Protection of Life in Pregnancy (Amendment) (Fatal Foetal Abnormalities) Bill 2013: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to permit medical treatment leading to termination of pregnancy in situations where the foetus has a fatal abnormality such that it is incompatible with life outside of the womb.

The Bill provides for the termination in Ireland of a pregnancy where the foetus has a condition such that it is incompatible with life outside the womb. This issue has probably affected every Deputy and the Minister for Justice and Equality has described it as "an intolerable cruelty". The legislation is motivated by my desire to have something done about the matter. It affects, in the main, women and families who are dealing with much wanted pregnancies and experience a devastating diagnosis that the foetus will not survive. Dealing with that grief is compounded by the body blow of then being forced to leave the country for a termination. They are not given adequate information and the information that is provided is handed over in a climate of secrecy. They also are not allowed to bring the remains of the foetus back. They can sometimes be posted back. I have heard stories of people bringing them back in the boot of a car. This issue has correctly been taken up at the United Nations as a human rights violation and as inhumane and degrading treatment. That is happening now. Large numbers of people in Ireland experience this every year. One Liverpool hospital has made a special arrangement because of the numbers involved. More than 90% of Irish people believe a pregnancy should be terminated in these circumstances and the only argument against it is the unpublished opinion of the Attorney General whom we are told says it would be unconstitutional. Other opinions written by eminent legal people and a former Attorney General disagree with that view. The only way to resolve the conflict is to introduce legislation and have the Supreme Court adjudicate on it.

The previous Attorney General made the argument I am making in the case of D v. Ireland before the European Court of Human Rights. The court found that there was at least a tenable argument which should be seriously considered by the domestic courts to the effect that the foetus was not an unborn for the purposes of Article 40.3.3° or that even if it was, its right to life was not engaged as it had no prospect of life outside the womb. The State, therefore, has previously argued that it would be constitutional to legislate in this circumstance.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, and other Ministers have stated publicly that they believe this issue should be addressed. It will not be addressed in the Government's lifetime, unless we move legislation, bring it to the Supreme Court for adjudication and end the misery for these families in order that, as they put it so well themselves, they can deal with it as a normal tragedy without the added burden of having travel out of the country in secrecy and so on.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.