Monday, February 04, 2013

Reilly's abortion memo set for delay by Minister for Health James Reilly to advise Cabinet this week on the scope of proposed abortion legislation have been swept off course amid resistance on the Labour side of the Government to elements of his plan.

Although Dr Reilly said on Thursday that a memo would go to Cabinet this week, two Government sources said the document was unlikely to be be brought to Cabinet at its weekly meeting tomorrow.

The argument was made yesterday that more time would be required to digest the 1,000-page report on the issue from the Oireachtas health committee.

In spite of the complexity of the proposed legislation and political sensitivity over its contents in both Government parties, Dr Reilly set out an ambitious timetable last week in which he expressed the hope that the law could be enacted by summer.

Only days later, any slowdown in bringing the memorandum to Cabinet would be a clear illustration of the difficulties the Government faces when trying to align the Fine Gael position with that of Labour.

The main point of contention is the inclusion of the risk of suicide as a legal ground for abortion, as provided for in the Supreme Court ruling on the X case.

The expected delay comes amid concern in Labour that Dr Reilly’s proposal to have the threat to the life of a mother, in light of a risk of suicide, examined by up to five doctors when deciding whether abortion should be allowed.

“We wouldn’t see that as something that would be practical,” said a source on the Labour flank of the Coalition. Labour is believed to favour a middle ground in which a patient would be examined by three doctors.

There was no comment on the timing of the proposed memorandum or anything in it from Dr Reilly’s spokesman.

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