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Abortion legislation expected to be law by January 2019

The first Dáil sitting since the country voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment takes place this afternoon.

4 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking during today's debate Source: Oireachtas.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told the Dáil that he expects abortion legislation to be enacted in Ireland by January of 2019.

Speaking during Leaders Questions in Dáil Éireann this afternoon, Varadkar agreed with Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin that the Irish people ‘have indeed spoken’.

“The view of government is that it wants to legislate for the termination of pregnancies as soon as possible,” Varadkar said.

“But we don’t want to rush it either,” he said. “There will be people who don’t accept this result, and people who will wish to challenge” the resulting legislation, he added.

It’s important that we act with haste, but not with so much haste that we bring through bad legislation.

He said that he didn’t think it realistic that legislation would be enacted prior to the start of 2019, but that a first vote on the pending legislation should happen before the Dail’s summer break.

The reason for the delay will be mostly attributable to the time needed to license and regulate the various pills  required for non-surgical abortion, Varadkar said.

Fianna Fáil’s Martin meanwhile stated that the people had ‘spoken emphatically’, in voting last Friday to repeal the ‘cruel inflexibility’ of the Eighth Amendment.

He asked of Varadkar whether or not provision would be made so that women in Northern Ireland, were abortion is currently banned, could travel to the Republic for treatment, something the Taoiseach responded is “certainly something that we can look at”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald meanwhile said she wished to acknowledge the contributions of certain members of the Oireachtas “who spoke out on the issue of abortion when it was perhaps not so easy to do so”.

She said that she hopes “that all members of the Oireachtas will recognise the will of the people” when it comes to passing the required legislation.

“I believe we can pass the necessary legislation promptly,” she said.

One of the most prominent TDs who campaigned against the referendum is Meath Sinn Féin deputy Peadar Tóibín. McDonald has since indicated that all members of her party are expected to vote per the party whip on any legislation.

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5 Mary Lou McDonald Source: Oireachtas.ie

The Sinn Féin leader also called for a second repeal – of the 1995 abortion information act this time, the reasoning being to allow women who may travel for a termination in the next seven months to be able to bring their own medical records with them on their journey.

Varadkar said he is “open to the possibility” of repealing that law as a “discreet move”, but added it was important not to lose sight of the main legislation.

“I’m not saying it’s optimum,” said McDonald in response.

But the fact is those women and girls will still have to travel, and that will still pertain until the law changes.
We cannot leave women in the impossible situation that they leave by boat or plane with just a phone number in their pocket.

“I’m suggesting it as a mitigation that at a minimum women or girls who make the journey can do it with their own medical files, in a joined-up caring move,” she added.

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