Legislation should pass relatively quickly – but some obstacles remain
After the definitive Yes vote, a number of important questions remain, including when new legislation will be passed and how abortion services will be delivered in the future.
1. When will Government start work on legislation for termination of pregnancy in Ireland?
Health Minister Simon Harris will bring a request to Cabinet tomorrow to begin the drafting of the legislation. He will then set about turning the heads of bill in to full legislation.
2. The Taoiseach said he hopes to have the legislation enacted by the end of the year. Will we have to wait until then before women can access legal termination?
There’s a strong possibility that it could happen even sooner. This follows calls by pro-repeal groups for TDs to sit through the summer to debate and pass the legislation. The aim would be for this to be done by October.
Until then, the present law – the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act – which was introduced based on the constitutional provision of the Eighth Amendment, will continue to apply.
3. We saw quite a bit of acrimony and there was even fear of filibustering by some deputies during the initial debates. Also, the majority of Fianna Fáil
TDs voted against the referendum bill. Could new abortion legislation be held up?
Given the absolute and overwhelming majority in favour of repeal, almost no TDs will try to block legislation.
Mr Harris is due to meet with opposition parties early this week to discuss facilitating the passage of the proposed legislation.
Ironically for such a divisive issue, this legislation should therefore pass through the Oireachtas quite seamlessly. Although never say never.
4. What other obstacles remain?
Constituencies with the strongest Yes/No vote
The table below shows the top five constituencies with the strongest vote for or against repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Dublin Bay South 78.49% 21.51%
Dún Laoghaire 77.06% 22.94%
Dublin Fingal 76.96% 23.04%
Dublin Central 76.51% 23.49%
Dublin Rathdown 76.10% 23.90%
Donegal 48.13% 51.87%
Quite a lot of engagement and consultation with the various medical professional bodies has to take place before a workable system regulating terminations can be implemented.
This could take some time. The Irish College of General Practitioners – the professional body for GPs – and the Irish Institute of Obstetricians will have a joint task group, and the IMO (Irish Medical Organisation), which represents doctors in Ireland, will be consulted about important practical considerations.
In particular, not all GPs or doctors will participate in providing abortion pills, so there will have to be a defined list of those doctors who intend to provide abortion services.
Other medical centres, such as the Well Woman Clinics, will likely also be authorised to dispense abortion pills.
The cost of the pill for women will also have to be decided.
It will likely be introduced as a normal part of the health service where it will be free for those who have a medical card.
However, ensuring it is affordable to everyone will be key to getting the service rolled out.
Meanwhile, training requirements for GPs in prescribing abortion pills will be needed for those who opt to provide the service to their patients.
Some bleeding disorders, medications and previous illnesses will mean it will be unsafe for some women to take the abortion pill.
GPs will need to be trained about such precautions.
Clinical guidelines for doctors in relation to the restrictions and limitations for when abortion is permissible will also be drawn up.