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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 18 Oct 2018

Vol. 973 No. 7

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh was in possession prior to the debate being adjourned last night and had five minutes remaining. I understand that time will be taken by Deputy Kathleen Funchion.

This is my first opportunity to speak about this issue since the passing of the referendum. I welcome its passing and want to reflect on its importance and significance. On a personal note and at a political level, it was one of the most important issues in which I had ever been involved. I will never forget being in the count centre on 26 May when we received the excellent news. I commend everybody involved in the Together for Yes campaign and this House, including the Minister who has a very strong record in dealing this issue. It is important to give credit where it is due. I want to mention, in particular, the activists in Carlow and Kilkenny who were involved in the Together for Yes campaign and thank them for all of the very important work they did.

I want to make a few points about the legislation. I hope there will not be any major delay in passing it in this House, particularly on the part of Deputies who may have had a different opinion or their own agenda. Unfortunately, in the past people tried to delay the passage of legislation because there were matters on which they disagreed. I hope the fact will be respected that the majority of people in the country voted "Yes"; they voted to repeal the eight amendment. I hope, at the very least, their decision will be respected to ensure the legislation is passed in a timely manner. During the debate on the referendum legislation we heard Members tell many stories in this Chamber of women who had to travel to England for an abortion or who had accessed abortion pills online. That is still the reality for women today. It is very important to bear this in mind to ensure the Bill will be passed as quickly as possible.

I want to make a few comments on the 72-hour waiting period. I would like to see it removed. This is a very difficult decision that women make in conjunction with their partner, family or whoever they feel they want to consult. It is not one they make lightly and I do not believe they will change their decision after the 72-hour waiting period. Therefore, have such a requirement is unfair. It is almost as if we are questioning women. A woman will come and say this is what she wants to so, but she will then be told that there is a waiting period of 72 hours. It is as if there is nearly an element of doubt about her decision. This is a women's health matter. Therefore, the requirement should be removed.

We also need to ensure that there are good, robust rules and regulations around respecting this legislation and respecting those attending clinics. If there are protesters at such clinics, they cannot be allowed to intimidate or bully others.

A Deputy on the Sinn Féin benches spoke in the Chamber last night and I want to put in on record that he does not reflect the Sinn Féin position on this issue. We have an excellent spokesperson in Deputy O'Reilly who has always articulated our position very well. I want to be completely clear that Deputy O'Reilly is our party spokesperson and nobody should be in any doubt about that. Our policy is clear. We sought the removal of the eighth amendment and now we want to see this legislation passing through the Houses in a timely manner. We also want to see certain provisions like the 72 hour waiting period removed from the Bill. I would like to see some guidelines issued regarding protesters and respect because we have seen many examples in England where women who travelled to clinics were intimidated and bullied. It is nobody's business what a woman does with her body or what choices she makes about her health. As I have said, most women do this in consultation with a partner or family members and it is not appropriate for anyone else to try to bully them into making a different decision.

That is all I want to say on the matter. Having made the point that we do not want to delay the passage of the legislation, I do not want to delay things further now. I will finish by stressing the importance of this legislation. It was amazing to see the referendum on the removal of the eighth amendment pass, and I was very glad to play my part in that, along with a lot of other people. I appeal to Deputies - they know who they are because they have a history of delaying legislation in this Dáil - to remember that nearly 70% of the people voted to repeal the eighth amendment and to respect that.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a few brief comments on the legislation. This is an issue that has polarised Ireland for many generations. It is very difficult for many of us and very personal to most of us. I am grateful to my party for laying out a pathway six years ago in terms of respecting the right of conscience and allowing Deputies to act according to their personal views on this issue. Indeed, the Fine Gael Party and other parties followed suit in terms of respecting that and providing for a free vote on an issue that has polarised society for many generations.

I was a No voter. I chose not to campaign, preferring to leave it to civil society groups to advocate the various sides of the argument. I felt that they were best placed and best qualified to do so and, for the most part, they did it very well. The referendum campaigners were very respectful in the main, as were the debates in this House, but less so in the media at times. There were aspects of media that got very evocative in their writings on behalf of both sides, as opposed to the individual protagonists themselves, and that was regrettable. As I said, I voted No and the outcome of the referendum saddens me. My position is not based on church teaching, political expediency or anything other than my personal judgment and thoughts on it. I have profound respect for everybody with the totally opposite view and I respect that they have come to their position based on their personal analysis of the facts and their own morality. That is fine.

Given the outcome of the referendum, the people have spoken clearly. I had hoped to be in a position to separate my personal view on this issue from my legislative responsibilities. I know that the people voted in substantial numbers to repeal the eighth amendment and on legislation that was broadly reflected in the heads of Bill that were presented in March, as opposed to those that were presented in July. I stated after the campaign that I would support the legislation but, sadly, I have been struggling with my conscience on this issue and I am not sure that I can do so. I look forward to the Committee Stage debate and hope to engage in the process, but I have particular concerns about the conscientious objection of doctors. While I know it is dealt with in the Bill in part, it is not as clear as it could be. There is the potential to lay down in legislation the provision of appropriate services and the entitlement to such services, including counselling.

As things stand, I do not think I will be able to vote in favour of this legislation on Second Stage. I acknowledge that this is contrary to what I said after the referendum. At that time I said that I would have to separate my personal view from my legislative responsibilities, but I am afraid I do not think that I can. This is borne out of fear, quite frankly. I fear that this will become the contraceptive of choice for people down the line; not today, next week or even next year, but in time. Abortion will become something that is the norm rather than for the hard cases. That is a concern for me. That said, I will not be obstructing the legislation. I hope to play my part on Committee Stage and to express my views on various amendments. I certainly do not want to obstruct or unnecessarily delay the Bill's passage. I want to put on record that having said that I wanted to respect the democratic outcome of the referendum, I am afraid that my conscience may not permit me to do that.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill today. There is no doubt that this Bill, regardless of one's position on it, will go down in history and will be spoken about for many years to come. Hundreds of people were here last night to express their serious concerns about this legislation. I am conscious of the fact that people have strongly held views on both sides and we must respect that. Since I have been elected to Dáil Éireann I have been careful to ensure that, while I have my personal view, I have always been willing to talk to people from both sides of the argument. That has led some people to abuse me online but that has happened to Deputies on both sides and we have to accept it, given our position. In the interests of covering every aspect of this Bill, I have spoken to members of the public from both sides. I have also spoken to social workers who have a lot of experience in supporting vulnerable women facing difficult pregnancies. They are very concerned about the lack of protection for vulnerable women in the Bill as drafted.

