Completion of the Examination of the Report and Recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly and Preparation of a Draft Report in accordance with the Terms of Reference of the Joint Committee

Welcome to our viewers. I request silence in the Gallery and within the committee when members are speaking. I really hope everyone will respect that request; it is important that no matter what people say or how much disagreement there is, we allow them to speak. We will not be speaking at length on any one matter because we agreed last week that we have had our debate on the substantive issues for the most part.

Obviously there will be some discussion but everyone must be reasonable about repetition, etc.

I shall now deal with the usual matters. The draft minutes for the meeting of 6 December have been circulated. Are they agreed? Agreed. Are there any matters arising? No.

We have received two items of correspondence. Is it agreed that we note them? Agreed.

One of the items of correspondence relates to a letter from Ms Liz McDermott of One Day More. She requested that the same privilege be accorded to her correspondence as was accorded to other witnesses that came before the committee. At our last meeting a letter from the Danish ambassador was read into the record. He took issue with what I believe was Ms McDermott's testimony. She has requested that her clarification of certain issues be put on the record of the committee today.

The Senator has made a fair point. The letter from Ms Liz McDermott of One Day More was about the rate of the terminations of pregnancies in Denmark and, therefore, it is not a matter for this committee. We can only deal with issues that relate to Ireland. The issues mentioned in the letter were read aloud by Deputy Mattie McGrath last week. He read the entire contents of her letter so it is on the record. I think that we should move on, if that is okay.

If Deputy McGrath is happy that that be said in his name, I mean everything that was in her letter, then grand. I remind the Chairman of the phrase "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander".

I believe that every word Ms McDermott sent in should be read out. If it has already been read out, then I accept that point, in total.

We will publish it. Does Deputy McGrath want to say something?

I read most of it aloud but it is not the same as it being read by the secretariat.

That is my point.

We are not dealing with Denmark and the letter is on the record. I call Deputy Fitzpatrick as he has indicated a wish to speak.

I have raised concerns about Down's syndrome children from day one of this committee. I think that the email that the committee received from Ms McDermott should be read aloud for the simple reason that the letter from the Danish ambassador was read into the record. Ms McDermott's email also contains a clarification for Deputy Jonathan O'Brien who asked her to clarify a few issues. She clarified everything in her email. It would take approximately two minutes to read her email again.

I hear where the Deputy is coming from. I have ruled on the matter and that is just the way it is. In fairness, the letter is on the record and the matter related to Denmark. I remind members that we have a lot of work to do today. The letter is on the record and is available. It forms part of our report because it is on the public record. We need to move on.

I accept what the Chairman has said.

I promise the Deputy that the contents of the letter are on the record.

I thank the Chairman.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I must take care of the usual housekeeping stuff because we are in public session. As everyone already knows, I ask people to please keep their phones switched off or on aeroplane mode.

Is there any hope of getting the heat turned down in this room?

The powers that be are trying to encourage brevity.

I agree with brevity.

Every week I have had an ongoing battle about the heat in this room. There is a limit to what I can do but I have asked about the heating. I hope somebody will listen to me and turn down the heat.

The Chairman is a multi-tasker.

I thank the Senator. Today, we will make decisions on the report of the Citizens' Assembly. Our decisions will be reflected in a report that is due to be launched next Wednesday. As agreed in our module report, we will go through the report starting with module 1 that deals with the constitutional issues. Module 2 deals with the provisions in legislation and is where one can find the 13 reasons given to us by the assembly. Module 3 deals with the ancillary recommendations.

Since 20 September we have discussed and analysed these issues in great detail. Last week, members had an opportunity to put their overall views on the record. I urge that there be little if any repetition and that we are as businesslike as possible.

I will now start with the decision required for module 1. We made a decision on 18 October not to retain Article 40.3.3° in full. I now propose that we follow the procedure used by the assembly and consider whether to repeal Article 40.3.3°. In the context of today's list of amendments, and previous discussions that we have had pertain to that, we shall deal with motion No. 1. I ask Deputy Jan O'Sullivan to move the motion.

I move motion No. 1:

That, having regard to the decision of the Committee not to retain Article 40.3.3° in full, the Committee recommend its repeal simpliciter.

