Minister says Government 'can't decriminalise anything' until abortion laws pass through Oireachtas

It comes as Simon Harris is due to meet with senior officials to discuss the next steps after the referendum

Minister says Government 'can't decriminalise anything' until abortion laws pass through Oireachtas

Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 10am

The use of abortion pills in Ireland cannot be decriminalised before legislation is passed here.

The Social Protection Minister says they have no power to change this law until the proper abortion legislation is approved and passed in the Dáil and the Seanad.

It comes as the Health Minister is due to meet with senior officials today to plan what to do in the wake of the Eighth Amendment referendum.

Simon Harris will bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow on introducing the legislation to allow for termination of pregnancy.

After the historic vote at the weekend, attention is now turning to implementing what people have voted for.

Minister for Health Simon Harris (centre) with Fine Gael's Kate O'Connell speaks to the media on arrival at the count centre in Dublin's RDS on Saturday 26/05/18. Picture by: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

The referendum approved repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, but it will be up to politicians to decide what the new laws on termination of pregnancies will be.

Minister Harris published draft legislation before the campaign that would allow abortion without restriction for up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy.

He will look for the Government to formally rubber stamp that at tomorrow's cabinet meeting.

First, the minister will meet senior officials in his department today and brief the opposition parties on the next steps.

There's still a number of steps that need to be taken like drafting clinical guidance for medical practitioners.

However, the Minister is hopeful the legislation to allow for abortions can be passed in the autumn.

'A state of limbo'

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty says the legislation has to move through all stages in the Oireachtas before anything is decriminalised.

However, she also noted this is one of the reason why they need to act fast.

She said: "For us, we can't decriminalise anything until the new legislation is put on the books, so really the focus has to be on getting it drafted and getting it into the House as quickly as we possibly can.

"We're kind of in a state of limbo - we know what everything wants us to do, but that process of the five stages in Dáil Éireann and five stages in Seanad Éireann still has to be gone through. But I hope that with the cooperation of all of my colleagues in Dáil and Seanad Éireann that we'll get that done as quickly as we can."

The Together For Yes campaign group yesterday called on the Government to legislate for abortion as quickly as possible.

The group is warning that despite Friday’s emphatic vote, little will change for women in Ireland until the legislation is passed.

On Sunday, the group called for the legislation to be enacted before the summer – or, if that proves impossible, for politicians to return for a special sitting during the summer break to ensure the legislation is passed.