Reilly: 'Extremely difficult to accommodate abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities'

The Minister for Health James Reilly says it is his understanding that it is not possible to allow abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities under the Constitution.

Under current Irish law, women have to carry a foetus to birth even if it will not live beyond delivery.

A group of Fine Gael backbenchers has asked Minister Reilly to include fatal foetal abnormalities in the new abortion legislation.

However, there will be no change under the planned new abortion legislation because the government says it would be in breach of the constitution.

Speaking at an event in Dublin earlier, Reilly said: “I know this is a very difficult situation and it is a desperate thing for a mother to know she is carrying a child that can’t possibly survive.”

A new group, called Terminations for Medical Reasons, says it has received legal advice which says abortions in such circumstances could be permissible.

In addition, a group of Fine Gael backbenchers has asked the minister to consider allowing abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

However, Reilly has spoken to the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan today and he has advised that it's not possible: “I’ve been advised by my department that under the current constitution, it would be extremely difficult to accommodate a need for that under the current legislation

“We’ve discussed this at some length in the past.”

Around 1,500 such cases are diagnosed in Ireland every year – 80% of the women involved travel abroad for a termination.

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