Saturday 20 December 2014

Coalition strife delays draft abortion laws

Lise Hand and Fionnan Sheahan

Published 05/02/2013 | 04:00

GOVERNMENT tensions mean draft abortion legislation is not yet finalised.

Health Minister James Reilly will only give a rough briefing to the Cabinet today on the proposed laws as a result.

A number of highly contentious issues have still to be worked out before Dr Reilly brings a formal memorandum on the abortion legislation to Government. Labour Party ministers are firing warning shots about the suicide test in the new abortion laws.

The question of the duration into the pregnancy where an abortion can take place is also highly sensitive.

Rather than bringing a written memorandum to the Government, Dr Reilly will only give ministers a verbal briefing on progress to date. The first draft of proposals is supposed to be brought to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

The suicide test is the great area of sensitivity in Fine Gael, with demands for it to be extremely stringent. Labour agrees to the suicide test, but says it has to be practical and is ruling out panels of four or five psychiatrists being involved.

Dr Reilly yesterday denied there would be any delay in the memo going to Cabinet in the wake of the tensions within the Coalition over how to legislate for the X Case.

"Not at all, I'll be updating the Cabinet tomorrow, as I said I would. I'm working very closely with Alex White and Kathleen Lynch on this and we're making great progress, and we hope to have this legislation as quickly as possible," he said. However, he did admit the issue had been the cause of "tensions" within both Fine Gael and Labour.

Divisive

"There's tensions within the parties on this. Let's face it, we all know how divisive this issue is; it's divided households in the past. I think the matter has been conducted in a very sensible way to date, and I'd like it to continue that way," he said.

One of the key areas of difference between the two parties is over how to frame the law regarding the risk of suicide by the mother as grounds for an abortion.

Labour Party members are suspicious about Dr Reilly not providing them with any written details on the proposals.

"There is frustration on our side that Reilly is keeping his cards very close to his chest and we haven't seen the detail," a Labour source said.

Irish Independent

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