An Bille um an gCúigiú Leasú is Fiche ar an mBunreacht (Beatha Dhaonna le Linn Toirchis a Chosaint), 2001: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001: Second Stage (Resumed).

Atairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Previously, I outlined that Members on the Government side were debating this Bill as if it were a question of introducing or preventing abortion in Ireland. I have pointed out that this Bill is simply trying to patch up the botched wording that was inserted in the Constitution in 1983. Arising from the X case, that wording has led to the legalising of abortion for people who threaten to commit suicide. I do not know why we are discussing wording to be inserted into the Constitution that will in turn be challenged.

Previously I mentioned that the challenge would be on whether it is conception or implantation. Members got a letter today from pro-life representatives questioning that. If this wording is inserted in the Constitution it will be challenged immediately. My forecast is – as happened in 1983 – that this will be challenged by one side, or both sides, on a couple of grounds and that more amendments will have to be brought forward later. If we had left the matter as it was in 1983 – when the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, made abortion illegal – we would not be in the mess we are in now, because abortion would be illegal. It is because we tried to copperfasten something that did not need it that we have got into these difficulties. It stems from inserting a wording in the Constitution that is not necessary. If the Government started from scratch again, we might save ourselves a great deal of bother and rows might be avoided, although this debate is more peaceful than in 1983 when the debate was savage at times. I cannot see what is to be achieved by introducing this legislation because the Minister went out of his way in his contribution to point out the question of the girl who was permitted to have an abortion by the Supreme Court because she was going to commit suicide and that a girl in a similar position would still be free to travel to England to have an abortion.

Are we not playing with words? When people look back on this debate in 25 years they will say we were talking about preventing abortion while saying that women may still travel to England for an abortion. The problem is that 5,000 to 6,000 women travel to England for abortions annually and this debate will not have the slightest effect on that. People will say in 25 years that we were playing around with words and were fiddling like Nero while women travelled for abortions.

We pretend we are doing something about this in the legislation. Words will be inserted in the Constitution which will be challenged in the Supreme Court. I received letters today stating that the word "conception" should be inserted for "implantation". That is the first sign of a challenge and will result in a Supreme Court case. I do not know why the Government is bothering with this Bill. The Government gave a commitment four and a half years ago after the election so that it could stay in power.

That is incorrect. The commitment was given before the election.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Taoiseach made a promise on abortion before the election, but following the election four so-called Independents gave their support to the Government on the basis that he would hold a referendum.

With a referendum on Partnership for Peace.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The Taoiseach did not propose any wording at the time, yet he knew that since 1983 drafting the correct wording had been almost impossible because of equal rights and so on. He has fulfilled his commitment, which will land us in more difficulty than was ever intended or than people deserve. I am amazed the legislation is before us because it has nothing to do with whether abortion is carried out in the State because abortion is still banned under the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861. This so-called effort to provide for abortion under the Constitution will be referred immediately to the Supreme Court for interpretation and what people vote for will make no difference. If the Supreme Court judges say the word “black” means “grey”, that is it. They will interpret the legislation and I do not know what we are at.

I wish to share time with Deputy Moloney.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the fact that we have reached this stage of the human life in pregnancy Bill and that this issue has been given so much attention by a Government. It is certainly not before time, coming nine years after the difficult X case left unfinished business in relation to the protection of the unborn.

Abortion has been a taboo subject for too long, with successive Governments declaring when asked that it was a complex subject. While I acknowledge that it was not an easy subject to deal with, unfortunately, not much more progress was made. I was most surprised for this reason to see the subject appear in a Fianna Fáil election manifesto with a promise to hold a referendum in the lifetime of the Government. This was one of the factors which allowed me to discuss support for the Government.

I acknowledge that the All-Party Committee on the Constitution had a huge workload to get through following publication of the Green Paper in 1999. The committee held hearings and, in general, facilitated a full and fair public consultation process involving a wide range of groups holding an even wider range of views on this subject. Despite criticism from me regarding the time it was taking to make recommendations, I compliment the all-party committee on the work it did at that time, regardless of the individual opinions of committee members on the subject.

I welcome this proposal which tackles head on, through a number of means, issues that have proven difficult in the past. It will enable three very important goals to be achieved, protection of the unborn, protection of current medical practice and consulting the people. Achieving balance in the attainment of these three goals is not simple and that is why the proposal to couple legislation with a referendum is the only realistic way to deal with the issue.

There are very real fears that if this issue remains in limbo the Supreme Court decisions somehow will become the thin end of the wedge. In general, it is felt that both judgments require a response in constitutional or legislative terms. The history of how we got to where we are today is long and difficult. I hope the lessons of the past have been learned. The fact that no laws were enacted following the passing of the 1983 referendum left the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, as the basic law in this area.

Following the Supreme Court's decision in the X case in 1992 where it was found that if there was a real and substantial risk to the life as distinct to the health of the mother and if this could only be averted by a termination such a termination would be legal, we had a situation which was contrary to the intended effect of the 1983 amendment and which went against the wishes of those who voted for the pro-life amendment in 1983. Abortion, albeit in limited but hard to define circumstances, was now legal in the country that had voted nine years previously to reject it.

The C case in 1997 further underpinned the risk of suicide as a reason for termination. The question of suicide, which will no doubt feature as an issue in the forthcoming referendum, whenever it takes place, deserves to be debated. While the decision of the Supreme Court in relation to suicide may have been deemed to be correct in that particular case, I do not believe that the laws for the population of a country should be made on the basis of an individual case. The simple expression, "hard case makes bad law", applies to this issue.

Attention was paid in the 1999 Green Paper to suicide and a submission by the pro-life campaign highlighted surveys carried out on suicide in Norway where, unlike in Ireland, comprehensive studies have been carried out. It was found that pregnant women were among the lowest risk group to commit suicide and that women who have previously had an abortion were among the high risk group.

One issue that caused great disquiet following the 1983 referendum was the unclear status of the mother. Her rights to life were not clearly safeguarded and it became obvious that this could cause major ethical problems for the medical profession. Section 1 addresses for the first time the role which the medical profession plays. It states: "Abortion does not include the carrying out of a medical procedure by a medical practitioner at an approved place in the course of which or as a result of which unborn human life is ended where that procedure is, in the reasonable opinion of the practitioner, necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman's life other than by self destruction." I support this principle 100%. The section clearly protects medical practitioners in the carrying out of necessary medical procedures on pregnant women. It cannot be considered a criminal offence to treat a pregnant woman with necessary medical practices, even if that procedure results in the death of an unborn child as a result.

