HEALTH Minister Dr James Reilly has finally signed the order to bring the controversial abortion law into operation from January 1.
It means that a clear legal framework on carrying out abortions in limited circumstances will be in place for the first time in the history of the state.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy act was passed by the Dail last July and signed into law by President Michael D Higgins. But it required a commencement order from Dr Reilly to take effect.
The law was hugely controversial, with five Fine Gael TDs and two Fine Gael Senators losing the party whip for refusing to vote in favour of it.
A spokesman for Dr Reilly confirmed he had signed the commencement order and that the act would come into effect on January 1.
The commencement of the law was delayed due to the need to establish a panel of doctors, who will review applications for abortion from pregnant mothers whose lives are in danger. This includes a physical threat to the mother’s life as well as the threat of suicide.
Around 25 hospitals in the State will be authorised to carry out abortions in these circumstances under the provisions of the Act. The hospitals will have to provide the registration number of the doctor who carried out the abortion to Dr Reilly and to the Medical Council, as well the registration number of the doctor who approved the abortion. There will be an annual report published on the number of abortions carried out.