I appreciate that this Bill addresses issues that are difficult for many people to discuss. Abortion can be a divisive issue and has been thus for many years. I do not take issue with people's stance on this, provided they are open, honest and do not shy away from making their voice heard. I agree with many of my colleagues on both sides of the debate who have called for a respectful and reasoned debate. As my colleague, Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said earlier this year, if one does not stand for anything, one will fall for everything. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion on this topic. I respect the fact that the people have spoken through their vote in the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment. I am not standing up to try to change anyone's mind but I am standing up to protect and promote the right of all mothers to receive the genuine support to which they are entitled.

Many people who voted Yes in the referendum were acting in the interests of choice and compassion for women facing unexpected and challenging pregnancies, but they are not necessarily on board with the more extreme aspects of the Bill before the Dáil today. Exit polls showed that many Yes voters had very serious concerns that they hoped would be addressed to have a reasonable, restrictive regime put in place. These specific issues must be addressed through amendments to the Bill.

It should be noted that the Minister declared in the Chamber in March that he would not debate the details of the draft heads of the Bill because the people would not vote on the Bill but on the removal of the eighth amendment. The Referendum Commission stated, in its booklet, as confirmed in the High Court during the summer, that people were not being asked to vote on any legislation as there was no guarantee the proposed legislation would ever come to pass. Therefore, to claim the Irish people have voted on this legislation and no deviation from these proposals can be allowed is to speak out of both sides of the same mouth. It is also extremely disrespectful of the democratic process. The Irish people are entitled to have the legislation that comes before the House debated. There is too much at stake to rush this Bill through the Dáil with undue haste, which is the approach the Minister seems to favour.

It is also important to note there are a number of areas of major difference between what the people were led to believe before the referendum and what is proposed in the legislation. The Minister repeatedly stressed that early delivery would be mandated after viability, yet the Bill makes no mention of early delivery and instead allows for the deliberate ending of a baby's life at any point in the nine months of pregnancy in certain cases. The Irish people did not vote for that. It was stressed that unborn babies would be protected against discrimination on the grounds of disability. I can find no such protection in the Bill. The Minister owes it to the Irish people to add those protections about which he spoke.

Irish people were not told their taxes would fund procedures that will end the most innocent lives in homes, abortion clinics or hospitals. We now know that a poll in August suggested 60% of Irish people are opposed to their taxes paying for abortions. How much will it cost the State? Will it be €12 million or €20 million?

Additionally some sections of the Bill have already been amended by the Minister to widen the grounds on which abortion would be legal and available and reduce the protections for vulnerable babies and healthcare workers. I am specifically referring to the redefinition of the term "viability" to exclude life-sustaining medical treatment to which a premature, wanted baby would be entitled, to require that a baby with a life-limiting condition be likely to live for 28 days after birth and to narrow the grounds for conscientious objection. This Bill does not legislate for restrictive grounds for abortion beyond 12 weeks, as many were led to believe it would. It does not contain many of the protections the Minister promised Irish people it would contain for healthcare workers, vulnerable babies or mothers.

Irish people were not asked to, and did not, vote on this extreme legislation and there is no obligation on any Member of this House to put his or her name to a Bill that so utterly disregards the lives of the most vulnerable members of our human family and so dismally fails to provide genuine support for mothers or freedom of conscience for healthcare workers.

Prior to the referendum, I made the point that if we offer abortions instead of real support services and compassion to pregnant mothers, we are failing those pregnant mothers and their unborn children. I still stand strongly by this point. In order to provide adequate support services and compassion to pregnant women, we need to consider the following points. An important question is whether there will be a three-day or a 72-hour cooling off period. For example, if a woman visits her doctor on Monday evening at 6 p.m., under a three-day cooling off period, she will be able to have her termination at 9 a.m. on the following Wednesday because under the three-day cooling off rule, the day of the doctor's visit and the day of the termination are both considered one of the three days. Under the rule, therefore, a woman may only have to wait 39 hours before her termination. It is important that every woman is given a minimum of 72 hours from the time she visits her doctor until she makes her final decision and a termination is carried out. This is where the supports I mentioned are vital for a pregnant woman. It is clear that, after a woman visits a doctor to discuss termination, she should have a minimum of 72 hours to digest the information given to her by her doctor and to contact any support service that may be able to help her access choices available to her.

During the cooling off period, I also suggest that a booklet be provided to all women with unbiased information on all her choices, all support services available and any other information that is relevant to pregnancy and termination. It is vital that any girl under the age of 18 be accompanied by a parent or guardian if she is seeking a termination. We do not allow the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to persons under 18 for their own protection and, for a girl under 18 to make a decision in respect of termination, it is vital she is accompanied by a parent or guardian for her own protection and support.

My main concern continues to be the protection of all mothers. A free counselling service should be made available to all mothers who are facing unexpected or challenging pregnancies and in particular for those women considering termination and post-abortion support for those women who have terminations. If women are to be adequately cared for, support services must be widely advertised and fully funded with ring-fenced moneys.

If the health service is to cope with the upcoming demand for terminations, safeguards need to be put in place to ensure the care of other patients is not compromised. There are already huge waiting lists in the country. A person could wait for five years for a simple procedure like a 15-minute cataract procedure. It is vital the Government provides an adequate level of funding and resources to meet the future demand of terminations and also that other waiting lists do not get longer as a result of this Government not supplying adequate resources.

If a woman is seeking a termination on mental health grounds, one of the doctors involved must be a psychiatric doctor, a comprehensive mental health assessment must be completed and appropriate mental health supports must be provided before any decision is made and following any termination provided. We all heard the shocking figure that one in every five pregnancies in Britain ends in abortion. The vast majority of those, 98%, are performed on the grounds of mental health. Either the UK has a mental health crisis of epidemic proportions among pregnant women or that ground is being widely abused. Section 10 of the Bill provides for grounds that are extremely similar to the grounds used in Britain. It is imperative that protections are included to protect against similar abuse of those grounds here and to ensure pregnant women with genuine mental health concerns are identified and supported.

Accurate dating of the pregnancy must be carried out with ultrasound equipment as one measure by a medical practitioner. This is vital to protect both mothers and doctors against the medical, legal and life-threatening complications that can arise from inaccurate dating of pregnancy.

Protections also need to be placed in this legislation for the unborn child. For example, with all the recent outrage over the Tuam babies, some of whom are reported to have died before birth, there can surely be no objection to an amendment that will require the remains of terminated babies to be treated with respect. There should be respectful arrangements with regards to burial.

As the Government seems determined to ensure most women terminating their pregnancies do so at home, consideration must also be given to how the tiny babies’ bodies are delivered and taken care of thereafter.

We need also to address the harrowing scenario of babies who are born alive after a failed abortion. All necessary care should be given to the baby. This should go without saying, but we know in many other countries where abortion is legal babies born alive during failed abortions are all too often left to die alone and uncared for.

