THE FINAL TEXT of the legislation which would allow abortion in limited circumstances is set to be published later today, after ministers signed off on its contents at a special meeting today.
An extraordinary cabinet meeting was convened this morning after ministers deferred discussion on the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill at yesterday’s weekly meeting.
The final contents of the legislation have now been agreed, however, and the final draft is expected to be published this evening.
The contents are likely to be kept in reserve until after the weekly meeting of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party, which is scheduled for 5:30pm. Kenny has asked to meet his party’s 19 senators in advance.
The publication of the final text of the legislation will then allow it to begin the official process of being passed through the Oireachtas, with TDs and Senators getting a chance to debate its contents and provisions in full in the Dáil and Seanad.
It is not yet known if the final text of the legislation will have any substantive difference to the draft ‘heads’ of the bill published earlier this year, which were the subject of three days of intensive expert scrutiny at the Oireachtas health committee.
Fine Gael backbenchers had pressured Enda Kenny to include a ‘sunset clause’ in the Bill, giving it only a temporary legal effect so that TDs would get another chance to appraise the effects of the legislation.
The Government has openly indicated its plan to having the legislation enacted by the Oireachtas’s summer recess – giving politicians about six weeks to complete their scrutiny of the Bill.
The Oireachtas process will also give individual TDs the chance to table amendments – allowing some TDs to try and undo the substantive points of the Bill, while others may seek to expand it into cases such as a fatal foetal abnormality.