Updated: 09/03/18 : 06:27:33
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Policy paper reveals 21 clauses if abortion law repealed

Medical professionals will be able to conscientiously object to providing terminations if the Eighth Amendment is removed from the Constitution, the Government will confirm today.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will publish a policy paper outlining how the Government intends to legislate if Article 40.3.3 is repealed.

The paper, which has been seen by The Irish Times, identifies 21 policy principles that would inform the drafting of legislation.

The legislation would provide for terminations without specific indication up to 12 weeks, and state a time period must elapse “between the initial assessment by a medical practitioner and the termination of a pregnancy being carried out”.

It is proposed abortions could be carried out after the first trimester of pregnancy when a mother’s health, which includes the risk to life, is threatened and in the cases of a foetal condition which would result in death before or shortly after birth.

Two doctors will be required to assess the appropriateness of a termination and gestational limits will not apply in these cases.

Government sources stressed that late-term abortions would be outlawed as most pregnancies were viable after the 23rd week.

The paper will also commit to the decriminalisation of women who obtain an abortion, but those who perform terminations outside the law will face an offence of 14 years in prison.

The policy document stresses the statements contained within it are only relevant if Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution is repealed, and further detail would need to be added.

The planned publication follows a Cabinet decision to hold a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment in its entirety and to introduce an enabling clause stating “provision may be made in law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.

Ministers were advised by Attorney General Seamus Woulfe of the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling, which determined the unborn had no Constitutional rights outside the Eighth Amendment.

Mr Woulfe also advised the meeting that the Supreme Court judgment referred to the common good and the unborn, and that the Oireachtas must consider the unborn when legislating.

Speaking after the meeting, six Cabinet Ministers including Mr Harris, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, Minister for Education Richard Bruton and Minister for Arts Josepha Madigan, committed to campaigning in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

A number of Fine Gael TDs, as well as several Deputies from other parties, have said they would be campaigning to retain the amendment. In Sligo, these TDS include Tony McLoughlin (FG) and FF deputies Marc Mac Sharry and Eamonn Scanlon.

The Government will also move today to establish the Referendum Commission, which will be chaired by Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy. The Dáil will also consider the Referendum Bill today.