It is also of note that the Minister has taken it upon himself to completely redefine how the term "termination of pregnancy" is understood in our health system. Currently our medical guidelines acknowledge that it may occasionally be necessary to perform a termination of pregnancy where a mother’s life is at risk, while giving the baby a chance. This Bill now clearly redefines "termination of pregnancy" as a medical procedure intended to end the life of a foetus. While it is occasionally medically necessary to end a pregnancy to protect a mother’s life or health, it is never medically necessary to intentionally terminate the life of a child. Early delivery must always be mandated beyond viability and babies born alive must always be given necessary medical treatment to give them a chance to live.

The Minister's Bill would more accurately be titled the Regulation of Termination of Life Bill as it currently stands.

Protection also needs to be put in place for anyone involved in any activity linked to termination. I believe, in line with international practice in many countries, medical practitioners such as doctors, midwives, pharmacists and also any other persons such as cleaners etc. should be allowed the decision on conscientious grounds whether or not to be directly involved or indirectly involved in any services that support terminations. Some medical professionals have approached me and expressed their concern that they would be indirectly involved in a termination if they referred a patient for a termination. There is a system in New Zealand which is an opt-out regime. Those willing to provide a direct or indirect service that links them to termination could opt in. I feel this would be more respectful for anyone working in the medical profession. Writing into law a positive right to freedom of conscience would be the best approach to guarantee the desired outcome. As I said earlier, I am not here to change any voter's mind on the decision voters made on the eighth amendment to the Constitution but I want to ensure that life-affirming choices are incentivised and also to ensure that women will not feel under pressure to terminate.

The Minister, Deputy Harris, seem to be extremely concerned that cost will never be a barrier to accessing terminations but if he truly wants to support women then will he ensure that cost will never be a barrier to a woman continuing a pregnancy or raising her child? In light of the fact that the Oireachtas committee noted that the majority of terminations were for socioeconomic reasons, and had nothing to do with rape or life limiting conditions, this is even more crucial. I want to make it clear that while I am opposed to much of the contents of this Bill and will be voting against it, I intend to support reasonable amendments as I respect the people have spoken. As I said earlier, I did my best not to direct any hit at any party or group here but I am disappointed, especially in one political party which did its best to stop somebody from speaking and even criticised that person who was speaking here today. That same party was censored from speaking for many years in this country.

Exactly. Thank God women have freedom of speech and that party has freedom of speech today, and that gentleman had it too.

I ask those on all sides not to interrupt.

I welcome the Bill and stress that the Title of the Bill is sexual and reproductive health and rights, a framework for the introduction of abortion services in Ireland. This year, as previously noted, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the extension of the franchise and votes for women over 30 who were ratepayers. We have thankfully come a long way since then to this legislation, which follows the repeal of the eighth amendment, which was wrong in 1983 and in 2017. I am pleased to see that we as a society have, through the ballot, expressed our desire to see changes that will actually allow women, men and families control over their fertility in a way that is appropriate to their individual and family circumstances.

It is possibly an accident of history that this week, the report, Clann: Ireland's Unmarried Mothers and their Children: Gathering the Data, was published. Anyone who has doubts about the importance and significance of this legislation and what happened to women who were unable to avail of any form of contraception, up to 40 years ago, where they had liaisons and relationships outside of marriage, will see that they had no capacity to control their own fertility. Instead, what happened in this society, as with many other issues, is that they became one of our hidden secrets. They were shut away in mother and baby homes, laundries, orphanages and other institutions. It has only been in the last 20 years that many people, including women and their children, boys and girls who are now men and women, have been able to come forward to find out some of their own history and address some of the issues that arose in post-Famine Ireland. I do not know if the absolute catastrophe of the Famine changed Irish culture. We became an island of incarceration for women who had children and relationships outside of a recognised framework, which is to say that they were not married in a Catholic or Protestant church. Therefore they became social outcasts and, as has been identified in this report and others, the critical social control lever that was exercised was shame. It was shame for the women, children and their families in their local districts and areas. That was why a parish priest could come up, figuratively tap someone on the shoulder and send someone to take the woman away by car or a hackney, with her baby.

At times, due to the kindness and care of families, the women could go home but the babies did not. In many cases, the women were incarcerated, effectively for the rest of their lives. When I went to school in Stanhope Street in Dublin, I ended up, through my adoptive mother, going to visit what was, to me as a small child, a really horrifying laundry full of large machinery where women worked. "Worked" is not a proper description, but "slaved" is. They had no autonomy. I remember one woman who visited us every Tuesday evening. She did not even have a child. It was her misfortune that her father became a widower and busybodies, very often on behalf of local churches, ensured that children such as that could be taken away. This was a woman in her 40s or 50s. After we got a television, she became very fond of some of the programmes on it because they did not have that in the convent, in the laundry. No matter what was on, whether "The Riordans" or something else, I remember clearly that though she was a grown woman, she had to be back at the convent by 9.30 p.m. I know trainee teachers were treated the same in places like Carysfort, and possibly the male teachers in Drumcondra, probably up to the late 1960s. There is a social story here about the Ireland that we were.

Much of the debate on the 1983 referendum was a fraud. It was designed to deny an open secret. In other words, it was a secret that everybody knew about if they were old enough. If they were younger, they maybe listened to the chat around the kitchen and got to know about such things. What is really sad and significant in these stories is that no matter how often one reads or hears them, they remain a monument to the sadness and tragedy that one group of Irish people visited on another group of Irish people. They probably, for the most part, did not intend to be as cruel as much of it was but they were told that somehow this type of behaviour, locking people up, was consistent with a certain form of Christianity.

The only explanation I have, at a social level, is that this was partly an outcome of the disaster of the Famine in Ireland and also being a colonial country where, in effect, we shut down certain things and closed them off.

Turning to the Bill, as other speakers have said, we owe a debt of thanks to all of the doctors, midwives and others involved in women having babies, delivering them safely and going on to have a family and a home life where those babies are cherished and loved. We have that in our maternity hospitals in Ireland, but one element of the services is absent and the Bill is seeking to address that. In that sense, in terms of the rights of women now and in the future, it is important that we pass this legislation.

Points have been made by various Deputies about areas where the legislation could be improved and issues that need to be addressed, including having a detailed debate on conscientious objection. Such debate is good. I welcome any insights people have to bring that would allow us to make the legislation as good as we possibly can. I also welcome the constructive tone of many of the contributions by people whom I am aware did not vote to repeal the eighth amendment. I have also encountered many people who were opposed to repealing the eighth amendment. Quite a few of them asked me to speculate on the reason the vote was so overwhelming. One woman approached me and said: "Joan, what is all this stuff on RTÉ about older people being completely opposed to repeal?" She then pointed to her husband, who is 84 - she is 83 – said that they have five granddaughters, and that they did not want any of them to be in a situation where they felt obliged either to take the boat to England or to face some kind of uncertain future in terms of having a baby in circumstances in which they are not able to proceed with the pregnancy.