I acknowledge that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby, thanks to our medical professionals, and it is only right and just that their position should be safeguarded after all this time. Aside from protecting the medical profession, the section also has the effect of attempting to clarify the definition of abortion. It makes the distinction between medical practice and abortion, a matter which has been ambiguous and confusing for too long.

When the Minister for Health and Children introduced the Bill on 25 October he acknowledged the 6,500 women who travelled abroad to have abortions over the past 12 months. A magic wand cannot be waved to prevent this from happening. The argument that has been put forward in some quarters that it is time all of us in the pro-life campaign grew up acknowledged that many Irish women are travelling abroad to have abortions and that introduced abortion as a result is ridiculous. A number of Irish women have had abortions abroad and a number of women will travel abroad to have abortions following the introduction of this Bill.

While we can do nothing about that fact, we still have control over this jurisdiction and we should still have a say in how our country is shaped. It is up to us to decide whether it is acceptable to legalise abortion or to criminalise it regardless of what the laws are in the UK. Likewise it is up to us to decide to criminalise drug use, unlike another neighbour, Holland.

The fact that so many women travel abroad must be tackled in a humane and non-judgmental way. I am sure the decision to have an abortion must be a very difficult decision to make and is not made lightly. For that reason I very much welcome the introduction of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to examine the situation and formulate a compassionate and realistic strategy to deal with crisis pregnancies. I know that this recommendation was made by the All-Party Committee on the Constitution and I understand that Ms Olive Braiden has been appointed to the chair of this committee. Her appointment, coupled with funding of 6.5 million for 2002, gives me great confidence that a meaningful strategy to tackle crisis pregnancy will be formulated.

Much has been made in the media of statements made from time to time by the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney who has stated on a number of occasions that she does not want a divisive and bitter referendum. I certainly share that view and I would ask that all sides in the forthcoming referendum participate in a measured, calm debate dealing with the facts. The media have a large role to play in this regard and as a pro-life person, I hope it is not only the negative issues that are highlighted in the course of the campaign.

On an issue which has been raised by Deputy Browne, certain elements of the pro-life movement have been concerned about the whole question of conception versus implantation. A number of people have written to me who are genuinely concerned about this matter. A recent article in theIrish Catholic newspaper attempted to address and clarify this issue. It said that there has been no attempt in the Bill to define when human life begins. The protection offered to an embryo between conception and implantation is not weakened in any way by this proposal. Article 40.3.3º prevented Ireland from signing the recent Council of Europe's convention on bio-ethics because it allowed for human embryo experimentation. As I said, the protection for the embryo between conception and implantation will not be weakened in any way by this proposal.

I see this as the last chance to provide meaningful protection to the unborn. There is no other formula on offer. Adopting impossible positions will not achieve any means to forward the protection of the unborn. All it will succeed in doing is paralysing any chance of mainstreaming the pro-life issue. This proposal is a balanced and fair proposal worthy of support. It safeguards the life of the mother, medical practice and unborn children. It puts the decision-making process back into the hands of the people and it is now up to the people to decide on the future of Ireland's unborn.

I thank Deputy Fox for allowing me to share her time. I welcome the proposal for a number of reasons. It deals effectively with the issue and unlike previous debates on abortion, we are starting at a point where people are reconciled to listening to the other point of view. Clearly the effect of the submissions to the Oireachtas committee has brought forward various strands of opinion and these have been effectively dealt with in the proposals. In the last general election, Fianna Fáil gave a clear commitment of support to a referendum. I am satisfied that we are now honouring those commitments.

I commend the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children and the Cabinet for bringing this Bill before the House. It is the result of a good deal of research, debate, thought and deliberation over recent years.

The object of the 25th amendment to the Constitution is to resolve the very unsatisfactory legal situation regarding abortion which has existed since the Supreme Court decision in the X case of 1992, and to resolve it in a way that gives the people of Ireland a direct say in doing so. This was our stated position in the 1997 general election campaign. When the Government came to office in 1997 it gave that clear commitment. I recognise the honourable role played by the Taoiseach in this fundamentally important issue. We made a promise to the people at the last election that there would be a referendum on this issue. The Taoiseach and the Government have been working towards honouring that promise since 1997.

When the Government took office in 1997, the Taoiseach immediately set up a Cabinet committee to prepare the Green Paper on the subject of abortion. This committee, chaired by the Minister for Health and Children, oversaw the work of an interdepartmental group of officials who carried out the preparatory work.

The Bill represents an honest attempt to finalise a debate and campaign which has dragged on for many years and it comes before the House following a careful and inclusive process of consultation and public debate. I hope that over the next few months the process of public debate, without the heat of previous debates, can continue and that the justifiable concerns of people can be dealt with.

I met some people in the pro-life group in the past few weeks and they clearly felt that politicians had not been dealing adequately with the issue. They are now saying that they are satisfied with the proposal. It represents a careful and inclusive process of consultation. The preparation of the Green Paper included the invitation of submissions from interested parties and organisations on the issues under consideration. When the Green Paper was published it was referred by the Government to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution for consideration. I am very pleased the committee then embarked on a detailed process. Speaking to people who made submissions, they said that the consultative process was very helpful in examining the complex legal, medical and social issues involved. The difficulty in past referenda was that people felt the legal issues were too complex to grasp. Recognition has been given to concerns in that regard and it has been explained in layman's language.

The outcome of the aforementioned deliberations has led the Government to conclude that there is no simple sentence or paragraph which can be inserted into the Constitution which by itself would amount to a balanced, effective and legal response to the complex medical and legal issues which surround the protection of human life in pregnancy. The Government sees that the proper place to strike the complex balance is in legislation, not in the Constitution. These proposals are the first legislative response to the issues raised by the 1983 amendment and by the X case.

