Ireland health minister hails 'momentous' moment as legal abortions begin on New Year's Day

Simon Harris says he is confident there are enough GPs to deliver the service

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Monday 31 December 2018 20:33 GMT
Irish abortion referendum: The moment it was announced Ireland voted 66% in favour of repealing the eighth amendment

Ireland’s health minister has hailed the introduction of abortion services in the country from 1 January as “momentous”.

Simon Harris, an Irish Fine Gael politician, said he is confident there are enough GPs to deliver the service.

Terminations will be available from midnight on Tuesday.

Mr Harris said it is “really a momentous day”.

He added: “Abortion is a very sensitive issue. We’re talking about women in crisis pregnancies... we’re talking about people in very, very difficult situations.

“Up until now... their options have been to travel or to go on the internet. All that changes.”

This comes after two-thirds of Irish voters agreed to amend the constitution and allow women to access abortion in a historic referendum in May.

Some 66.4 per cent of the electorate voted to repeal an amendment in the Irish constitution which effectively banned the termination of pregnancies.

The change in law will now allow for abortion services to be provided up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, where there is a risk of fatal foetal abnormality and the risk to life or health of the pregnant woman, compared to 24 weeks under abortion laws in Britain.

Since the Republic of Ireland resoundingly backed liberalising legislation south of the border, Northern Ireland is now the only part of Europe, apart from Malta, where abortion is illegal.

Mr Harris said about 80 per cent of terminations are likely to take place in local communities and he was satisfied that the 165 GPs who signed up to provide the service is enough to meet demand.

Women will be referred to a new website,, and also a new 24/7 helpline offering advice. It will be staffed by counsellors and nurses.

Mr Harris described the new service as “so much better” than what was previously available to Irish women.

“I think it’s momentous that... women and their partners, who face situations... like fatal foetal abnormalities will no longer have to travel abroad to access services.”

Mr Harris tweeted his support for the Irish abortion bill in December, saying it will “end lonely journeys, end the stigma and support women’s choices” in Ireland.

Around 3,000 Irish women annually have travelled to Britain to terminate a pregnancy in recent years, according to government figures.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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