What many of the critics of repeal have failed to understand is how practices have changed, so that for the most part we are not talking about surgical abortion or, except in grave situations where the life or health of the mother is threatened or the life of the baby, and the tragedy of fatal foetal abnormality. The latter scenario has affected several people I know who have desperately wanted a baby but it was not to be. We are now talking about medical termination. Let us be clear what that means. I am very grateful to the various doctors and midwives who took part in so many small meetings in houses, community centres and workplaces throughout the country explaining the current custom and practice in maternal care in the context of termination services. I approve of the Minister's arrangement that Dr. Peter Boylan would be available to look at the maternity services in that specific area. That is very important.

One thing that is very worrying is the severely limited availability of scans and MRI technology in many areas outside of Dublin. That is wrong. The budget needs to be progressed in that area in order that people will have as much information as possible, with the objective for the most part of having a healthy, viable baby.

We also need realistic education in schools so that, in particular if teenagers fall pregnant in a situation where they are unable to cope with the pregnancy, they are empowered with the knowledge to get the best care and attention as soon as they can. That is the key to the provision of appropriate services in Ireland that are genuinely available to all women, and to young women in particular who, in the event of not having had an appropriate sex education, are able to access services in a timely way. The discussions have started on the school curriculum and I hope it is realistic in terms of issues that are likely to face young men and young women as they enter into sexual relationships as they mature. That is very important. We need a national conversation in that respect that gives people the knowledge they need to be able to deal with their own decisions in terms of relationships as they grow older. They must be aware of the risks. Many colleges are now doing a lot of education around relationships and consent and the fact that no means no. We can empower young people to be able to both look after themselves and protect themselves and, should they need services, that they know how to access them as early as possible.

It is a milestone for women in Ireland that we will finally have a full service available to women within the not-too-distant future that will support them in the independent lives they wish to lead. It is ironic that during the referendum campaign I met more people who, sadly, had issues around infertility, and they were very anxious to be supported by the State. Nowadays, partly because of the housing situation but also because of social changes, people are getting married and forming permanent relationships later and later. If they want to start a family, very often they must first find appropriate housing to buy, rent or lease and then they must have sufficient resources to be able to bring up a family. That means a lot of pregnancies in Ireland are among women in their late 30s, and that trend is likely to continue for at least the next five years because I do not see a significant number of houses and apartments becoming available for rent or purchase at reasonable rates under current Government policy.

Many of the pregnancies in Ireland are much-wanted pregnancies and one of the distressing parts of the recent debate was the discussions on fatal foetal abnormality. Most Deputies are aware either from family circumstances, friends or others they know of much-wanted pregnancies having to be terminated, the tragedy of having to go to England, for example, Liverpool or London, and bringing home the baby's remains, if they are lucky, in a cardboard box on the ferry.

It is a tragic circumstance. As one young woman put it to me, at a time when she most wanted her family around her she could not have them because they could not go to Liverpool with her. Her partner could go, obviously, but they wanted one of their mothers or an aunt to come with them and maybe one of their fathers to drive them. They wanted family members to be there to hold them at a very difficult time in their lives. I hope the people in our maternity hospitals will now be able to do that, perhaps under the direct care of the physicians they were dealing with during the period when they had hoped it would be a successful pregnancy. They could then get appropriate treatment and would be able to go home as soon as possible to their own beds and mourn their baby.

I have been approached by people who wanted to find a burial place for the baby. Unfortunately, burial plots in Dublin are difficult to get. Many of the Dublin cemeteries will not allow people to pre-buy and we do not necessarily entirely recognise a fatal foetal abnormality like a baby that was delivered in the end. These are all the little practical things that happen to people in this sad situation.

I am really pleased the Bill has come before the House. The Minister and the Taoiseach gave an undertaking that this would be addressed as quickly as possible. The people who voted in the referendum understood that clearly and expected it. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward the legislation so quickly. I hope that it will be possible to put into place the appropriate training, practices and changes in the HSE that will be required. It will be a major change in terms of what our maternity hospitals and institutions will be doing. I really hope it will be possible to do this in the maternity hospitals and institutions.

The whole issue of exclusion is relevant. In the past, if a woman had a baby outside of wedlock or if she was in a relationship that was not a marriage relationship there was a sense of exclusion. I believe we have managed to end that sense of exclusion and now treat people when they need treatment within our ordinary health and maternity services. In due course I believe that will help. Again, going back to families who have experienced fatal foetal abnormalities, there is hope that if they have a subsequent pregnancy, the pregnancy will come to a successful conclusion with a baby being born to the couple.

I welcome, and the Labour Party strongly supports, the legislation. Nevertheless, we will pay detailed attention to any proposals for amendments and issues that require to be addressed. Presumably, these will be discussed in detail on Committee Stage.

Ní chuirfidh mé an iomarca moille ar an Teach mar tuigim go bhfuil deifir orainn. Tá an-chaint ar an daonlathas le roinnt seachtaine anuas agus is daonlathach mise. Mar sin glacaim leis go raibh vóta ann agus gur glacadh le fáil réidh leis an alt sa Bhunreacht a chuir cosc ar ghinmhilleadh. Ní fios agus ní feasach dom éinne sa tír nó cinnte aon pholaiteoir nach nglacann go hiomlán leis sin. Mar sin tá sé fágtha faoin Oireachtas reachtaíocht a thabhairt isteach agus go deimhin tá reachtaíocht ann cheana féin. An rud a chuireann iontas orm ná go bhfuil gach duine ag súil go mbeidh bunathrú intinne orthu siúd a chreideann go bhfuil an ghin sa bhroinn beo agus gur duine daonna atá ann agus go mba cheart é sin a chosaint. Cuireann sé iontas orm go gceapann na daoine sin go mba cheart go mbeadh claochlú intinne orainn ar an rud a chreidimid go domhain, bunaithe ar eolaíocht.

Mar a dúirt an Teachta Burton ansin, is cuimhin liom an reifreann in 1983. Ní raibh mé sa Teach seo ag an am go deimhin. Bhí mé pósta ag an am, bhí mé ag obair agus bhí gasúir agam ag an am. Tar éis an reifrinn sin bhí daoine ann a chuir ina éadan go láidir. Bhí siad dóite in aghaidh thoradh an reifrinn sin agus lean orthu ag cur in aghaidh an reifrinn go dtí gur éirigh leo sa reifreann le gairid. Aisteach go leor, bhí an toradh nach mór 66% in aghaidh 33% an t-am sin freisin ach ar a mhalairt de bhealach. Ní cuimhin liomsa éinne ag rá ag an am go gcaithfeadh daoine glacadh leis an gcosc agus gan aon rud a dhéanamh chun iontú cinn a bhaint amach agus an pobal a chur ar mhalairt tuairime. Go deimhin féin, bhí go leor a mhol daoine a bhí den tuairim sin agus tá daoine, roinnt bheag acu atá fós sa Teach, a dhéanann maíomh nár aontaigh siad leis an gcinneadh agus gur lean orthu ag troid ina aghaidh. Ach is cosúil nach bhfuil siad sásta an ceart céanna a thabhairt chucu siúd a admhaíonn go hiomlán is go huile, agus atá go breá sásta glacadh leis, go bhfuil an mír sin imithe as an mBunreacht, bíodh siad sásta nó nach mbíodh siad sásta glacadh leis mar tá sé imithe: tá sé sínithe ag an Uachtarán.