I am pleased the Government has decided to put an amendment to the people which will add two new subsections, 40.3.4º and 40.3.5º to article 40.3 of the Constitution. Article 40.3.4º proposes that the life of the unborn in the womb will be protected in accordance with the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2001. The exact provisions of this proposed Act will be published with the wording of this proposal, thereby giving constitutional protection for the enactment by the Oireachtas of the legislation, the terms of which will be seen and approved in advance by the people. Article 40.3.5º provides that any future legislative amendment to be made to the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act, 2001, must be approved by the people by way of referendum before it is signed into law by the President.

A key element of the proposal is that the amendment will only take effect if, within 180 days, the Oireachtas enacts the Bill in exactly the same terms as the text seen and approved by the people at the referendum. This mechanism of making a constitutional amendment conditional on a later legal development was successfully used in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement. The Minister is to be congratulated on putting this issue on a legislative basis where it belongs. The constitutional changes ensure that this legislation has a sound constitutional base coupled with the effect of giving the people reassurance that they will be consulted in the event of change being proposed in the future. During the last debate people felt that there was some back door mechanism which would mean that they would not be consulted and they feared that any glitch might lead to abortion on demand.

The fact that any future legislative amendment to the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001, must be approved by the people by way of referendum ensures that those calling for complete legalisation of abortion cannot succeed without the people first being consulted about any such future proposal. Although it places the entire matter primarily in the legislative domain, the proposed amendment takes on board and acknowledges the reality that the abortion issue is near and dear to the hearts of the people and a matter on which they want to have the final decision now and in the future.

The proposed amendment will protect both women and the unborn in pregnancy. This is welcome and should be highlighted. In addition, it will accommodate existing medical practice which safeguards the life of the woman from exposure to real and substantial risk. The current approach will, therefore, protect the best medical practice while providing for a prohibition on abortion. I also welcome the amendment because it creates a basis for the legislative protection of human life in pregnancy. It will ensure the maximum degree of protection for unborn human life in pregnancy while, at the same time, ensuring a pregnant woman will receive necessary medical treatment to protect her life.

This is achieved by the Bill excluding from the definition of abortion any medical procedure carried out by a medical practitioner at an approved place in the course of which or as a result of which unborn human life is ended where that procedure is, in the reasonable opinion of the practitioner, necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk of loss of the woman's life other than by self-destruction. The Bill, therefore, affords maximum protection to the unborn while, at the same time, ensuring that women in pregnancy who are suffering from certain life-threatening medical conditions receive all necessary medical treatment.

The proposed law also provides that the risk of suicide will no longer be a ground for legal abortion in the State and I welcome this development. It overturns the decision of the Supreme Court in the X case, which had the potential to commence an inevitable slide towards freely available social abortion in Ireland. It must be pointed out that the suicide risk has been advanced only in cases where the State sought to restrict the freedom of a woman to travel abroad for an abortion. It should be noted that the terms of the new law do not attempt to restrict this right to travel, which was enshrined in the Constitution following the referendum in 1992.

In addition to the measures outlined in the Bill, the Government has decided to establish a dedicated agency, to which Deputy Fox referred, to help reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to ensure that all arms of the State work together to help women who find themselves in such a situation. I support the proposals and I hope the issue can be debated in the coming months without the divisiveness of previous abortion referenda.

I sincerely hope the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution Bill is defeated in the House. The Bill is flawed and the philosophy behind it is anti-woman. If passed, it will serve only to plunge this country into yet another bitter, divisive abortion referendum, the only goal of which is to pander to the most right-wing groups in society.

In the past two decades, these groups have opposed the introduction of divorce, the introduction of sex education in schools, the introduction and widespread availability of contraception, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the constitutional referenda in 1992 on the right to information and the right to travel. They are also the groups whose fanatical pursuit of a constitutional prohibition on abortion has created the constitutional and legal mess that has pertained in this country since 1983. It appears these groups, which have been proved wrong on every question of sexual, marital or reproductive reform for more than 30 years, now have the ear of the Taoiseach. He will dance to their tune and foist an unwanted referendum on this country during the spring.

The tragedy of the Government's proposal is that it will do absolutely nothing to reduce the rate of Irish abortions. We have an abortion rate in Ireland. Today at least 18 Irish woman will tra vel to England to terminate a pregnancy. Figures indicate that approximately 11% – one of the highest rates in Europe – of all pregnancies in the State result in termination. Every year the number of Irish women travelling to England has steadily increased. At one of the most stressful times in their lives these women, and girls, are effectively exiled from this country. Their citizenship is temporarily suspended. They are told that official Ireland does not want to know. Officially, Ireland is a shining light of protection for the unborn. Officially, we have no abortions in this country and, officially, we will have a referendum that will even prevent women who are suicidal during a pregnancy from having an abortion here. During this time, on a daily basis, Irish women, struggling with the complexities, doubts and dangers of a pregnancy, choose to go to England for an abortion.

The sole purpose of the Bill is to roll back the decision of the Supreme Court in the X case. The X case conferred a legal right to an abortion in this State for the very rare number of women who are suicidal during pregnancy. During the past decade, only two such cases have come to public attention, the X case and the C case. Both cases involved young girls who were raped by men and who were in such a state of mental and physical turmoil that they were suicidal during pregnancy. The Taoiseach now believes the whole country must vote to prevent young women such as Ms X and Ms C seeking an abortion in Ireland.

To justify this nonsense the Taoiseach has raised the spectre of the X case judgment being used to introduce what he has decided to term "social abortion". In his speech on 2 October last, at the launch of the Bill, the Taoiseach stated:

I think that to legislate for the decision in the X case, and, in particular, to make complex legal provision and control for the suicide risk as a ground for abortion, would commence an inevitable slide to freely available ‘social abortion' in Ireland.

I do not know what the term "social abortion" means. I know of young Irish women who, during a crisis pregnancy, chose not to bring the pregnancy to full term and travelled to England for an abortion. In each and every case these women thought deeply and profoundly about the choices before them. Not one of the abortions could be termed a social abortion. Each and every decision is a profoundly personal one that no Irish woman has taken easily.

