Abortion services here will be completely free to ensure they can be fully accessed by anyone who needs them, will end the need to travel abroad for care and prevent an influx of private abortion clinics into this country.
Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the new services will not cost anything just 24 hours after President Michael D Higgins signed the referendum result into law, thereby formally removing the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution.
Speaking to reporters at the opening of the new primary care centre in Grangegorman, Dublin, Mr Harris said that even though abortion services are set to be provided in the near future, it is essential “cost is not a barrier” to accessing the medical help.
Asked specifically if he will introduce any charge to receive abortions in legislation due to be passed by cabinet next week and put to the Dáil in the first week of October, Mr Harris said no fees will be involved.
If a price tag was linked to accessing abortion services, Mr Harris said it would encourage private abortion clinics into Ireland and lead to women continuing to travel abroad for the care they need.
“Yes, it is my intention that the services will be free,” Mr Harris stated.
I’ve said from the start that I don’t want cost to be a barrier, because if cost is a barrier you get into a situation where one of two things happen; you get abortion clinics to develop or you can see people having to continue to travel.
“I want this [abortion services] to be provided as part of our healthcare system, our public healthcare system and part of our primary healthcare system.
“I think it’s important to say that Tuesday was an extraordinarily historic day. The President of Ireland signed the bill that has removed the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution, and today is the first day that the Eighth Amendment is actually gone from Bunreacht na hÉireann. That now allows us as legislatures to do our job,” he said.
Mr Harris also confirmed that, now that President Higgins has signed the order paper to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution, he will bring planned law changes to allow abortion services to Cabinet next week.
He said he expects Cabinet to pass these new rules immediately in order to allow him to bring them to the Dáil in the first week of October and fully introduce them by the end of this year.
Asked about concerns pro-life groups may target the three-day ‘cooling off’ period for women seeking to access abortion services which is included in the planned new laws, Mr Harris said he was aware of the issue.
“I do note the comments of some groups about the three days. But I would say to anybody regardless of whether you voted yes or no, we made a conscious decision to have a very detailed general scheme available before the referendum, that three-day period was part of the discussion and was debated fully during the referendum, which was passed.”