A contract for the provision of abortion services in community settings has been agreed between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Minister for Health. 

The contract will be offered by the HSE to medical practitioners who express an interest in providing terminations up to nine weeks, the majority of which will occur in community settings. 

General Practitioners, the Irish Family Association and the Well Woman Clinic are expected provide the service in these settings. 

In a statement tonight, the Minister for Health Simon Harris described the contract agreement as a "significant step" in the preparations for the introduction of termination of pregnancy services at the beginning of January.

He added that it would enable the Health Service Executive to offer the contract in sufficient time for doctors to consider its terms and to inform the HSE if they wish to take it up. 

The fee associated with the contract, which encompasses a package of care over three visits, is €450.

In a separate statement, the Irish Medical Organisation has described it as "a stand-alone contract", allowing each GP to make an individual choice on whether-or-not to provide the service.

It says any GP who holds a conscientious objection "will not be in any way compelled to participate in the contract".

The IMO says it recognises the difficult decision faced by many doctors in this regard and at all times it sought to ensure respect for the views of individual members, as to whether they wished to offer these services or not in line with the provisions of the Medical Council guidelines in respect of matters of conscience.

Asked if it could be described as an opt-in for GPs, a spokesperson for the Minister for Health said tonight that there was no change in policy.

Report stage of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill is due to begin in the Dáil next week.