The Taoiseach's comments at his press conference were extremely revealing. He believes that legislating for the X case would lead to "an inevitable slide to freely available ‘social abortion.'" What the Taoiseach is really saying is that we cannot trust Irish women. He suggests that if we were to legislate for the very narrow grounds on which Irish women could obtain an abortion in the State, such as the grounds elucidated in the X case, it would not stop there. The Taoiseach's rationale for the referendum was even more clearly spelt out by his party colleague, Deputy O'Flynn. During his contribution last week, Deputy O'Flynn revealed the real thinking behind the Taoiseach's comments at the press launch. The Deputy declared:

There is no threat to the life of a woman in the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution, but there is a ban on abortion when a woman threatens her own life. If constitutional law allowed it, it would be the easiest thing in the world for a woman to announce that she is suicidal and to threaten to commit suicide if she cannot have an abortion.

There it is in a nutshell. The Government believes we must have a referendum because Irish women cannot be trusted. If one legislated for the X case, within days the mendacious mná na hÉireann would be casually declaring that they were suicidal or threatening to commit suicide just to obtain an abortion. The Government will not legislate for the X case because the women of Ireland, or at least those of a child bearing age, cannot be trusted. That is what Deputy O'Flynn said in the House last week and that is what the Taoiseach meant at his press conference.

Deputy O'Flynn went on to say that the X case was "based ultimately on what a woman in a distressed state of mind was prepared to threaten to get her own way on abortion . . . The purpose of the Twenty-fifth Amendment is to put a stop to that route to abortion. There is no secret about this." The premise on which this referendum is based could not be clearer. The women of Ireland cannot be trusted. To legislate for the X case would result in freely available abortion in this country because women would distort the truth and lie, even about an issue like suicide, just to get their own way on abortion, as Deputy O'Flynn told us. Shame on the Taoiseach, shame on Deputy O'Flynn and shame on Fianna Fáil.

That the Progressive Democrats are willing to support misogynist nonsense like this beggars belief. That they are willing to support an amendment to our Constitution which denigrates and belittles Irish women is shocking. Is their love of power and perks such that the Minister and Minister of State, Deputies Harney and O'Donnell, are willing to turn a blind eye to the most anti-woman piece of legislation brought before this House in decades? I remind these two Deputies, in particular, of the clarion call to be either "radical or redundant" issued by the current Attorney General. We now know the answer. As far as the principles of liberalism are concerned, the Progressive Democrats are redundant. Shame on Deputies Harney and O'Donnell.

The Taoiseach's reasoning for this Bill and the proposed referendum is repugnant to women in this country. If passed, we will continue to export to Britain and other European countries those Irish women who seek an abortion. Not one abortion will be prevented because of this refer endum. This referendum will result in an important right being taken away from Irish women. This right, which states that Irish women who are suicidal during a pregnancy can have an abortion in this country, is rarely used. It applies to only a very small number of Irish women but it is an important and humane right. Now that right is to be taken away. Now we are telling Irish girls and women that if they are pregnant and if the prospect of carrying the pregnancy to full term is such that they are contemplating suicide, we will force them to get on a plane, go to a lonely English city and have their pregnancy terminated there. We are telling them not to expect any sympathy or assistance from the Irish State. We are saying "we will temporarily send you into exile, forget officially that you exist and maintain our utterly useless moral superiority in saying that Ireland is abortion-free". That empty, misleading formula seems to be more important than the real life trauma and heartache that some Irish women will undoubtedly face in the years to come. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

With his now customary use of weasel words, the Taoiseach has called for public debate on this issue to be informed by a "spirit of reason, tolerance and open-mindedness". The Taoiseach's naivety is hardly convincing. Like many in this House, he has seen at first hand the emotions raised before in previous abortion referenda. Last July, Emily O'Reilly, an experienced commentator on these issues, stated that "an abortion referendum, almost by definition, would be bitter and divisive". She is right and the Taoiseach knows it. He has lit the fuse on a divisive debate and has attempted to walk away. It is the height of political cowardice.

If the Taoiseach wants proof of the type of debate we will soon have to endure, he need look no further than the contribution of his own Deputies to this debate. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy O'Dea, wasted no time in using the serious issue of schizophrenia to throw a cheap jibe across the floor of the House. Deputy Roche was hardly on his feet before using the words, "nonsensical, illogical, extraordinary and hysterical" in reference to Deputy Owen's speech. Not to be outdone, Deputy O'Flynn declared that "we should show support for women's rights by helping to pursue rapists, but we cannot do so by killing innocent children". If the Taoiseach cannot even manage to get his own backbenchers to adhere to his call for reason, tolerance and open-mindedness, what hope is there during a referendum campaign?

Hear, hear.

The great tragedy is that the tens of thousands of Irish women who have had abortions in recent years will have to listen to this kind of nonsense. They will have to listen to fanatics on the pro-life side echoing Deputy O'Flynn's remarks about killing innocent children or worse. These women will have to endure this barrage of abuse in every newspaper and on every radio and television programme and for what? What purpose will this referendum serve? Its only purpose is to roll back the X case decision. Its only purpose is to force women who are suicidal – the two cases we know of involved 12 and 13 year old girls – to go to England to terminate their pregnancies. Is there any other State in the developed world which would insist on exiling people who are contemplating suicide? Is there any other State that, when confronted with the prospect of a citizen committing suicide, would decide to banish that person from its territory? That is what this referendum proposes and it is wrong. The introduction of this measure is disgraceful and I firmly believe the proposal will not win the support of the majority of Irish people.

This country has matured and developed significantly in recent years. Approximately 100,000 Irish women have had an abortion since the 1983 amendment to Article 40.3.3º. These are not cold statistics. They are the real life experiences of our daughters, sisters, grand-daughters, wives and partners. Abortion is a reality in Ireland. Abortion will remain a reality in Ireland, irrespective of what happens this ludicrous constitutional amendment.

We do not have a debate on abortion in Ireland, we have a debate on geography. What seems to matter to the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Party, the pro-life movement and the Progressive Democrats is not whether abortions occur but where they occur. To this end, thousands of women every year are sent abroad so that the myth that Ireland is abortion-free can be maintained. This referendum is another attempt to shore up that meaningless myth. If women have to borrow from money lenders to fund a trip to England, so be it. If women have to place their health at risk by having late abortions, so be it. If women have to engage in stories of a weekend away in London to maintain their privacy, so be it.

