State may pay for travel to Britain in cases of fatal foetal diagnosis

Health Minister Simon Harris is exploring the possibly of the State paying for women to travel to Britain for a termination when they receive a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.

The payment would be an interim solution to help women before the main legislation to allow for abortions in this country is enacted.

Mr Harris has already stated that he wants legislation, which would address the outcome of the historic referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment, passed as quickly as possible. However, it is likely to be January before abortions are legalised in Ireland.

Mr Harris yesterday met with members of the group Terminations for Medical Reasons, during which they discussed the possibility of paying the costs for women who seek terminations in Britain if they receive a diagnosis that their babies will not survive.

He is now looking at ways to introduce a system to support women and couples who receive a fatal foetal diagnosis until the overall legislation — which would allow unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks, and late-terms termination where the pregnancy is deemed unviable — is introduced.

Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly, health spokespersons for their respective parties, had called for legislation around of issues which could be immediately addressed.

Mr Donnelly submitted a bill earlier this week to immediately change some of the restrictions around abortions. However, he held off on this after Mr Harris asked that the Department of Health focus on the main legislation in the coming week.

“In cases of fatal foetal 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“Both the 1995 Act governing the provision of information and section 22 of the 2013 Act could be repealed now.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.”

Mr Harris will continue to meet with opposition parties to ensure that the legislation he brings forward passes through the Dáil and Seanad without delay.

However, it is expected that Independent TD Mattie McGrath will bring forward amendments around disabilities which could hold up the bill when it comes before the Dáil.

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