Aspects of abortion laws, such as safe-access zones around maternity hospitals and terminations in cases of non-fatal foetal abnormalities, should be reviewed at some point, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.
He was responding to Labour Party leader Alan Kelly, who said the Government plans to review how the laws are operating, rather than reviewing the legislation itself.
Mr Kelly told the Dáil there are a number of problems with the legislation.
"We know only ten maternity units offer a full termination service and very few GPs," he said.
"There are geographical issues across the board. Three years on legislation for safer access zones around maternity hospitals hasn't been published."
Deputy Kelly said that in the middle of a pandemic, 375 women travelled to the UK last year.
"The reality is for women that a three-day waiting period and a twelve-week limit cause serious access problems," he said.
A review was promised within three years of the Health (regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 coming into effect.
Announcing a review earlier this week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the purpose of it was to ensure the legislation was operating as it was intended.
Tanaiste @LeoVaradkar "We should at some point examine some issues around the legislation- safe access zones is definitely one. You mentioned an issue of the waiting period. Many people feel the waiting period is a good idea, I appreciate many people don't .
But Deputy Kelly said it was a "political decision" not to review the laws themselves, suggesting this was because many members of Fianna Fáil were opposed to the laws in the first place "and this is the most politically expedient thing to do."
The Tánaiste responded that when the legislation was enacted "certainly in my mind at that point was that it would be a comprehensive review and not just the operation of it."
He said: "I do agree with your basic point that we should at some point examine some issues around the legislation; safe access zones is definitely one.
"You mentioned an issue of the waiting period - many people feel the waiting period is a good idea, I appreciate many people don't.
"We also need to look at the issue that does come up quite a lot now around non-fatal foetal abnormalities, which is a difficult one, and is one of the reasons people travel to the UK."
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said people can have confidence in the objectivity and independence of a review into abortion laws.
Micheál Martin rejected claims that his party was seeking to avoid a more comprehensive review of the legislation for political reasons.
When asked about Mr Kelly's claim that is was a "political decision" not to review the laws themselves, Mr Martin said that that was "absolutely not" the case.
He said: "I would say that the review can inform future policy" but that the Government "would like to be informed by the review of the Act so far, as that would give us insight into other aspects of the act and if it is working properly."
Mr Martin said civic society wanted an independent chairperson, which Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has agreed with.
"People can have confidence in the objectivity and independence of the view and obviously that review can lead to policy change," he said.