Day in, day out, year in, year out, women have had to pay the price for our self-delusion on abortion. Irish women have suffered. Irish women have been plunged into debt. Irish women, at one of the most traumatic and difficult times of their lives, have been abandoned and exiled by this State. This happens so that we can pretend there is no abortion in Ireland; it happens so that we can maintain the big myth, the big lie. This is dishonest and dangerous. This Government now wants to make the situation worse. It wants to drag us back to 1983. Its proposals criminalise pregnant women and those who assist them in seeking a termination in this country.

In conclusion, I restate my total opposition to this Bill and the referendum it proposes. The legislative process by which the Government intends to pass this referendum is nothing more than constitutional vandalism. Regardless of a person's views on the issue, this proposal should be rejected out of hand for the bizarre and unpre cedented manner in which it intends to amend the Constitution. Most dangerous of all, we are writing into the Constitution, and protecting from amendment, detailed legislation which affects the life and health of women. It will take another referendum to amend this legislation.

I ask the Minister, in replying to this debate, to outline what will happen to a pregnant woman who is suicidal and cannot, for whatever reason, leave the State? This scenario was raised by Deputy O'Malley during the debate in this House on 21 October 1992 on the substantive issue at that time. The Progressive Democrats may have conveniently brushed such concerns under the carpet now, but the question is as valid today as it was then.

There is no doubt the terms of this legislation will tell a suicidal woman, who cannot leave the State, to continue with the pregnancy. The consequences of that approach are clear to everyone in the House. For that reason alone, this Bill should be rejected by the House, as the referendum proposing such lunacy will doubtless be rejected by the people. This referendum is unwarranted and unwanted. It is based on the principle that women cannot be trusted, that we cannot legislate for the X case because Irish women are devious liars and would use every trick in the book to qualify under the X case test. That is the simple truth of what is presented to us. That is the principle we will be asked to write into the Constitution and that is the principle the Progressive Democrats now appear to support.

The referendum will ignore the experience of Irish women over the past 17 years. It will do nothing to reduce the number of abortions and will serve only to further alienate and marginalise the tens of thousands of Irish women who have opted to terminate a pregnancy since the original 1983 amendment. Ultimately, this legislation may dictate that a pregnant woman who is suicidal and cannot travel must bring the pregnancy to full term. The only other option open to that woman need not be spelt out as it is clear to everyone.

This is appalling legislation. We do not need a referendum to roll back the X case decision. We should have the humanity and courage to legislate for women in a similar situation to the girl in the X case. The proposed constitutional amendment is dangerous in the extreme as it takes a right from Irish women when they are at their most vulnerable. It criminalises pregnant Irish women and is based on the principle that Irish women cannot be trusted. It does not deserve the support of this House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill, 2001. I have listened to contributions on this Bill in recent weeks from Members on all sides of the House. We should not be surprised that there appears to be a difference of opinion as to how this matter should be dealt with. The issue of abortion has been the subject of much debate in Ireland and throughout the world. Regardless of the measures taken by Governments on this issue, there will not be consensus in any country. The Government cannot be held responsible for how other countries decide to address the matter of abortion.

It is important when looking at this Bill to look at how this issue has been dealt with in the past so that we can understand how we have arrived at the situation in which we find ourselves today. The fact that past abortion referenda, including debates on the topic inside and outside this House, have been divisive does not mean that we should not deal with the matter today. Concerns have been expressed by Deputies who feel we should not proceed with a referendum as it may be bitter, but that is not a sufficient argument for the postponement of action on abortion.

This House cannot take credit regarding this matter, given that it has taken a great length of time to deal with it. In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that abortion is lawful if there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide, and the ruling has been with us since that year. While two of the three referenda held in 1992 to deal with the situation were successful, one was defeated. Abortion has been legal in this country since that time, although to the best of my knowledge no abortions have been carried out. It was important for the Government to respond to the Supreme Court decision. The Government has gone to great lengths to consult as widely as possible in an attempt to reach a consensus on the matter. It is obvious from the debate that has taken place in this House that such a consensus has not been reached and I do not think such a consensus will be enjoyed. Nevertheless, it is important that the Government proceeds along the lines that have been outlined.

Regardless of the sides that have been taken in the abortion debate or when voting in previous referenda, most people agree that the situation that has prevailed since 1992 is unacceptable and requires action. While successive Governments have been reluctant to deal with the situation, great credit is due to the Taoiseach and his Cabinet for grasping the nettle. Abortion is not an easy subject to deal with as complex matters can arise. The Government has treated the issue in a mature fashion and I hope its efforts bear fruit.

Before the Government came to office, the Taoiseach gave a commitment to deal with the issue of abortion. Shortly after he became Taoiseach, he announced that a Green Paper would be published on abortion, and that happened two years later. At all times the public and interested bodies were invited to participate and the consultation that took place was as wide as there has ever been on any matter. All submissions were given consideration before publication of the Green Paper and no individual or group should have felt ignored in the consultation process.

Following its publication, the Government referred the Green Paper to the All-Party Com mittee on the Constitution for consideration. Like many other speakers, I pay tribute to all members of the committee for the long hours they put in to consider the Green Paper. The medical profession, representatives of various Churches and many experts in different areas were given the opportunity to state their cases and to explain how they would like to see the matter resolved. While the committee did not agree on the best way to proceed, every effort was made to appreciate and understand the huge complexities that surround the abortion issue.

I listened to speakers this evening talking about turning back the clock to the situation before 1983. I am convinced that most Irish people consider themselves to be pro-life. While they are anxious to have a ban on abortion, they are also anxious to ensure that best medical practice is protected and that women in need of urgent medical care during pregnancy are allowed and afforded the necessary attention. The question of what the Government is trying to do has been asked. The purpose of the proposed constitutional amendment is to deal with the most unsatisfactory legal situation that has existed since the 1992 Supreme Court decision. While there is no such thing as perfect legislation, I am convinced that the formula presented by the Government is inspirational and I commend all those involved in its production.

Many questions have been asked in the year since the all-party committee published its report and the Government announced its plan to deal with the abortion issue. The two most important questions, however, relate to what will happen if the proposal is carried and what will happen if it is defeated. If the Government is successful, it can be said with certainty that three things will happen. Maximum protection for the unborn will be ensured, the medical treatment required to protect the life of pregnant women will be provided and future change on this matter will only be made in a referendum. When the proposal becomes law, no future Government will be able to change it. If the proposal is defeated, abortion will become a reality in Ireland. It will be permitted for any woman who can prove a real or substantial threat to her life. The courts will have to decide who can or cannot have an abortion. I am not convinced that such a scenario is desired by the people. They would like to bring some clarity to a situation that has been clouded for almost 20 years.

