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Abortion services to be 'phased in' next month, Taoiseach says

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said abortion services will be “phased in” next month, adding services will not be available “in every hospital”.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said the legislation still has to pass the Seanad, may have to go back to the Dail and will have to be assessed and signed into law by the President before services can commence.

However, for the first time, he did say a 100% service would not be available from day one.

Health Minister Simon Harris has promised that abortion services would be available to women from January 1, but concerns have been expressed at the tight deadline by some medical experts.

But Mr Varadkar said he is still confident services will be in place.

“I am confident the services will be available in January. Obviously there are a number of contingencies, the legislation still has to get through the Seanad, it may have to go back to the Dail.

"Assuming the bill is enacted and signed into law by the president the service will be available from January,” he said.

“But like any new service it is not going to be a case of flicking a switch that one day there is no service and the next day a 100% service.

It will have to be rolled out, it will have to be phased in. It may not be available in every single hospital in every single place but it will be available.

The Seanad sat today to begin the committee stage debate on the controversial legislation which aims to give legal effect to the referendum result last May, where 66% of voters chose to repeal the 1983 Eighth Amendment.

During the debate, Mr Harris said he had just come from a meeting with many medical stakeholders who are preparing for the introduction of services in January.

“I am very happy to see the level of preparedness that people have put in, in terms of websites, information campaigns and helplines,” he said.

“In terms of the 372 women in Ireland who will seek a termination in January, regardless of what we do with the law because we know that nine women travel every day and three women take the abortion pill every day, we will be able to support those 372 women here in our own country with care and compassion,” he added.

He said the committee made a decision not to include socio-economic grounds.

“Therefore, arising from that, and I published a general scheme in advance of the referendum in March, obviously socio-economic grounds were not included...I am here to do what I promised the people that I would do when we had a referendum,” he said.