Tagraím don daonlathas. Is é an áit a thagann an daonlathas isteach sa Teach seo ná go raibh 60%, 70% nó b'fhéidir 80% den Teach seo tar éis geallúint roimh an reifreann go dtabharfadh siad isteach reachtaíocht a bheag nó a mhór ag luí leis an rud atá ag an Aire agus go gcuirfeadh siad tríd an Teach é. Ba léir ó thús, dá nglacfaí leis an reifreann, go mbeadh Bille os comhair an Tí seo agus go mbeadh móramh mór ar a shon. Ach níl daoine sásta leis sin mar tá siad ag iarraidh go mbeadh 100% ar a shon, is cuma céard a chreideann siad go domhain ina gcloigne agus ina gcroíthe.

Tugaim faoi deara rud éigin eile spéisiúil faoin bplé atá ar bun. Is é sin nach bhfuil éinne ag rá don dream sin a deir nach bhfuil a dhóthain sa rud seo, go bhfuil sé ró-dhaingean agus ró-dhocht agus go mba cheart go mbeadh sé níos scaoilte, gurb é seo an rud a chaith an pobal vóta ar a shon agus gan a bheith ag lorg níos mó. Tá siad ag rá go bhfuil sé fágtha faoin Oireachtas agus más féidir níos mó a bhaint amach, go n-éirí an bóthar leo. Tá easpa cothromaíochta sa chaoi go bhfuil an díospóireacht seo ag dul ar aghaidh.

Go luath an tseachtain seo chugainn, tógfar vóta sa Teach seo. Is dócha go mbeidh mórlach mór i bhfabhar an Bhille seo a cheadú ar an Dara Céim agus é a chur ar aghaidh go dtí an roghchoiste. Mar dhaonlathach, glacfaidh mé le sin. Glacaim leis nach ndéanfar aon leasú ollmhór ar an reachtaíocht seo ar Chéim an Choiste nó ar an Tuarascáil. Glacaim leis go mbeidh mórlach mór ar son an Bhille ar an gCúigiú Céim freisin. Tarlóidh an rud ceannann céanna sa Seanad. Ina dhiaidh sin, rachfaidh an reachtaíocht go dtí an Uachtarán ach ní bheidh aon rogha ag an Uachtarán - is cuma cén tUachtarán a bheidh ann - ach é a shíniú ina Acht, ag glacadh leis nach bhfuil aon chuid de nach bhfuil ag teacht de réir an Bhunreachta. Is deacair a fheiceáil go bhféadfadh a leithéid a bheith fíor sa chás áirithe seo, ó tharla go ndeireann an Bunreacht go soiléir anois gur féidir gach rud a bhfuil sa Bhille seo a dhéanamh. Beidh an reachtaíocht seo ina dhlí ansin. Aithneoidh mé mar dhaonlathach go bhfuil sé ina dhlí - gur dlí na tíre atá i gceist - agus is cuma an dtaitneoidh sé liom. Ach an oiread leis na daoine siar in 1983, ní gá dom a rá go gcreidim gurb é an rud ceart é.

As I said in Irish, there has been much talk about democracy and the will of the people. The chairman of the Referendum Commission was quite clear that the people had voted to leave it to the Members of this House, no more and no less.

I fully accept - I do not know of anybody who does not - that Article 40.3.3o is no more and that a new article is to be substituted that states it is our business and ours only.

There is something I find strange about the debate that has been taking place, which started on the day of the count. There are those of us who believe ginmhilleadh is exactly what it says on the tin - gin mhilleadh or destruction. "Rud a mhilleadh" means to destroy something. It is put very eloquently in English in the draft Bill which states: "termination of pregnancy", in relation to a pregnant woman, means a medical procedure which is intended to end the life of a foetus". That is a very interesting sentence for many reasons and in the context of the debates that have taken place here over many years. Those of us who have had no difficulty whatsoever with any intervention to save a woman's life and said it is not an abortion - I never believed it was - are having our belief vindicated because it has not been included in the definition of "termination of pregnancy" in the Bill

I received a telephone call one day from a lady who must have been born in the early 1940s. I will not disclose how she was thinking of voting in the referendum; that is her business. Laughingly, she said she should not have been here because she had survived cancer and suffered a heart attack but that she should not really have survived birth. She told me that her mother had had a tricky heart problem and, as far as I can recall, that she had been born at either 23 or 24 weeks, which was extraordinary in the early 1940s. She told me that the doctor who was well known had told her mother that there was no way the baby could survive, but she did. I heard the Deputy opposite. I will check with the woman concerned, but I am sure that that is what she said. She received very skilled care, of that I have no doubt, but the basis of the story was that even though the doctor had thought the baby did not have a chance and would die, to save the mother, he intervened. Once the baby was born, every effort was made to sustain it.

That lady is still alive and I trust her testimony.

The Bill is a challenge for those of us who believe an unborn person is exactly that. There are those of us who have strong views on life in general across the spectrum and huge moral issues with violence in the world, the militarisation of Europe and the massive arms industry. We are very committed to the preservation of human life and believe the demarcation line as to when someone becomes a person is not the second of birth. Others have a different view. They believe we cannot equate a born person with an unborn person, even if the born person is only one second old and the unborn person is within one second of being born. That is their dividing line; so be it. That is their belief. I do not in any way question anybody's belief, but I do not understand the reason others cannot see that the other belief is equally reasonable.

Just because someone is behind a piece of skin and fed in a different way does not make him or her any less of a human being. I have very good friends who have views which are totally different from mine. Likewise, there are people who I know respect me deeply for my views, even though they do not agree with them. However, there are others who seem to believe there can be no thought except theirs.

The second aspect that surprises me is that we are meant to be constrained by the so-called will of the people which was not expressed in voting on the Bill, even though everybody knows that the vast majority of the Members of this House had promised to legislate and that the Government had a clear majority. What would shock me is not if people who were not in favour of the legislation were still not in favour of it. What would shock me utterly is if the 120 Members of the Dáil or more who were in favour of the referendum being carried suddenly came into the House and refused to stand by their word. Knowing that they will not do that, the Minister will get his Bill through the House without any difficulty. To be honest, I do not understand the obsession with trying to secure approval for what he is doing from those who do not agree with him. The public has been listening to the debate taking place in this House.

