The Coombe Hospital will not be ready to provide abortion services by the start of January, according to the Master of the hospital, Dr Sharon Sheehan.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Sheehan said she would advise Minister for Health Simon Harris to delay the introduction of services until February or March.

She said the Coombe Hospital is "fully committed" to providing termination of pregnancy services.

However, she added that to ensure the provision of "safe, high-quality, sensitive and compassionate care for women", it is essential to have the finalised legislation in place, an agreed model of care nationally and national clinical guidelines.

Dr Sheehan said that at the moment, none of those three things have happened.

She added: "There has been extensive work, and that is continuing to proceed at a pace, but they are not ready and we now have only 20 days before this service is to be introduced.

"In my opinion, the country is not ready, and therefore the Coombe is not in a position to deliver these services from the 1st of January."

Mr Harris has said he is disappointed hearing comments from the Coombe hospital over not being able to provide abortion services.

Speaking in the Seanad on committee stage of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill, he said the overwhelming majority of services will be provided in the community through General Practitioners.

He said maternity hospitals are already providing, albeit in a limited circumstance, access to termination under the 2013 act.

Mr Harris said while it was a time for leadership in the Oireachtas, it was also a time for clinical leadership.

"If everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel we can make sure that services are in place in January, and of course they'll take time to fully embed and evolve, but safe services can commence in the New Year," he said.

The Department of Health had earlier said that the minister has no role in the drawing up of the clinical guidelines.

"This is led by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Irish College of General Practitioners.

"The minister has stated very clearly that when the Houses of the Oireachtas pass the legislation and if the President of Ireland signs that legislation into law, services will be available in January."

The department went on to say that the Minister accepts services will take time to evolve and fully implement.

It added: "However, he has also been equally clear that 372 women will find themselves in crisis pregnancies in January and should be able to access legally available services in this country."

Anti-abortion senators accused of wanting second referendum

Meanwhile, anti-abortion senators have been accused of seeking to re-run the abortion referendum.

Independent Senators Rónán Mullen and Briain Ó Domhnaill tabled an amendment during the Seanad Committee stage of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill calling on specific grounds such as sex, race and disability to be placed in the bill.

They said screening for these grounds are currently available at nine weeks and will become increasingly available with advances in technology.

A similar amendment was tabled by anti-abortion TDs at committee stage in the Dáil a number of weeks ago.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said the legislation did not allow terminations on such grounds.

Mr Harris said the bill would allow women not to be second guessed over the reason for a termination before 12 weeks.

"The issue of 12 weeks was debated up and down the length and breath of the country", he said, adding "people thought long and hard about it, they teased through 12 weeks and why 12 weeks".

He said the referendum campaign concerned him because the implication was that people with disabilities were only born in Ireland was because of the eighth amendment rather than the love of their families.

Mr Mullen said Mr Harris was seeking to obfuscate the issue with an emotional argument.

Fine Gael Senator and Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment Catherine Noone also said people were "clearly aware" of the terms on which they were voting in the referendum.

She said the bill was discussed by both sides of the debate, particularly on the grounds of disability.

Ms Noone accused anti-abortion senators of spinning and twisting the facts.

"It's like Groundhog Day, we've had this debate and we want to pass this legislation," she said, adding "this is about trusting women and doctors".

Mr Mullen said he was not spinning facts when he said there was a contradiction in excluding abortion on disability while there is abortion without reason up to 12 weeks.

The amendment was defeated by 31 votes to 6. 

Additional reporting: Ailbhe Conneely