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Dr. Rhona Mahony has pledged that women whose unborn babies have fatal foetal abnormalities will be offered terminations from January at the National Maternity Hospital.

As the hospital's master, Mahony made the claim after it came to light that some maternity hospitals and GPs won't be ready to begin extended abortion services from January.

A spokesman has said that staff are "working to ensure we have a full, safe and compassionate service in place as quickly as possible".

Dr. Mahony's spokesman continued;

"Notwithstanding the outstanding logistical issues, we expect to provide termination of pregnancy in situations of fatal foetal anomaly from January 1."

Minister for Health Simon Harris rejected implications that the January target for abortion services was aligned with politics, and has commented that this claim was 'offensive'.

He added that the services will not be available everywhere straight away, and that it needed time to embed and evolve with the help of clinicians. 

Yesterday, the Seanad continued with their debate on the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

Dr Sharon Sheehan, master of the Coombe hospital, has commented that her new system of service won't be ready by January.

She said; "To ensure the provision of "safe, high-quality, sensitive and compassionate care for women", it is essential to have the finalised legislation in place, an agreed model of care nationally and national clinical guidelines.

She continued;

"There has been extensive work, and that is continuing to proceed at a pace, but they are not ready and we now have only 20 days before this service is to be introduced.

"In my opinion, the country is not ready, and therefore the Coombe is not in a position to deliver these services from the January 1."

The Rotunda maternity hospitals spokeswoman commented that;

"Rotunda Hospital will be complying with enacted legislation providing the appropriate model of care, resources and funding is in place to enable a safe service provision to women".

The Irish Family Planning Association has also said that an exact date of availability for abortion services cannot yet be offered;

"We are still working on a number of outstanding issues. We're working to resolve them as quickly as possible and we're making good progress. We won't delay in providing abortion care once that's done".

The Irish College of General Practitioners and the Institute of Obstetricians are set to meet today for the discussion of clinical guidelines which are seen as essential for doctors.

A 24/7 helpline will hopefully be advertised by the HSE once the legislation is passed for guiding women, GPs and hospitals.

Feature image: BusinessPost.ie

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Health Minister Simon Harris has confirmed abortion services will be free in Ireland. He said the services will be available for all women from all financial backgrounds.

He said he wants the services to be available to everyone who needs them. According to the Irish Examiner, he said cost should not be a barrier for women who need these services.

The Health Minister confirmed: “Yes, it is my intention that the services will be free.”

"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,” he commented.

"I want this to be provided as part of our health care system, our public health care system and part of our primary health care system,” he added.

Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion was officially lifted on September 19.

The 8th amendment was removed from the Irish Constitution, as President Michael D Higgins signed the formal repeal legislation.  

The 36th Amendment of the Constitution reads:

'Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.'

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On Saturday, the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, thus allowing the government to legislate for the legal termination of pregnancy. 

Following the historic result, Minister for Health Simon Harris revealed that the new legal framework to replace the Eighth Amendment will be drafted during the summer, with hopes that it will be in place by the end of the year. 

According to The Herald, the cost of an abortion in Ireland is expected to be somewhere in the region of €300, with medical card holders being able to access the service free of charge.

It's also understood the process will require two or more GP appointments, each of which will be more expensive than a typical consultation. 

Abortion pills, which are expected to be used in the vast majority of cases, will come under the drugs payment scheme, which sets a limit of €134 a month per household for any prescribed drugs or medicines.

As set out in the Government's draft heads of a bill published prior to the referendum, women will be able to request an abortion through a GP or primary care service such as the Well Woman Clinic.

After the initial appointment, they'll be required to wait for a 72-hour "consideration" period. Once this time elapses, they'll return to their doctor for a second consultation where the drug will then be dispensed.

The expected legislation will make abortion available for women who are no more than 12 weeks pregnant. Women won't have to give a reason for their decision and will need a GP to clarify that they are not passed the twelfth week of pregnancy. 

Termination will be allowed past 12 weeks if:

  • The woman's health is in danger or her life is at risk

  • The foetus has not reached viability

  • It is appropriate to carry out the termination of pregnancy in order to advert that risk

As it stands, Irish women who seek abortion services in UK must pay upwards of €510 for abortion pill treatment and €570 for surgical abortion, before factoring in the price of travel. 

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Yesterday, Ireland voted by 66.4 percent to 33.6 percent to abolish the eighth amendment from our Constitution.

The turnout for this referendum exceeded that of the marriage referendum in 2015. Over 2,159,655 people came out and voted, with 1,429,981 people voting in favour of repealing the eighth amendment.

