Politics

Government may miss deadline to begin abortion legislation review


An independent expert has yet to be appointed to review the State’s abortion laws, nearly eight months after Cabinet was informed of the plan.

Under the Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Minister for Health is required to carry out a review of the legislation no later than three years after it was enacted.

Abortion became available up to 12 weeks’ gestation in January 2019. Beyond that, terminations are legal in cases where there is a risk to the life or health of the woman, or where there is a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said a review of the operation of the Act must be “initiated” before January.

“The review of the operation of the Act is being progressed this year, in line with statutory and Government commitments, and will conclude in 2022,” she said.

“The Minister has previously stated that an independent expert will be appointed to lead the review, which will comprise a three-part approach to appraise the operation of the Act, with strands focusing on service users, service providers and a public consultation.

“Independent research commissioned to inform the service user and service provider strands will form key elements of the review. An opportunity will be provided in due course for interested groups, organisations and members of the public to provide their views to inform the review.”

Recommendations

When the review is complete, a report and any recommendations will be submitted to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for consideration. He will then submit his own recommendations alongside the report to Government.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said it was “not good enough” that the review was not yet fully under way.

In March, Mr Donnelly told the Cabinet that he was starting a review into the abortion legislation.

HSE figures show 6,666 abortions took place in Ireland in 2019, followed by 6,577 last year.The vast majority of terminations – 6,455 – were carried out in early pregnancies of less than 12 weeks last year.

Of the other abortions, 20 were carried out due to a risk to life or health under the grounds, five due to a risk to life or health in an emergency situation, and 97 due to a fatal foetal anomaly.

As of this summer, 401 GPs have signed a contract to provide termination of pregnancy services.



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