We must be honest with ourselves. There are Members of the House who believe the Bill does not go far enough and who do not consider they should be constrained by it just because it is one the Minister published prior to the vote on the referendum. They will be pressing amendments to it on Committee and Report Stages. I accept their right to do so. I do not believe they feel constrained because what the people voted for was that there would be no constraints on what the Minister could bring forward in providing for the termination of pregnancy. Is that not correct?

That is a fact. In the same way as anybody who wants to go further can do so, anybody who does not want to go as far as it can also do so because that is what the people decided, no more and no less.

I have heard talk that people may try to obstruct the passage of the Bill in some way. I believe such talk arose from a debate here on a road traffic Bill. I looked again at the commentary at the time. It continued for a long while. My colleague might have been involved in using parliamentary tactics that delayed its passage.

The Bill was recommitted.

The reason the passage of that Bill took such a long time is the House decided not to employ the Standing Order that provides for the guillotining of the debate on a Bill if there is a major rush to have it passed. I am not suggesting the Minister should guillotine the debate on this Bill, but he has that power if he is in a major rush to have it passed. However, it could prove to be a futile exercise because the vast majority of his colleagues who want to have the Bill passed quickly have stated if somebody is unduly delaying its passage, he could guillotine the debate.

This idea that there is some Machiavellian way in which people on this side of the House could hold this up indefinitely is not correct. I checked with the Office of the Ceann Comhairle and there is no change in the Standing Orders. I was 99.99% certain of it beforehand because I happen to be a member of the Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform and I knew we had not brought in anything to limit the guillotine. The reason the guillotine does not work like it used to in the old days is that the Government cannot do that against the massed Opposition. In this case, however, the masses of the Dáil are totally in the Minister's favour.

Let us not hear all this whingeing around the place that we are going to hold up this legislation in some way.

There has been a lot of debate here in respect of the amendments. They are issues for Committee and Report Stages. We can deal with them one by one. There is one interesting amendment that caught my eye. The Bill uses the term "pregnant woman" and says that "woman" means a female person. This seems to be a strange term to use in view of the fact that we have various genders and transgenders and so on. The Minister should correct that because it is out of line with other legislation we have brought in. It is unnecessary terminology in the circumstances. It goes against a European court ruling that allows people to be recognised by their gender and whatever. I happened to be the Minister with responsibility for social protection when we started to deal with the European court judgment and I instructed that the legislation be prepared.

Our maternity services have been at stretching point for a number of years. We saw some terrible things happen as a consequence. The public deserves very caring, well-funded maternity and obstetrics care. We have seen recently in another scandal in the treatment of women's health how important that is. If there was €12 million there all along, it is deeply regrettable that it was not made available three, four or five years ago to deal with all of the challenges faced in the maternity hospitals, including the maternity hospital in Galway. I hope this Bill will not add to the crisis levels that seem to arise regularly in our maternity hospitals as a result of pressure on them. I also hope the Minister will make resources available for those who need either obstetric or gynaecological care, which are so important.

The referendum took place and the people spoke. There has been a protracted debate on abortion down through the years, even when we were youngsters. The issue caused great differences of opinion between people. Ireland has changed a good bit since then, considering the votes that took place before. I do not think anyone questions the numbers in the referendum, the 66% or 67%. The Irish people spoke unanimously to remove the eighth amendment from the Constitution. That has to be recognised. I do not think there is a Deputy who does not recognise the vote. However, there is one other thing that also needs to be recognised. I watched the debate between the presidential candidates last night. It was the only night so far that the candidates sparred with each other, which is not good in any debate. No matter what side we are on, as the previous Deputy said, people are entitled to different views. There is 34% of the population who still believe what they believed. They are entitled to that belief and we must recognise it, as we must also recognise those who voted "Yes". There is an obligation on every one of us as public representatives to do that. Respect is needed on all sides.

A budget will be put in place for abortion services. We should ensure services are free for all women who are expecting a child, whether they want to go ahead and have the child or want to have an abortion, if that is the road we are going down at the moment. People need to be given the choice, as the people of Ireland have decided. That should be done as soon as possible.

Looking at other parts of our health service, I do not want to hear in one, two or three years' time that somebody could not get a counsellor or anyone to talk to. I see in mental health services at the moment that we have lovely glossy magazines about what we are going to do for people. There is talk about community care teams but unfortunately some people do not get the services described in the glossy booklet. I ask the Minister to make sure the services are put in place in the way of counsellors and people giving advice so we do not have people saying in a year or two that this or that did not happen.

On my way up this morning, I was listening to a debate on the radio. There was a person talking about schools, parents and youngsters. They were on about Facebook, Snapchat and all the different things and saying how parents need to make sure to keep an eye. They were on about bullying and online abuse and saying the parents need to keep tabs on a lot of these things. I hope it does not happen but if there is a 13 or 14 year old who decides she wants to have an abortion, what is the scenario? This is not clear from what I have read and I would like the Minister to give us clarification on that.

No more than anyone else, I do not claim to be an expert but I have met health service professionals such as local doctors, midwives and even consultants working in all parts of the health service. I am fairly tough skinned but the other evening I met some of them and I found the meeting touching enough. Some of these people feel they are being boxed into a corner. If someone wants an abortion, the facilities need to be available. However, I cannot understand why we do not first provide a helpline or phone number. The Department or the HSE should know all the different doctors and places in every county that would be prepared to carry out an abortion. It should be done without forcing those who have a belief that they cannot do this. That message was coming across very strongly the other night and we need to work around that. We cannot afford to lose too many from the health service. That is the first thing.

Some of them were in tears when I met them the other night. They are adamant that they will not stay in a service where they have to do it. They are not saying it cannot happen. They just do not want to be forced to do something that is totally against their beliefs. While I am not a legal expert, we need to work around that in case down the line someone decides they are not going to be forced into something. Where does it go if someone refuses to do it? We know that the HSE cannot get rid of somebody for no reason. Some of these people are talking about leaving, which is very unfortunate to hear. These are good people. It is important to find some solution to that. The Minister may have better ideas. I suggest having a helpline that is advertised everywhere, including on television, in newspapers, online etc. so that people can just make one quick phone call and know who is prepared to look after it in the different counties. That may be a workable solution. I do not say it is the only one. There may be better ideas for doing that.

The Minister spoke about the disability issue before the referendum. We also need clarification on that. I will not stay here talking. The previous speaker mentioned people trying to hold up the legislation. I am not into that. It was rightly pointed out that there are ways of doing things if the Government wants to get it through. People recognise that abortion will happen in Ireland. It will be carried out in hospitals or in whatever scenario the Minister sets up for it. We need to ensure healthcare professionals are not forced into something. If that happens, it is not a great way of doing it. I ask the Minister to come back to us with clarification on those points. I will not take up any more of the Minister's time.

