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Abortion debate: Dáil hears proposals for system of free contraception


Health Minister Simon Harris has opened up the debate. Photo: PA

Health Minister Simon Harris has opened up the debate. Photo: PA

Health Minister Simon Harris has opened up the debate. Photo: PA

The Dáil has been debating the government’s proposals on abortion.

In a special sitting designed to usher the referendum bill through the Dáil in time for a vote in late May, TD’s have been restating their positions on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Health Minister Simon Harris introduced the bill which would be the 32nd amendment to the constitution if passed.

Mr Harris said it will “give the people of Ireland the chance to vote on one of the most debated sections in our Constitution — Article 40.3.3.”

Anti-repeal TD, Mattie McGrath said the bill was being “rushed”, saying the manner in which the government was dealing with it was “nothing short of disgraceful”.

Meanwhile, the minister outlined the government’s planned policy which would be translated in to legislation if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

Abortion would be available without consideration to the reason through the regulation of abortion-pills or another abortion service.

Termination in cases of a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality would also be legal with no gestational timeframe, and with the approval of two medical experts.

In addition, the government says it will provide supports for people to prevent crisis pregnancy, as well as counselling for women in such circumstances.

Mr Harris said the provision of free access to contraception methods are currently limited to people on medical card.

He also said he was looking into introducing a system of free contraception in an effort to reduce pregnancies.

“If our underlying principle is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, then we must do all we can to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women in every way”, said Mr Harris.

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TD’s are debating until 4pm today and will resume on March 20 when the Dáil will sit until midnight.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said the Eighth Amendment was an “extension of sexist Ireland” which created a “roll call” of “women’s misery”.

Sinn Féin policy is to approve abortion in the limited circumstances of rape and incest only.

Ms McDonald said she will hold an Ard Fheis in order for the party to re-examine the matter, although it most likely won’t be in time for the referendum date in May.

Her party is advocating a repeal result in the referendum.