Simon Harris expected to compromise on number of changes in Abortion Bill

Health Minister Simon Harris is expected to reach compromise on a number of changes put forward to the Abortion Bill.

The Termination of Pregnancy Bill passed Committee stage this week, however, Mr Harris will meet members of the Health Committee on Tuesday to thrash out a significant number of amendments which he promised to review before the Bill goes to Report stage.

In tandem with this Mr Harris will next week meet those involved in the roll-out of termination services including officials from the HSE, the Medical Council, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland as well as Dr Peter Boylan for an update on the implementation of the service due to begin in January.

A significant number of the 180 amendments tabled to the Bill had been withdrawn by Committee members this week on the basis of further consultation with the Minister.

It is expected that Mr Harris will change a requirement that a woman must attend the same doctor to access abortion services after a three day waiting period as she did for the initial consultation.

Concerns had been raised that especially in a hospital setting it could be impossible for the same medic to attend to a woman due to rostering or annual leave.

It is understood Mr Harris and his officials in the Department of Health are working on wording which would mean the same doctor would as far as is practical see the women on both occasions, but would allow for some wriggle room on this.

Mr Harris is also expected to agree to replace the word 'examination' with 'consultation' in the legislation.

Members of the Health Committee raised concerns that the word examination suggested that a physical checkup would be required when a woman goes to her doctor to seek an abortion.

However, the Government will not be backing down or making changes to other areas which TDs cited as problematic.

This included changing the word 'woman' to 'pregnant person' in the Bill to make it more inclusive of transgender people. Mr Harris said he had received advice from the Attorney General that making this change could impact other laws.

Writing to Mr Harris, Solidarity-PBP TD Bríd Smith Section called for changes to the "onerous" three day wait period which would be counted from certification by a medical practitioner.

"At the very least the three day period should commence from the time of initial contact i.e when the woman seeks an appointment with a GP /medical practitioner," she wrote.

Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly said they would be writing to the Minister over the weekend.

Ms O'Reilly said: "The Minister has committed that he would try insofar as is possible to address reasonable points. We will be pleased to work informally to resolve issues."

The Committee also passed an amendment to allow for a review of the legislation not later than five years after the commencement of services.

A number of TDs including Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell said five years was too long to wait for a review and Mr Harris has indicated that this could be reduced to three years at report stage.

KEYWORDS:

Abortion
By Elaine Loughlin
Political Correspondent

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