I thank the Government for its efforts in trying to bring some clarity to this matter. I accept that some people have genuine problems with the proposal. People should think seriously about the consequences of their vote in the referendum. It is ten years since the Government dealt with the matter. The opportunity being presented is as a result of a long process of consultation, deliberation and debate. I doubt such an opportunity will be presented again for a long time if the Government proposal is defeated next year.

While I respect the duty and the right of all parties and individuals in the House to state their own case, it is a pity we do not have cross-party support on the issue. Perhaps some of the Opposition were caught offside by the Government's announcement of a referendum and as a result are reluctant to support the measure proposed by Government. The only opinion coming from the Labour Party seems to be from those who might consider themselves the liberal wing of the party and they imply that the proposal is crazy and off the wall.

I am convinced that the vast majority of Irish people will support the proposal when it is put to them in a referendum next year. I am convinced too that many members of the Opposition support the Government's proposal but are reluctant to express that view in the House. It is unfortunate that politics and the prospect of a general election have been allowed to cloud people's judgment on the issue. That is unnecessary and brings a lack of clarity to the situation.

We have dealt successfully with the issue of travel and information but the real or substantive issue of abortion has yet to be dealt with. People have been critical of the decision by the Government that the risk of suicide will not be acceptable grounds for an abortion. Any fair-minded person should accept that to allow a threat of suicide provide justification for aborting a child is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated. I am pleased the Government has decided to remove that. That is not to say, as Deputy Stagg suggested, that the Government does not trust the women of Ireland.

Our duty is to legislate and provide leadership. It may seem hypocritical to bring in legislation preventing women from having abortion in this country and at the same time allow a situation where people can travel to Britain and have abortions, but it is not our duty to legislate for Britain. We have enough to do to provide the best legislation we can in the best interests of the country, and I do not apologise for supporting the Government in that. None of us had a say in our conception or birth, or the circumstances surrounding our birth. It is important that the unborn are protected and I am honoured to support the measure proposed by the Government.

People have written and spoken about abortion in the case of rape. It is difficult for us to be critical of the actions of parents who find themselves with a young daughter in this terrible situation. I do not wish to pass judgment on parents who feel pressurised into taking a particular course of action in such a situation, but I would like to think that if I were in a similar situation I would give the same consideration to the unborn child as I would to my own. Irish women have travelled to Britain for abortions for many years. The Taoiseach mentioned that 18 Irish women a day have abortions in Britain. For every woman travelling to Britain, there is a father of a child so we are not just talking of 18 women but of 18 women and their partners. Unwanted pregnancies are obviously a huge problem.

I welcome the establishment of the new Crisis Pregnancy Agency as announced by the Minister for Health and Children last month. The job of the agency is to draw up a national strategy to address crisis pregnancy and promote options other than abortion where a pregnancy occurs and to provide for post-abortion services. The Government will be providing £5 million next year to fund the new agency which has a very difficult job. It will have many clients desperately in need of help.

Listening to the contributions of several Members this evening would lead one to believe that abortion answers all problems. While it might provide relief for some, studies show that in the long-term it can create more problems than it solves. Looking back as a nation we can only be ashamed of our treatment of young single women who became pregnant in years past. Pressure was brought to bear on them, forcing them to take the boat to England rather than cause embarrassment to their families at home. We all know of situations where young women who became pregnant were left with the choice of abortion or adoption. The shame families felt led to the alienation and isolation of their pregnant daughters who were put into hiding until after the birth of the child.

I would like to think that there have been major changes in our attitudes and that we have become more tolerant. We must accept that many children born today are born out of wedlock, but that does not make them any less valuable than children born to married couples. We often refer to the vulnerable in our society. A country can be judged by how it looks after those who cannot look after themselves. The unborn are the most vulnerable group of all and I am proud and satisfied to support the Government proposal to protect the unborn.

News of a pregnancy is usually greeted with much joy and expectation but for some it can be a terrible crisis. A teenager still at school or college, a young woman making a career for herself or an older woman concerned about her health and that of her baby might be forced to take the boat to England. I ask people not to be judgmental. We are all mature adults and responsible for our own actions but we should not be too critical of people with whose actions we might not agree.

Abortion has been an emotive, difficult and divisive issue in this country over many years. Here we are again faced with a constitutional referendum on an issue that almost nowhere else in the world is dealt with by way of the Constitution. We must surely ask what is so different about Irish women and their pregnancies that they must be dealt with by way of the Constitution.

The Government, the Taoiseach and the Ministers, in presenting this legislation, have told us that these proposals are reasonable and middle ground. Are they reasonable? Are they middle ground? The Ministers insist that the proposals represent a fair, reasonable and compassionate approach. They protest too much. The basic assumptions in the presentations of the Taoiseach, the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, are that they are taking a fair, reasonable and compassionate approach, but this is a flawed belief.

It is interesting that the Government is seeking to have the Bill discussed in committee rather than on the floor of the House where it can be examined and put under further scrutiny. That would be the right thing to do and we owe it to the people to scrutinise this Bill very carefully and to present to the people the choice which the Government is offering. By all means let us have a debate which is measured, mature and thoughtful, but let that not be a cover for accepting unreasonable, anti-woman, insensitive, unethical, hypocritical and politically-driven proposals. These proposals come before us because the Taoiseach made a commitment in the course of a campaign, although it was not in the programme for Government, and now finds himself under pressure from four Independent Deputies and from lobby groups which have put this and previous Governments under pressure on this issue. By 2010, if not sooner, this legislation will be seen as a time-warped reflection on society and social policy, as Government hypocrisy. It is utterly extraordinary on the one hand to talk of excluding suicide and of criminalising a desperate woman and threatening her with 12 years imprisonment if she attempts to have an abortion while on the other hand to protest loudly that the Government will in no way deter such a woman from going to England for an abortion. The Taoiseach did so at his press conference, the Minister has done so in the House and the Bill does so on page 3.

On the one hand the legislation denies that 7,000 Irish women have abortions in England every year. We have seen the statistics recently which show that the number is increasing. The denial of this fact looms over the legislation which criminalises the women involved and excludes suicidal women from having a procedure to save their lives. That is extraordinary.