I sincerely thank all Deputies, regardless of their perspective, who contributed to the Second Stage debate on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018. We have had a good debate. I resent hearing people imply that we are rushing this. Anybody who wanted to speak on the Bill had the opportunity to speak. Some who said last night that we were rushing this did not use the entire slot available to them. After 35 years of the eighth amendment and the damage it has done to countless women, their families and society, and providing adequate time for everybody to make their views known on what has been a wide-ranging Second Stage debate, I think this has been-----


Everybody had an opportunity. I am not going to-----

The House is being misled.

Pre-legislative scrutiny - none.

The Deputy will have other opportunities on later Stages.

He is misleading the House.

The Minister, without interruption. I will treat everybody the same.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I was just making the point that, as the people's representatives, everybody has had ample opportunity, as is right and proper in this House, to give their views. I thank all Deputies for giving those views.

I also make the point that it is 146 days since the people voted to repeal the eighth amendment. It is important that we do not forget what has happened in that time. We know that, every day, about nine women leave our country to go abroad to access termination. These are women in crisis looking for help that they cannot get in Ireland today. In addition, every day about three women will take the abortion pill, obtained online without any medical supervision or advice. That is roughly 12 women every single day since the referendum passed who have continued to have to access termination in either dangerous circumstances or abroad. As we have the luxury of sitting in this House today, nine women are in our airports and ports heading off to the UK or other jurisdictions. That means that 1,752 Irish women - our mothers, sisters, wives, neighbours and friends - have had to access termination since the people voted to repeal the eighth amendment.

While we have an important job to do to make this, as Deputy Burton rightly said, the best possible Bill we can pass in this House, we must also be conscious that the reality of women in crisis pregnancy continues today. Until we pass the legislation, the instruction the people gave us to get on with and do our job is an instruction we have yet to fulfil fully.

Only this week I received a very heartbreaking email from a woman with fatal foetal abnormality in her pregnancy. This was a desperately wanted baby. She pleaded with me to see if I could do something to help her and her husband to ease what is already such tragedy and pain. The harsh reality is that until this legislation passes, we are not in a position to do that. Those sitting here need to realise that we cannot decouple the scrutinising we need to do from the reality facing women today. That woman is sitting at home today knowing that even though the people have voted to repeal, she will still have to travel abroad because doctors who really want to help her here cannot do it until we pass this legislation.

A number of Deputies rightly say that the people only voted on the question of whether to repeal the eighth amendment. That was the question. Of course, the chairperson of the referendum commission was right. I believe I, myself, said it on a number of occasions. The people voted either for or against repeal; that was their decision. However, they voted in the context of knowing what legislation I would introduce if they voted to repeal the eighth amendment. Those who campaigned against repeal highlighted elements of the Bill and quoted elements of the Bill on posters, in my view often distorted elements of the Bill. We had debates in television studios, radio stations and community halls. We had literature from both sides dealing with the content of that draft legislation. While it is accurate to say that the people's decision was to repeal or not to repeal, it is important to say that the people made that decision in the context of a very detailed debate, following the excellent work of a cross-party committee and the excellent work of the Citizens' Assembly.

Therefore the legislation we are introducing now is not a surprise. It is what we promised to do. There is an onus on me as Minister - I would argue there is an onus on all of us in this House - to legislate within those parameters. I am sure people on both sides of the argument will want to see changes. We should consider each and every amendment; that is our job. I will approach the debate feeling a huge responsibility to introduce a Bill along the lines of what we promised we would do. We told the people if they voted to repeal, this is the legislation I would introduce and that is the task we now have.

I sincerely recognise that there are deeply held views on all sides of the Oireachtas and throughout the country. In taking the next steps as an Oireachtas and as a Government, we must respect and hear them all. However, language is important and insightful. We have had many excellent contributions, including from speakers with a completely different view from mine. Deputy Butler gave a very eloquent and honest speech in this House last night. As a woman who had campaigned against repeal, she was very upfront about her views while also recognising the reality of the people's decision. She made a very important contribution last night.

Unfortunately, some people talking about the issue in this House are using language that gives an insight to a mindset that is worrying. I wrote down a few phrases I heard today. I heard reference to "those women". I have heard reference to "a cooling-off period". I heard an horrific and bizarre suggestion that termination will replace contraception. These sorts of views are offensive, but are also ignorant. They show a lack of understanding of the very difficult decision-making process a woman goes through before accessing termination. To equate in any way termination to contraception shows a fundamental lack of respect for women. It also shows a fundamental lack of understanding about termination and contraception.

As we go to the next Stage of the Bill, which I hope we will in the next few days, it is important that we all use language that is respectful.

They are not "those women". They are women from every town and every community in this country who are looking for help in a crisis. We need to be very careful we do not use language that stigmatises, and I ask that we reflect on that.

I assure Deputies I have listened carefully to the contributions made so far. I am pleased to note that, in general, there is very significant support for the Bill in the House, although I recognise there is far from unanimous support. I am mindful, however, that issues have been raised around certain provisions in the legislation and I look forward to Committee Stage, when we will be able to discuss and address these concerns in much greater depth. I am aware, for example, that some Deputies expressed a concern that the term "abortion" is not used in the Bill. I want to address that issue because I think it important. The reason is that this is the result of the wording inserted into the Constitution by the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2018. That amendment inserted a new Article 40.3.3° into the Constitution which states: "Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy". Therefore, this Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill is the means by which the Oireachtas will exercise its new constitutional authority under the new provision. In this way, the Oireachtas is carrying out the will of the people as expressed in the result of the referendum. Using the language of the new Article 40.3.3° in the legislation that seeks to give effect to this provides necessary consistency and clarity in law. What I am doing in the Bill is mirroring the language used in the new constitutional article. That is why we use the terminology in regard to "termination of pregnancy" rather than "abortion". It ensures that the Bill is consistent with the wording in the Constitution and avoids any potential doubts or unintended consequences which could potentially flow from departing from that language. It is for that reason, rather than for any other reason.

I am aware some disquiet was expressed around the positioning of the offences provision in the Bill. Again, I get this: people pick up the legislation and one of the first things they see are the offences. I have heard the sincere views of Deputies that this could create a chilling effect. The general scheme of the Bill published in July provided for offences in head 19 but the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, when it drafted the Bill in three parts, decided that under this arrangement offences are in the first part of the Bill. I want to clarify that this section is based on Part 1 of the Bill for purely technical consideration by drafters, as opposed to any policy or political decision. There was no other reason for placing it there and certainly no symbolic consideration behind it. It is something I am happy to look at with Deputies as we move forward.

Several Deputies raised the issue of safe access to services and I thank them for doing so. As they are aware, it is my intention that, following the passage of this Bill, services for termination of pregnancy will be a normal and lawful part of the Irish public health service for women. I recognise, however, that these services carry a significant likelihood of demonstrations taking place, demonstrations which may be distressing and upsetting both for service users and for healthcare professionals. I am concerned we have already had maternity hospitals like the Rotunda having to take to their social media channels to alert women to this very upsetting situation happening outside the hospital. When a woman is accessing a maternity service, and going into a maternity hospital either to have a baby or to deal with a crisis pregnancy situation, that woman and her family deserve to be able to access those services in a way that does not further add to their distress or pain.