The results have been welcomed by the public with hundreds gathering in Dublin Castle to hear the official results. The crowd erupted when it was revealed that the Yes side had succeeded. During the moving moment, the crowd started chanting ‘Yes We Did’.

Speaking of the landslide victory, Leo Varadkar said: “Today is a historic day for Ireland. We’re saying as a nation that we trust women and that we believe women should be respected in making the decisions they make.”

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, who has been hailed a hero for his support of the Yes side shared: “Yesterday our country said to women, we stand with you. We said to women -take our hand, not the boat. It has been incredible to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we work to create a country which treats women with compassion. I will always be in your corner."

Following the Yes side’s victory, Simon Harris revealed that the new legal framework to replace the Eighth Amendment will be drafted during the summer.

He hopes that it will be in place by the end of the year.

The expected legislation will make abortion available for women who are no more than 12 weeks pregnant. Women won't have to give a reason for their decision and will need a GP to clarify that they are not passed the twelfth week of pregnancy. 

Termination will be allowed past 12 weeks if:

  • The woman's health is in danger or her life is at risk
  • The foetus has not reached viability, and
  • It is appropriate to carry out the termination of pregnancy in order to avert that risk
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New plans being considered by the Department of Health could see charges for the morning-after-pill be abolished or significantly reduced, as part of the Government's new sexual health programme.

Speaking yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris outlined plans for a comprehensive women's health programme which will aim to allow for greater access to condoms, emergency contraception, as well as a potential price decrease for the everyday contraceptive pill with a view to making it completely free in the future. 

As it stands, the emergency contraceptive pill can cost anywhere between €15-€50, while the everyday contraceptive pill costs an average of €10 per month (not including the GP fee). 

According to The Journal, a new three-year education programme will also be rolled out in schools across the country which will include enhanced resources and lesson plans around the subject of sexual health. 

As well as that, the new programme will also include a 'safer sex' advertising campaign and sexual health promotion training for professionals in youth sector, those working with at-risk groups, and for parents. 

Minister Simon Harris stressed that these changes will go ahead, regardless of the result of the upcoming referendum on the legalisation of abortion services. 

“I want to make it clear that these initiatives can and will be implemented even if the proposed referendum is not passed,” he said.

It's understood the proposed initiatives will be funded in 2019, which, according to the Minister, will give him time to prepare the ground for the changes. 

 

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Minister for Health Simon Harris will draft legislation for the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment. 

The legislation will include provision for abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks, as per the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee

He intends to have a draft published by late March. 

'Whether the Eighth Amendment is in our Constitution, or indeed not in our Constitution, abortion is a reality for Irish women,' he said, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

'I cannot close my eyes and block my ears to the fact that 3,265 of our citizens travelled to the UK in 2016 from every county in Ireland.'

'I cannot stand over a situation where the abortion pill is illegally accessed in this country and women, perhaps in the privacy of their own bedroom, in a lonely isolated place, [are] taking a pill without any medical supervision.'

He did not provide the date of the intended referendum. 

However, after a special Cabinet meeting last night, it was announced that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will be held in late May or early June. 

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Health Minster Simon Harris opened this evening's “historic” debate on the Eight Amendment by revealing figures showing the amount of women who have travelled for abortions since 1980.

“This is happening in Ireland today. That's a fact. How can we ignore it? How can we consider it alright?” he asked the Dáil.

During his opening statement, the Fine Gael TD said it was important to recognise the “sad reality that we have been exporting this issue,” before bringing attention to new figures which showed that 3,265 women travelled to the UK from Ireland for an abortion in 2016.

A county-by-county breakdown revealed that 1,175 of the women travelled from Dublin, with others mainly coming from Cork (241), Kildare (130) and Galway (113).

“These are not faceless women. They are our friends and neighbours, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, wives,” the Health Minister said.

“Each woman is dealing with her own personal situation and making what is a deeply difficult decision.”

The figures also showed that over 1,500 women were aged between 20 and 29, while 255 were over 40.

10 girls under the age of 16 were shown to have travelled for an abortion in 2016.

Meanwhile, over 50 per cent of the women said they were either married or in a relationship.

“I can’t help but wonder what we would have done if we didn’t have a neighbouring island to help us turn a blind eye. And sometimes turning a blind eye is the same as turning your back.”

The Government have agreed to draft a Bill that would allow a referendum on the Eighth Amendment to take place, though the wording of the bill has not yet been finalised.

Discussions are expected to continue into tomorrow.

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The Irish Government has approved an opt-out scheme for organ donation.

Yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris, brought forward a motion to the Cabinet which will see families give authorisation for organ donation.

The aim of the new Bill, called The Human Tissue Bill, is to regulate the removal, retention, storage, use and disposal of human tissue from the deceased.

Image result for the irish cabinet 2017

This will mean that families will have the right to stop the organs of their loved ones being donated, if they wish to do so.

According to The Irish Times, Mr Harris said: “This has been long-talked about in this country and today we take a step closer to it becoming a reality.

“An opt-out system of consent for organ donation and accompanying publicity campaign will raise awareness among individuals and encourage discussion among families of their intentions in relation to organ donation.

“In this way individuals can increase the chances that their organs might be utilised after their death, and can ensure that those left behind will have the satisfaction of knowing that their wishes were carried through.”

The first draft of The Human Tissue Bill, which has been promised for several years now, will be brought to the Cabinet this Autumn.

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From July 2017, medical card holder will be able to get the morning-after pill for free, directly from a pharmacy.

Currently, medical card holders must make an appointment with their GP in order to access the medication free of charge, however once this move comes into action, no doctors visit or prescription will be required.

Minster for Health, Simon Harris, signed the change into law yesterday after announcing his intention to do so last month.

Pharmacists are welcoming the move as they say they are healthcare professionals with the competence to dispense such medication to their patients.

They also argued that it was not fair to restrict a medicine known to work with greater effect when taken sooner.

Five years ago, restrictions on the availability of the medication were lifted when it was decided that private patients could purchase the product over the counter from pharmacies.  

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Organ donation has been a tricky subject, ever since the first procedure of a kidney transplant from a deceased donor to a living being went successfully in 1962. 

From the end of this year, hospitals in Ireland will assume that everyone is an organ donor, regardless of an organ donation card. 

New laws are to be introduced that will presume consent for donation, unless family of the deceased or the potential donor themselves chooses to opt out.

The opt-out system rather than the opt-in system hopes to increase the number of deceased organ donors.

'We have a lot of work to do, and the area that I want to see progressed is the Human Tissue Bill,' said Health Minister Simon Harris, speaking at the opening of Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland’s new headquarters.

'I’d like to move to an opt-out system, where people have an opportunity to have given presumed consent – useless you actually opt out, it’s presumed you would like your organs to be donated'

'I’m hopeful that (legislation) will be passed by the end of the year and implemented in 2018.'

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The morning-after-pill will now be available to medical card holders without a GP visit.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has announced this morning that people with medical cards will have access to emergency contraception directly from their pharmacies, free of charge from July 2017.

'Announcing this morning that access to emergency contraception directly through the pharmacy will be available on the General Medical Services scheme from July,' he said, speaking at the Irish Pharmacy Union this morning.

'All women – regardless of means – should have access to emergency contraception through their pharmacy. This measure will ensure this,' he continued, according to the Journal.

The Irish Pharmacy Union welcomed the development, saying that it 'addresses a longstanding injustice and anomaly for these women who, up to now, had to go to their GP to get a prescription if they wished to get emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) on the medical card.'

'It is time sensitive and that its effectiveness diminishes between the time of unprotected sex and the time of taking it, emphasising both the importance of all women being able to readily access it and thus the value of the convenience and accessibility offered by community pharmacies.'

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A petition against the Sisters of Charity ownership over the new National Maternity Hospital has gathered over 91,000 signatures, and now a new poll has shown that the majority of Irish people are against the move. 

An RTÉ poll found that 86 per cent of people do not want the Catholic Church to have any role in maternity services in Ireland.

The survey was conducted for the Claire Byrne Live programme. 

The results come after protests had been staged outside the Department of Health against the Sisters of Charity involvement and a petition had since gone viral against their role.

'The Sisters of Charity is one of 18 residential institutions that is highlighted by the Ryan report 2009 to have been responsible for child abuse,' reads the petition manifesto.

'They still owe €3 million to the redress scheme for its survivors. The Sisters of Charity, along with three other religious congregations, were responsible for the management of Magdalene Laundries.'

'In 2013 they stated they would not be making ANY contributions to the State redress scheme to the women who had been subject abuse in the Magdalene Laundries.'

Minister for Health Simon Harris has attempted to reassure the public that there will be no Catholic influence on the health care provided to women at the new National Maternity Hospital. 

'The identity and ethos of the current NMH will be retained,' reads a statement from the Department of Health. 

'The new company will have clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services, without religious, ethnic or other distinction, as well as financial and budgetary independence.'

However, a further poll shows that only 23 per cent of people surveyed believe the Minister's reassurances. 

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