While Leo Varadkar is confident legislation can be passed through the Oireachtas in the autumn, he said it will be next year before the full effect of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment comes into force.
Speaking in the Dáil, he said the Government is committed to legislating for abortions, but it will take a number of steps to give effect to the people’s decision.
“It involves new law to repeal some existing legislation and bring in new legislation to regulate for the termination of pregnancies,” said Mr Varadkar.
“It also involves the development of clinical guidelines by GPs, the Irish College of General Practitioners, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.
“It will also require the licensing and regulation of some medicines which will need to be done by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA.”
Responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach said he is open to extending the Dáil term into the summer to make sure legislation progresses as quickly as possible.
Chair of the Health Committee, Michael Harty, has said the committee is willing to sit through the summer to scrutinise the bill.
Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald called for the 1995 Abortion Information Act to be repealed immediately, given the fact it could take up to eight months to introduce terminations.
However, Mr Varadkar said making changes in a “piecemeal manner” would likely delay the main legislation.
“If we do this in a piecemeal manner, the big piece giving effect to what the people actually said at the weekend is the bit that will be delayed.”
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it is time to look at the role of the Church in the education system and suggested this could be examined by the Citizens’ Assembly. This was echoed by his Labour colleague, former Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, who said there has been an “appetite for some time” for the removal of schools from the Church to provide a more pluralist education system.
“I think probably it’s a bit like the result of the referendum on Saturday, that the people are ahead of the system,” she said.
Citing the gender pay gap, greater equality around pensions, and the participation of women on company boards, Mr Varadkar said the Citizens’ Assembly has more work to do.
“One of the things we are considering is the next question we will put to the Citizens’ Assembly,” said Mr Varadkar.
“This question would look at the wider picture of equality between men and women and to ask the assembly to come up with a set of proposals that would allow us to follow through in many ways on the result of this referendum and deliver equality between men and women in all sorts of areas.”