Written Answers. - Green Paper on Abortion.

Proinsias De Rossa

Ceist:

96 Mr. De Rossa asked the Minister for Health and Children when it is expected to publish the promised Green Paper on abortion, especially in view of his earlier statements that it was hoped it would be published last summer; the total number of Irish women who secured terminations in the United Kingdom during 1998; the corresponding figure for 1997; the steps, if any, he plans to take to reduce the numbers travelling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1851/99]

Jack Wall

Ceist:

115 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in producing the Green Paper on abortion; and when he expects it to be published. [1966/99]

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

544 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health and Children the proposals, if any, he has to bring forward legislative proposals in relation to abortion; the nature of consultations, if any, taking place in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1304/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96, 115 and 544 together.

In December, 1997 the Government established a Cabinet Committee to oversee the work of an interdepartmental working group whose task it would be to prepare a Green Paper on abortion. Work on drafting the Green Paper is proceeding. The process involves consideration of the constitutional, legal, medical, moral, ethical and social issues which arise regarding abortion. When the drafting has been completed I intend to convene another meeting of the Cabinet Committee, when it will commence consideration of the draft. Publication of the Green Paper must await a final decision of the Government in due course. I acknowledge that the process is taking longer than expected but I would point out that any dates given by me are at all times indicative, pending final approval by Government. It is the Government's intention to refer the Green Paper, when completed, to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution for consideration.

The Office for National Statistics, London, has indicated that statistics on the number of abortions carried out in the calendar year 1998 are not yet available. Figures for the period from 1 January to 30 June 1998 indicate that 2,953 women who gave Irish addresses had abortions in England and Wales in that period. A total of 5,336 women who gave Irish addresses had abortions in England and Wales in 1997.
I have made an additional £1 million (\1,269,738) available to the health boards in 1999 for the further development of family planning and pregnancy counselling services. The health boards have been asked to concentrate this additional funding on measures aimed at reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancy in women aged between 15 and 34 years, as the majority of abortions performed on Irish women involve women in this age-group.