The Government announced today that a combination of legislation and regulations will be introduced to comply with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the A, B and C case.
Minister for Health James Reilly presented a memorandum to this morning’s Cabinet meeting. The decision was taken to follow this route – the fourth option from the expert group on abortion – rather than proposing guidelines, an option favoured by anti-abortion campaign groups.
A statement released by the Department of Health said: “Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue.”
In a statement, the Government said the drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case. “It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area,” it said.
The Heads of a Bill will be published in the new year following deliberations by the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in early January, before the Dáil resumes.This will be followed by a debate in the Oireachtas before the Bill and regulations are finalised.
“The Government has also noted and agreed to the request from the Health Minister Dr James Reilly for further decisions at a later stage related to policy matters that will inform the drafting of the legislation,” the statement said.
Dr Reilly said he was very conscious of the sensitivities around the issue of abortion.
“I know that most people have personal views on this matter. However, the Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfill our duty of care towards them,” he said.
“For that purpose, we will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.”
Dr Reilly said the Government would not “preempt the debate that must follow by speculating on details to be decided later in the process”.
The Government is expected to allow the fear of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not provide for rape or sexual abuse, neither of which formed part of the X case ruling. On foot of the decision, the Government is also expected to repeal provisions in the Offences against the State Act 1861, which criminalises abortion.