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Sunday 21 January 2018

Reilly misses deadline for response to abortion ruling

Health Minister James Reilly has got an extra month to set out his contentious plan to respond to a European court ruling on abortion.
Health Minister James Reilly has got an extra month to set out his contentious plan to respond to a European court ruling on abortion.

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Health Minister James Reilly has got an extra month to set out his contentious plan to respond to a European court ruling on abortion.

Dr Reilly was scheduled to report back by the end of this month on the Government's proposed actions on foot of a European Court of Human Rights ruling on the abortion regime in this country.

But his department now admits the minister won't meet today's deadline and he now has until the end of next month.

The postponement was needed as an expert group set up to devise a response to the ruling still hasn't reported back -- nearly two months after its deadline.

The Government set up the group in January to examine a landmark abortion ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

Two years ago, the Strasbourg Court ruled that there was no automatic right for women to have an abortion in a case brought by three women -- A, B and C -- who travelled to Britain to terminate their pregnancies.

The Irish Independent understands the group will propose the minister decides the limited grounds for abortion, rather than the Dail.

The setting up of a panel of medical experts to consider applications for abortions in extremely limited circumstances will be recommended.

But the plan would see the Minister for Health setting out the grounds in regulations.

The proposals are expected to get the Government over the hurdle of reporting back to a EU body about Ireland's response to the European court ruling.

However, there is no timeline and the recommendations would allow the Government to park the problem for some time. Dr Reilly caused consternation within Fine Gael by committing the Government to act upon the 1992 X case.

Labour has promised to bring in laws to deal with the 1992 X case, where the Supreme Court decision appeared to determine that a woman has a right to access an abortion in Ireland if there is a "real and substantial risk" to her life.

The Health Minister was forced to concede he would consult with the Fine Gael and Labour before coming to any decision.

Irish Independent

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