Ireland looks set to bring in laws reforming the country's limited ban on abortion in the new year.
Health Minister James Reilly revealed that the Government will make its decision on whether to introduce a combination of legislation and regulations by the end of next month.
An expert group of medics and legal minds tasked with examining options for new rules on termination of pregnancy found that a two-pronged approach is the most effective.
Ireland has been gripped by debate on the need for reform of the limited ban on abortion for weeks after it emerged that an Indian dentist living and working in the country died in hospital after suffering a miscarriage and subsequently septicaemia. Savita Halappanavar's family claim that she was denied repeated requests for a termination.
Dr Reilly said: "The Government decision in relation to this will be made before the end of December and implemented in the new year," adding that it was important for everyone to have a chance to debate the issue.
The report from the expert group, made up of doctors in obstetrics, psychiatry, general practice and legal professionals, was compiled to set out options for implementing a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a ban violated the rights of a woman who feared a cancer relapse during an unplanned pregnancy.
This followed a 20-year-old judgment from the Supreme Court, in an action known as the X case, that termination in life-threatening circumstances, including a risk of suicide, can be lawful. Among the considerations in the report was the option of legislating for limited abortion with ministerial regulations to be imposed.
"An implementation option that would be constitutionally, legally and procedurally sound is primary or amending legislation to regulate access to lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland in accordance with the X Case, and the European Convention on Human Rights and the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland," the report read.
It stated that such measures would provide the appropriate checks and balances between powers of the legislature and the executive, and would be amenable to changes that might arise out of clinical practices and scientific advances. But Dr Reilly said he would not pre-empt the Government's final decision. "There are a lot of people that hold very firm views in relation to this and we need the time to allow people to consider the report," he said. The minister also ruled out the likelihood of a third referendum on abortion legislation, saying there had been "absolutely no mention" of a public vote.
Ireland has voted on abortion issues in several referendums. In 1983, the mother and unborn child's equal right to life was supported and since 1992 women have had the right to travel outside the state for a termination and the right to information on abortion. In 2002, a proposal to remove suicide as a grounds for abortion as set out in the X case was rejected by the electorate.