19/09/2018 - 03:44
By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Ireland's imminent abortion services will be completely free to ensure they can be fully accessed by anyone who needs them, end the need to travel abroad for care and to prevent an influx of private abortion clinics into this country.
Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the new services will not cost anything just 24 hours after President Michael D Higgins signed the referendum result into law, thereby formally removing the eighth amendment from the constitution.
Speaking to reporters at the opening of the new primary care centre in Grangegorman, Dublin, Mr Harris said that even though abortion services are set to be provided in the near future it is essential "cost is not a barrier" to accessing the medical help.
Asked specifically if he will introduce any charge to receive abortions in legislation due to be passed by cabinet next week and put to the Dáil in the first week of October, Mr Harris confirmed no fees will be involved.
The Health Minister said the move is needed, saying that if a price tag was linked to accessing abortion services it would encourage private abortion clinics into Ireland and lead to women continuing to travel abroad for the care they need.
"Yes, it is my intention that the services will be free," Mr Harris confirmed.
"I've said from the start that I don't want cost to be a barrier, because if cost is a barrier you get into a situation where one of two things happen, you get abortion clinics to develop or you can see people having to continue to travel.
"I want this [abortion services] to be provided as part of our healthcare system, our public healthcare system and part of our primary healthcare system.
"That now allows us as legislatures to do our job," he said.
Mr Harris also confirmed that, now that President Higgins has signed the order paper to remove the eighth amendment from the constitution, he will bring planned law changes to allow abortion services to cabinet next week.
The Health Minister said he expects cabinet to pass these new rules immediately in order to allow him to bring them to the Dáil in the first week of October and fully introducing them by the end of this year.
"Next week I will return to cabinet for final approval of the bill that will legislate for termination of pregnancy in certain circumstances.
"I intend to introduce that in the Oireachtas in the first week of October, I hope we can pass it through the Oireachtas in the month of October and November," he said.
Asked about ongoing concerns pro-life groups may target the three day 'cooling off' period for women seeking to access abortion services which is included in the planned new laws, Mr Harris said he was aware of the issue.
However, in a clear message to groups wishing to continue the abortion debate, he said:
"I do note the comments of some groups about the three days. But I would say to anybody regardless of whether you voted yes or no, we made a conscious decision to have a very detailed general scheme available before the referendum, that three day period was part of the discussion and was debated fully during the referendum, which was passed."
The Pro Life Campaign said that today’s proceedings at the Oireachtas Committee were “a rude awakening” for anyone who thought the new abortion law would be restrictive.
Dr Ruth Cullen of the Pro Life Campaign said: “Today’s committee hearings brought into sharp focus the extreme nature of the abortion law about to be introduced. It’s a definite rude awakening for anyone who thought the law would be somewhat restrictive.”
“It is clear Health Minister Simon Harris and others in government have no interest in hearing perspectives other than ones that zealously back abortion. It is going to take time but the public will realise the full extent of the charade that is going on when the reality of what the abortion law permits starts to sink in," she said.