Of course, laws alone cannot deal adequately with the tragic realities of crisis pregnancies but surely our Constitution does not have to be used in this extraordinary way. Combining a law and a constitutional change into a single instrument reduces the constitutional powers and obligations of Members of this House. Our Constitution is not the right place to deal with this sensitive and difficult personal crisis for women. If we wanted to help women in this crisis we would not criminalise them in the Constitution. We would not write the kind of measures proposed here into the Constitution. We would be dealing with this issue by way of legislation. Why are we putting the morning after pill into the fundamental law of our written Constitution? Why should a new method of incorporating a law into the Constitution be used on this occasion and on this issue when the crisis for the woman concerned will not be averted in any way by this measure?

This is an extraordinary and bizarre way to meddle with the Constitution, which has stood us in good stead, and it does not address the issue. The format proposed to deal with the issue of abortion could be called an emergency and exceptional one. If we were serious about dealing with the issue we would handle it in a totally different way. The tone of the Minister's speech seems to envisage hordes of women rushing for abortions like lemmings over a cliff, if the legislation is not passed. The Government appears to assume that this Bill and the medical profession are the only constraints on Irish women using abortion. Are we saying that a constitutional amendment is critical in stopping thousands more Irish women seeking an abortion or that it is the instrument which will protect the country? What about Irish women's good judgment and their demonstrated commitment to parenting and mothering over generations? Deputy Stagg spoke very well about the assumption that Irish women cannot be trusted and that a constitutional amendment is necessary to stop this extraordinary move that Irish women will make in relation to their pregnancies.

There is a lack of basic trust about how Irish women handle pregnancy. The endless references to social abortion are an example of intellectual acrobatics. These statements tell us much about the speakers' views of the hundreds of thousands of women who have already gone to England for abortions. Deputy Mitchell has referred to the isolation of these women. Isolation has affected not only the women concerned but often their families and their partners. Now it is proposed to amend the Constitution and to criminalise them to an extraordinary degree. It is almost as if such Irish women are seen to act with inferior social motives and do not have good enough reasons to do what they do. The proposal is a commentary on these women who are not willing to become physical and mental wrecks. It is almost as if we question their qualification as Irish women. Are they only good enough to be dumped somewhere else?

We are concerned with the effects of Sellafield but this is tantamount to us asking England to take our women in these difficult situations, women that we do not want to talk about or deal with in any comprehensive way.

What is the assumption about the UK and its medical services and how we intend to use them, now and in the future? The references to freedom to travel appear to suggest that it is the opinion of the Government that English based doctors and nurses are capable of acts which in this proposal are close to homicide and which, if undertaken here, will attract equivalent sanctions. Yet, we are happy to allow women to travel to England.

The Bill is tainted with a fundamentalism which locks women's reproductive rights into a constitutional framework in an extraordinary way. It amounts to a form of foetal protectionism which fails to find a middle ground of accommodating the rights of pregnant women to be treated with due regard. The Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy O'Donnell, put it very well when, in a speech in 1995 on reproductive rights, she referred to the hard won rights of Irish women. It is disappointing to note the different tone she is adopting now but I recommend that people read the speech she made then.

Am I to understand as a woman, mother and Deputy that the only things standing in the way of Irish women descending into this unstoppable morass of abortion seeking behaviour are the medical profession and this proposed amendment? I do not apologise for repeating what has been said, that the tone of the amendment is patriarchal and misogynist in its entirety. It implies that women who travel to England are extraordinary, that they do not really belong here and that they are not Irish. Indeed, there is almost a denial of the reality of their existence, apart from the reference to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, which must be welcomed. I hope we will be able to discuss in greater detail the statutory instrument to establish it.

Why are the hands of the Oireachtas being tied in terms of helping these women from a legislative point of view, now or in the future? Why is the Constitution being perverted to deal with this issue? It is an abandonment of democracy in an attempt to pander to a lobby group. It also amounts to a control of women's reproductive rights.

The choice being presented is false and flawed. A number of Deputies, especially in the Fianna Fáil Party, have said the choice is between accepting this referendum or abortion on demand. That is a false presentation of the facts. There is no evidence that abortion on demand is wanted in this country and it is clear that Irish women should be medically protected where there is a threat to their life as a result of a pregnancy. Any right minded person would agree with that. Such protection should have legal sanction and we should give obstetricians the protection of the law for the difficult decisions that must occasionally be made in the course of pregnancy. It is equally clear that the morning after pill and contraceptives currently available should be legalised but it is absurd to do this through the Constitution.

Key questions arise regarding the constitutional mechanism, including the way Ireland should be governed. It tips the balance away from the Legislature. Deputy Gay Mitchell referred to the changes involving the President and these are addressed in the Fine Gael amendment. This, and the changes involving the Supreme Court and the ministerial orders which can vary the effects of a constitutional provision raise fundamental questions about the balance of power and the role of the Constitution.

There has been much talk about the extent of the consultation that took place when drafting the legislation but the fact that there was wide consultation does not mean that a right solution will be found. I pay great tribute to the work done by the All Party Committee on the Constitution, chaired by Deputy Brian Lenihan, and the way the consultation process took place. It was excellent and we should use it again as a future model. However, the process illustrated that there were differences of opinion on how to proceed. For example, Dr. Whitaker and his distinguished colleagues said that legislation was the only way forward to deal with the issue of suicide.

Ultimately, this issue involves leadership and a Government decision on taking the best way forward. It is about Government and governance. The Government has not chosen the best way forward, indeed there is an abandonment of Government in the attempt to once again take the constitutional route. The people expressed their opinion in 1992 by voting yes to travel, yes to information and no to the substantive issue.

In terms of the history of the Constitution the mechanism is wrong. Putting detailed legislative provisions of this kind into the Constitution has huge implications for human rights. Section 2(3) refers to aiding, abetting and counselling. It seeks to criminalise actions in areas of communication that fall short of abortion and has the potential to open up huge areas of constitutional challenge on the nature of freedom of expression. The Minister must address this aspect.

The legislation treats women as if they were infantile in their behaviour. It suggests that they are irresponsible and immature and need constitutional safeguards to stop them otherwise committing serious and dangerous acts. I am convinced the Government takes the view that women are almost incapable of making moral decisions.

