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Expert group report: Ireland to decide on tough abortion laws by year-end

PTI London | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on November 28, 2012

The Irish Government has said it will make a decision before the year-end about the country’s tough abortion laws, weeks after Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar died after she was refused termination of her pregnancy despite miscarrying.

The Government yesterday published the report of an expert group, which was appointed to provide options for dealing with the European Court of Human Rights judgement that pregnant Irish women need certainty about legal abortion rights in Ireland.

The report, which was brought before the Cabinet by Minister for Health James Reilly, sets out a number of options for the Government “to implement the European Court of Human Rights judgement ... and the requirements of the Constitution.”

The development comes amid raging controversy over the death of 31-year-old Savita from blood poisoning at the Galway University Hospital on October 28 after doctors refused to terminate her 17-week pregnancy, stating “this is a Catholic country“.

The expert group was established to advise the Government on how to respond to the court’s decision in 2010 that Ireland had failed to properly implement the constitutional right to life of the mother set out by the Supreme Court in the 1992 ‘X’ case.

Speaking after the publication of the report, Reilly said the Government will make a decision before the end of next month on which of the options to implement.

Reilly said the Cabinet decided at its meeting to publish the report and have it debated in Parliament.

He said there would be three days of hearings at a health committee in early January before the Parliament resumes.

“And then we will seek to implement through legislation the decision of the Government as quickly as possible.”

Reilly went on to say that his reference to “legislation” was a “slip of the tongue”.

He said he did not want to pre-empt the debate in Parliament and the decision of the Cabinet. “I’m confirming that the Government decision will be made on this before the end of December and implemented in the early new year.”

The Parliament will begin debating a motion from the Technical Group on abortion legislation this week.

The four options outlined in the expert group report included ‘Non-Statutory Guidelines’ and ‘Statutory Regulations’ on “the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation to empower the Minister for Health to regulate the area by statutory instrument”.

The third option is ‘Legislation Alone’: “Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation“; and the fourth one is ‘Legislation plus Regulations’: “Regulate the provision of lawful termination of pregnancy by way of primary legislation, with certain matters left to the Minister for Health to regulate by way of secondary legislation.”

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Published on November 28, 2012
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