We need to act in this regard. Many countries providing abortion services have included provision for safe access to those services in their legislation. In July I sought and received Government approval to draft legislative proposals to ensure safe access to premises in which termination of services may be provided. This would allow patients, service providers, healthcare staff and members of the public to enter the premises without fear of intimidation or harassment, and without being subject to unwanted communications about termination of pregnancy by any means. This would include oral, written or visual displays like the ones we were subjected to during the referendum campaign. While it was my original intention to provide for such safe access in this Bill, a number of issues were identified during the drafting process. In order to allow for full consideration, I decided we could not delay this Bill and that the best way to proceed would be a separate companion piece of legislation. I, therefore, requested and was granted Government approval to draft a separate general scheme of a Bill to provide for safe access to services which may provide termination of pregnancy procedures. Work on this companion legislation will be concluded without delay and, I hope, will be in place by early next year.

Another issue that has been the subject of concern by some Deputies is that of conscientious objection and the drafting of section 23 of the Bill. Some Deputies have suggested the Bill should not require doctors or midwives to refer a woman on for care where they have a conscientious objection to providing termination of pregnancy services. I would like to point out very clearly, because, frankly, there has been a lot of misinformation in this regard, that section 23 of the Bill as it is drafted is absolutely in line with the current section 49 of the Medical Council's Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners 2016. This obliges doctors to enable patients to transfer to another doctor for treatment in cases of conscientious objection. It is also in line with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland's Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics 2014. Let me be very clear. This legislation does not require medical practitioners, nurses or midwives to do anything new or, indeed, to do anything more than they are already ethically required to do under their own professional guidance.

I am somewhat concerned that, while everyone has raised conscientious objection, nobody has raised it with regard to the impact on the woman. We cannot have a situation where a woman finds herself going from GP practice to GP practice in search of a doctor. I have asked Professor Boylan and stakeholders in medical colleges, when I met them in the last month, to consider the conscientious objection from a woman's perspective to ascertain how the woman can find out the information in a way that is safe for the woman and safe for the doctor. I cannot imagine how awful is the extra distress that arises when a woman has to go before a doctor in such a situation, and while that doctor has an absolute right to conscientiously object, this will add to the woman's distress. While we talk a lot about this from the healthcare professionals' point of view, and that is fine and is a legitimate issue, and conscientious objection will be provided for in this Bill, we should perhaps look at this more from the perspective of a woman in distress seeking help from the Irish health service. The question is how we help that woman navigate the situation to find the services she needs. I believe there is something that can be done in that space, as Professor Boylan and others work on implementation from a practical and operational point of view. I am sure we will be discussing this further on Committee Stage.

Some Deputies also raised the issue of greater support in regard to pregnancy in general, but more specifically for women in crisis pregnancy situations. In this regard, several colleagues pointed to the need to implement the ancillary recommendations made by the joint Oireachtas committee on the eighth amendment. I hate that title "ancillary" and while it is only a word, I know the committee very much had these as central, key recommendations. While we sometimes talk about them as though they are merely add-ons, they are very much at the heart of what the committee, the Government and the people want to do. We have seen other jurisdictions like Portugal and Spain that have liberalised their laws on abortion also put in place better services in regard to sex education, counselling, perinatal hospice support and, crucially, contraception, and, as a result, the number of abortions declined. I looked at those figures not long ago, so I know that both Portugal and Spain have seen a very consistent downward trend regarding abortions as the supports have been increased for people in crisis pregnancies, but also in regard to trying to help people not find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation. No woman wants to find herself in that situation.

I assure the House I am committed to working with the Oireachtas to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and this is part of ongoing work in my Department. Work has been progressing on the development of more comprehensive sexual health and well-being education information and promotion. Recent progress includes the formal launch and ongoing development of a new website,, which provides information on contraception, crisis pregnancy, consent, relationships and sexually transmitted infections. A new safer sex campaign targeted primarily at young people was also recently launched using the hashtag, #respectprotect, and there is ongoing extension of the provision of free condoms to target harder-to-reach groups, including, for example, people living in direct provision.

Regarding Deputies' concerns and legitimate issues on obstetric care in general, I am proud to be part of a Government working with an Oireachtas which is committed to the development of our maternity services. Over recent years there has been a very significant focus on the development of national maternity policy in order to ensure our maternity services are developed in a coherent and evidence-based way. It is hard to believe we did not have a national maternity strategy in Ireland until 2016, so it is clear all of those who talk about the need to do more in this space do not tend to talk about it outside of referendum campaigns, sadly. Nonetheless, we now have Ireland's first ever national maternity strategy, Creating a Better Future Together 2016-2026. It was developed by the current Taoiseach when he was Minister for Health. We also have the HSE's national standards for bereavement care following pregnancy loss and perinatal death, including in situations where somebody has experienced loss through abortion. In addition, HIQA has now finalised national standards for safer, better maternity services. When we take all of these developments together, they are clearly key building blocks which will enable us to provide a consistently safe, patient centred, high quality maternity service.

For my own part, I am fully committed to ensuring that all women accessing maternity services should receive the same standard of safe, high quality care, regardless of where they live in this country.

I am also aware some disquiet was expressed around the posititioning of the offences provision in the Bill. Again, I get this. People pick up the legislation and one of the first things they see are the offences. I have heard from Deputies their sincere views in this regard, and their view that this could create a chilling effect.

Every woman from every corner of Ireland should expect and be able to access the maternity services she needs. Deputy Joan Burton rightly raised the issue of access to anomaly scans. We are rolling out this capacity across maternity services and recruiting sonographers to ensure access to scans will be available in all maternity units. While it is quite an involved process to get through all of the recruitment, we are making good progress and I expect access to scans to be available nationally by the end of 2019.

Last October I launched the implementation plan for the phased roll-out of the maternity strategy which had been developed through the national women's and infants' health programme. While we have a great deal more work to do in this area, we have legislation before us to fulfil a commitment to the people which I made with many Deputies across the House that if they repealed the eighth amendment, we would bring forward legislative provisions largely in line with the all-party committee's report and very much in line with the general scheme published before the vote took place. I am pleased that the debate on Second Stage is concluding and look forward to progressing the Bill through Committee Stage. I continue to think of the nine women who will travel from the country today, the nine who will travel tomorrow and the nine who will travel the day after that. I think of the three women who will continue each and every day to access abortion pills online without any medical supervision. It is for them that we will put our shoulders to the wheel to pass the Bill and that the HSE will work with Dr. Boylan to ensure we will be ready to implement new services at the beginning of 2019.

Question put.

By order of the House today, the division is postponed until after the Order of Business on Tuesday next, 23 October 2018.