The eighth amendment of the Constitution, dealing with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, will no longer be vindicated since it is proposed that suicidal women will no longer be protected. The legislation proposes that women will attract less protective worth, which is a serious problem. It must be asked, therefore, if the proposal is reasonable and does it find middle ground. Would a reasonable man or woman consider it appropriate?

Let me consider the approach in the rest of the EU. Ireland will be the only country that will prohibit abortion in its Constitution. Apart from the UK, Ireland will be the only country that will not allow suicide as grounds for an abortion and, apart from the UK, it will be the only country that does not allow the cases of young girls who are pregnant as a result of rape or incest as grounds for abortion. Is the rest of the EU unreasonable? Is it reasonable to remove suicide entirely? Surely a middle ground approach would have been to define mechanisms for the assessment of suicide very carefully. Would the middle ground not leave this issue to the Oireachtas and the legislators, who are elected to enact laws? What would a reasonable mother or father occupying the middle ground want for their 14 year old child, a daughter who is pregnant as result of rape? Surely, at the least they would want to be free to consider a variety of options for her future in this country?

Rape giving rise to pregnancy is a major crisis for the woman involved. The Government's seven point reply cites issues of consent and prosecution. They are almost arguments against rape as an indictable offence, not against it as a ground for abortion.

The Government's reply to the question of incest and pregnancy is tantamount to asking a reasonable man or woman to go along with an incestuous pregnancy. Is there such a thing as a middle ground on incest and a resulting pregnancy? This is a very difficult issue but is a constitutional reply a middle ground response? The Government's middle ground is to pretend it does not happen and to constitutionally say that we will never consider dealing sympathetically through our laws with a young woman who has been raped. Is that reasonable?

For many years the Church prescribed sexual and moral behaviour for women. Why should the State take on this role at a time when separation of Church and State is a given and when religious belief is a ground for non-discrimination in our equality laws? Why should the Government seek to endow one view of the protection of human life with a constitutional lock? As institutional religion recedes among some strata of the population, why should the State advance itself as the new protector, making a charge of the light brigade through our Constitution?

Would a reasonable woman who could be potentially pregnant or her partner be worried by this legislation? They would because unexpectedly their planned and wanted pregnancy could become a health and life threatening condition for the woman, and the Constitution would not protect the family. Such a woman has every right to be worried under this Bill.

There is no certainty the UK will forever permit abortions to be carried out on Irish women who travel to the UK. This area needs further discussion but I do not have time to go into it now.

The Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, talked about being sincere, genuine and honest. Women know more than most that many laws have been passed which were honest, sincere and wrong, and this is another of them. It is Pontius Pilate legislation which washes our hands of women, of care and of counselling. It washes our hands of the X and C cases. The proposal is neither reasonable nor middle ground, but injurious and insensitive. It reduces women's rights. It is democracy taking a hit. The Dáil remains the bulwark of democracy, even if good times have caused citizens to take it for granted. There has been consultation; the Government has asked the audience, telephoned a friend and opted for 50:50 as a middle ground. Many people have been asked but the solution is not good enough and I regret that the protective spirit in the Title of the Bill is not directed at women. The Government that expects 60% of women to take up paid employment under the national employment action plan, often without child care, at the same time expects them to accept legislation over their ova in the Constitution. This law infantilises women, who were treated as minors by the Catholic Church in the past. It will not stop one woman from having an abortion in England. It denies the reality of the problem here and expects another country to deal with our social problems. It builds in a constitutional level of denial which is dangerous and frightening. The Constitution will be aesthetically perfect in forbidding abortion, but pity the women whose decisions will spoil this purist picture and who by their reality will be treated as repugnant to the Constitution.

I hope that if this is put to the people they will reject it. I hope the people will get every opportunity in the next few weeks and months to hear in detail and understand the legislation, and I hope we can debate it on Committee Stage in the Dáil.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. In particular I want to deal with suicide in the context of the Bill. I am president and director of the Irish Association of Suicidology, but the views I express are not those of the association, though I have discussed it with many members of the association by way of informing myself.

Without doubt suicide is a terrible act against human nature. It creates terrible difficulties and trauma for family, community and friends. The level of suicide is unacceptable and we urgently need suicide prevention programmes. Suicide was part of the hidden Ireland. Less than ten years ago it was the responsibility of the Department of Justice as it was a crime; the Department of Health had no involvement. It was taboo and the stigma surrounding it ensured it was not debated or discussed. The first discussions which took place in the Houses were tentative and people were very frightened of discussing it as they did not understand it and because of the implications it has in terms of thinking about people taking their own lives.

While we have made much progress since the publication of the report of the national task force on suicide, we have a long way to go. Last year, 413 people died by suicide, while 415 died in road accidents. There is agreement that suicides are under-recorded, though not by much, so it is fair to say more died by suicide last year than in road accidents. In response to recent parliamentary questions the Minister informed me that £1.2 million was spent last year on suicide prevention and research. If one does not count Garda costs, £21.174 million was spent on road accidents, and rightly so – it was probably not enough – almost 20 times the amount spent on preventing suicide.

The issues concerning suicide and pregnancy have been simplified. It is an extremely complex issue. There are women who are pregnant and suicidal who can be shepherded through their pregnancies and who after the births can fully recover and lead full lives. There are others who are depressed or suffering from suicidal ideation before becoming pregnant, through the pregnancy and after the pregnancy due to mental illness. It is also recognised that there are a few women who are deeply traumatised during pregnancy who are suicidal and are likely to take their own lives. The Government rightly says a pregnant woman in danger of death because of a physical injury must have her life protected. Does it not discriminate against those who are mentally ill to say a woman in serious danger of death because of her mental illness cannot be protected in the same way? It is discriminatory to say a woman who is seriously suicidal and who is suffering from a serious mental health condition cannot be protected in terms of terminating her pregnancy while this can be done where a woman is in real danger of death due to a physical illness.

It will be said that those who have mental illness or are suicidal may not recover from their condition if the pregnancy is terminated, and that is so, but a person who is physically ill may not recover if she receives treatment which terminates the pregnancy. For example, a person with cancer whose treatment results in terminating the pregnancy may not recover.

Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló.

Debate adjourned.