Government plans to boost access to sex education, condoms
No further ministers likely to row in behind Tánaiste as referendum set for May 25
Easy access to condoms and other forms of contraception will form part of the Government's overall strategy in the wake of a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
The measures are to include an effective ban on late-term abortions, increased counselling for women in a crisis pregnancy and enhanced sexual education in schools.
Health Minister Simon Harris will name the date of the referendum today, with sources saying it is all but certain to be Friday, May 25.
Based on discussions at yesterday's Cabinet, sources say it is unlikely that other ministers with doubts over the 12-week proposition will follow Simon Coveney's lead.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed previously indicated he would back repeal but not the subsequent legislation. "There is no sign of him moving," a source said.
There are still questions marks over the positions of Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring.
Communications Minister Denis Naughten is also undeclared but believed to be against major reform.
Mr Creed, Ms Humphreys and Mr Ring did not speak on the issue at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, but a source said Mr Naughten added "constructive comments" on the matter.
However, sources said it now appeared unlikely that any of these would follow the Tánaiste in supporting unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks.
A key plank of the Tánaiste's shift in position was that clinical protocols be introduced, including a "pause period" before a woman is given an abortion pill, so she can seek advice.
- Read more: Proposal for two-thirds Dail majority to change future abortion law is 'unconstitutional' - Taoiseach
Last night, Mr Harris confirmed this period would be 72 hours. Termination of a pregnancy after the 12-week window will only be possible in exceptional circumstances and not at all after the pregnancy has reached viability.
"This legislation is in line with the policy paper I brought to Cabinet earlier this month and is in line with the recommendations of the cross-party Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment," said Mr Harris.
"It proposes to make terminations lawful when an appropriate medical practitioner has certified that pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks, 72 hours must elapse between the certification and the termination being carried out.
"In cases where there is a risk to the life or of serious harm to the health of a woman, termination would not be lawful beyond viability.
"Viability of a foetus would be assessed by two doctors, one of whom must be an obstetrician or a gynaecologist.
"If viability is established and the pregnancy is ended on health grounds it must be done through early delivery with a full medical team on hand."
However, there may be rare exceptions.
Mr Harris said a sexual health education programme would be delivered in line with the National Sexual Health Strategy to support work in schools. This will be complemented by a women's health scheme focusing on family planning, contraception, counselling and sexual health.
"What people will see is a very holistic package of measures," said Mr Harris. "I do hope, regardless of the label you might have traditionally applied to yourself, people will take the opportunity to consider the issue and make an informed decision."
Independent Senator Rónán Mullen attacked the proposals in the Seanad last night saying widespread abortion is being proposed as progressive healthcare.
"Politicians simply cannot be trusted on this issue and we have seen that in the twisting and turning of Government figures where they say they are in favour of repeal but worried about 12 weeks," he said.
"That is like saying I will leave the front door open but I hope the burglars don't come in beyond the hallway."