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Harris adamant that abortion services will be available from January 1

Minister for Health Simon Harris says it will take time to embed abortion services across the country, however, he is adamant that from January 1 women will be able to access abortion services in Ireland.

Once the legislation is signed into law by President Higgins the Minister said he can immediately authorise the HSE to start a public awareness campaign called My Options which will include advertising, leaflets and a 24-hour helpline operated by counsellors and nurses.

He told RTE’s News at One that hundreds of doctors have signed up to provide the service and that the master of Holles Street hospital has indicated that they will be ready.

The Minister acknowledged that it will take longer for some hospitals and doctors to be ready to provide abortion services. While the Coombe hospital will not be ready on January 1 he expects the hospital to provide services in the month of January.

From 1st January women will be able to access abortion services in this country.

The service might not be entirely nationwide on that date, he said, but “it will be an awful lot better than the current reality of the boat and the plane.”

When asked about the availability of ultrasound machines around the country, the Minister said that doctors date pregnancies every day of the week and only in certain circumstances are ultrasound machines required.

There will be increased availability of ultrasound machines around the country, he said and these will be provided through private contractors and maternity hospitals.

Clinical guidelines are being drawn up by clinicians, he added and will be ready within “a couple of days.”

The Minister said it is his belief that women will be able to access abortion services in Ireland from January 1st. But it will take time for the service to evolve.

Mr Harris was asked about what the campaign to provide abortion services had meant to him personally, he said that it had been unlike any other political issue. “I knew so many people were depending on us getting this right.

“This issue was never about me. I’m delighted that we have finally done it. I hope it will bring comfort to many women.”