Harris: Government 'has a duty' to reduce number of crisis pregnancies alongside new abortion laws

Work is under way to provide free male contraception, with a new group to examine female contraception

Harris: Government 'has a duty' to reduce number of crisis pregnancies alongside new abortion laws

Simon Harris. Picture by: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA Wire/PA Images

The Health Minister says the Government 'has a duty' to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies in Ireland.

Alongside the recommendation to repeal the Eighth Amendment, last year an Oireachtas committee also proposed a number of 'ancillary measures' to accompany any liberalised abortion laws.

The proposals included greater availability of free contraception, and a 'thorough review' of sexual health and relationship education in schools.

With efforts now under way to draw up new legislation to allow for abortion following last week's referendum, Simon Harris says work has also begun on implementing other measures.

Speaking on Lunchtime Live, Minister Harris explained: "It would be a complete failing to just bring in abortion and not bring in this.

"What annoyed me most during the campaign was this idea that women are demanding terminations - no woman ever wants to find herself in that position, and no man wants to ever find the woman he loves in that situation. We have a duty to reduce the number of women who find themselves in crisis in the first place."

'Our work is under way'

Minister Harris pointed out that Education Minister Richard Bruton has already announced a major review of relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in schools.

An opposition bill to introduce factual sex education in schools is also currently working its way through the Oireachtas.

Minister Harris added: "With contraception, I've already stated that we'll be providing free male contraception from 2019 - we can do that quite straightforwardly, to be frank about it.

"In relation to female contraception, I'm setting up a women's sexual health group in the department. I'm going to ask some medical experts to chair that group, and to work out exactly what sort of contraception and how best to do that... that might require legislative change."

He stressed: "I was very clear before the referendum that whether people voted Yes or No we were going to this - the Government has given me the green-light in terms of funding and resourcing this, and now our work is under way in that regard."

The Health Minister also reiterated that he hopes to have legislation to regulate abortions published next month, passed through the Oireachtas by October, and for all new services to be in operation by January 1st 2019.