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Overdue report from abortion expert group expected ‘shortly’

The panel has met nine times in total since it was established in January 2012.

Two separate protests - one pro-choice and another anti-abortion - outside the Dáil this year.
Two separate protests - one pro-choice and another anti-abortion - outside the Dáil this year.
Image: Photocall Ireland!

THE HEALTH MINISTER is expecting an expert group, which was set up to examine how Ireland can implement a European ruling on abortion rights, to submit its completed report ‘shortly’.

In a reply to a parliamentary question, James Reilly told Deputy Terence Flanagan that the panel has met nine times since it was established in January 2012.

The 14-member groups is making good progess toward finalising its report, he added.

“They expect their report will be completed and submitted to me shortly and I will subsequently submit it to Government for its consideration.”

The Government has been criticised as the report is now overdue. When established, Reilly said the group would present its recommendations by July 2012, taking into account the constitutional, legal, medical and ethical considerations in creating public policy.

Chaired by High Court judge Justice Seán Ryan, the group was given six months to come up with different options on how the State can implement the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement in the case of A, B and C versus Ireland.

In that case, it was found that while women do not enjoy an automatic right to an abortion, Ireland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by not providing abortion procedures in line with the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

In the ‘X Case’ in 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution permitted abortion in circumstances where there was a “real and substantial risk” to the life of the mother, including the possibility of suicide.

However, the European Court found because the provision had never been legislated for, “absolute prohibition” and “associated serious criminal offences” remain in force and contribute to the “lack of certainty” for a woman and her doctors.

An extension to carry out its work was granted to the expert group until the end of September.

Mark Kelly, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, told TheJournal.ie that a copy of the report had been requested through a Freedom of Information request but denied on the grounds that it was not complete.

“The latest message from the department is that the work is not completed,” he continued.

“The work is now overdue. It is nearly two years since the European court judgement and the latest delay is deeply regrettable. The implementation of the judgement is not sufficiently expeditious.”

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has previously indicated that three possibilities could arise from the group’s recommendations, namely new legislation, a referendum and regulation.

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