for abortions should be facilitated by doctors here ahead of reforms on terminations being passed into law in the wake of the yes vote, according to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ms Zappone said it was a “very good idea” and a “practical idea to support women now”.

The Independent minister suggested the Government and Dáil could come back early from the summer recess in order to speedily pass into law the abortion reforms.

The legislation has to be published,” she said. “The attorney general’s office will work with the Department of Health. We hope to get it published before the Dáil rises. It is not an easy piece of legislation. The first priority is to publish it. I’m happy to sit in the summer, certainly. But we could come back early, that would be more realistic.

Ms Zappone addressed concerns that the confidence and supply agreement between the Fine Gael government and Fianna Fáil could collapse or finish in the autumn. This could arise over differences on the budget or the issue of extending the deal.

Ms Zappone said she will press her Cabinet colleagues to stay on board and not allow any such derailing of the agreement if differences arise between the parties.

“I’m certainly committed and will be encouraging colleagues [to stay together]. This has always been a priority for me,” she said.

Ms Zappone said there was still concern about women having to leave Irish shores or take illegal abortion pills. Asked about suggestions the Government could initially tweak legislation to help doctors here correspond with colleagues abroad, for example in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities where women must travel, she said: “That could be a very good idea, practical idea to support women now.

Anything to support the will of the people, as long as it is not unconstitutional. We should facilitate women.

The Government is considering immediate action to drop laws or sanctions for doctors if they share medical files with hospitals in other countries that are treating women seeking a termination.

Employment Minister Regina Doherty confirmed that repealing the 1995 law could be an interim measure, while the general bill to implement reforms for abortions here is being prepared. This measure would be discussed by Cabinet today, she said.

She also said she backed proposals to give out free contraception for people, from the age of 18, in order to prevent crisis pregnancies

The Fine Gael minister told RTÉ that while doctors would be entitled to a conscientious objection on treating women seeking abortion, it “would be unkind” if medical professionals did not help a woman in a crisis situation.

Ms Doherty also said it was a “pity” that priests or the Church were getting “ribbed” on social media over suggestions people had “sinned” by voting yes in the referendum.

“It would be surprising if they expressed another view,” said Ms Doherty.

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