I will not speak at length on my motion as we have a lot of votes to get through. We have had extensive discussion with our legal adviser, and subsequently in public session, on the different options in terms of the types of wording that should be put before the people by way of referendum. It is my view, and I think the view of others on this committee, that repeal simpliciter is the most clear way of dealing with the issue. It is already the responsibility of the Legislature to legislate and, therefore, it is not necessary to replace the wording. The Citizens' Assembly has recommended, that the replacement wording be that the Legislature would legislate and to put that into the Constitution. I think that would be confusing, it is unnecessary and all of the legal advice has suggested the same. Putting any other kind of wording back into the Constitution would simply bring us back to what I view as an inappropriate dealing with the issue by way of the Constitution. I feel that it should be dealt with by legislation. I propose that we recommend repeal simpliciter as the wording to go before the people.

I apologise for my absence during the statements here last week. I am the Vice Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care and I had to attend a meeting of the committee.

Having heard and carefully considered the expert evidence before the committee, I shall vote against an inclusion of the words "repeal simpliciter". I call for a referendum to be held, as soon as reasonably practicable, to replace the eighth amendment in the Constitution and allow for terminations in the following cases: the real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman; the real and substantial risk to the life of the woman by suicide; the serious risk to the physical health of the woman; the mental health of the woman; the health of the woman; pregnancy as a result of rape; and if the unborn child has a fatal foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth. Also, the referendum or legislation should include the following caveat - if it was passed at a referendum, any such legislation would be passed within six months by the Dáil so that there are no delays.

Finally, I believe, irrespective of what happens, that there should be decriminalisation of women who obtain a termination whether it is illegal or not.

Motion 1 has been tabled by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan and motion 2 was tabled by Deputy Mattie McGrath. Is it agreed that we discuss them together? Agreed.

I want to clarify that I am in favour of repealing based on legislation published in tandem with the referendum so that citizens clearly know what will replace the eighth amendment in the event of a question being put to the people of whether they wish to repeal or not. It is for that reason that I do not favour repeal simpliciter. I believe that legislation needs to be published in tandem with any referendum that is put to the people.

I only have an issue with the first part of the motion and the words: "having regard to the decision of the Committee not to retain Article 40.3.3°," which we voted on some weeks ago. I suggest that we simplify Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's motion and say that the committee recommends the repeal simpliciter as outlined in the legal advice received by the committee and not refer to our previous Vote here. Perhaps I am being pernickety about the matter. I suggest that we have a stand-alone clear motion that does not refer to anything else that happened previously. Maybe we should state that the term "repeal simpliciter" was used in our legal advice, which would tidy up the motion.

I wish to refer to the point made by my colleague, Deputy Naughton, about having legislation in tandem.

It is my personal view that we heard evidence that showed the difficulties with publishing legislation in tandem, including that it would be subject to amendment in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is my understanding the recommendations of the committee will go to the Department of Health and that it has the heads of a Bill ready to go, depending on what is included in the report. That is happening, notwithstanding the fact that we heard, according to our legal advice, that there were slight issues with it in that it could be amended. I wanted to make that point.

I would like to speak against Deputy Jan O'Sullivan's motion and in support of Deputy Mattie McGrath's proposal that the committee recommend that Article 40.3.3° be retained in full. Article 40.3.3°, when passed in 1983, established Ireland as a beacon of human rights in this area. It took decisions on this life and death issue away from the political and judicial elites and has led to a situation where Ireland consistently has the best medical practice. Only today, we have news from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which reminds us that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world in which to have a baby. Our figures are even better than those for Britain. We have seen how in country after country, when this issue was given over to politicians, there was a steady liberalisation of the law. Therefore, we are not just talking about a limited abortion regime but about an increasingly liberal one. In repealing the eighth amendment simpliciter the people would be invited to trust that politicians would not continually liberalise the abortion regime more and more until we had a law similar to that in Britain, where four times as many abortions take place per year, per capita, according to the figures available to us. I strongly urge the committee to reject motion No. 1 and support motion No. 2.

I would like to speak on behalf of my party in favour of repeal simpliciter. It is essential that we make the decision as clear-cut as possible. Many of the difficulties, as advised by the people from whom we heard, arose from the fact that this issue was dealt with in the Constitution in the first place. We heard evidence from health professionals that the eighth amendment was an impediment in doing their job and offering a full range of health care services to women. For that reason, while I am not sure if a seconder is required, we will certainly second the amendment in favour of repeal simpliciter. We had discussions about the numbers of Irish women who travelled to England and I came to the conclusion that it was not possible to determine the numbers and that neither was it possible, therefore, to determine the actual rate of abortion for this country. On the basis of the information given to us by health professionals and persons who are very eminent in their field, including legal professionals, the overwhelming evidence is that repeal simpliciter is what we should be recommending as a committee.

I am supportive of the amendment in favour of repeal simpliciter. The best way we can reflect our support or opposition is by casting a vote. With reference to Deputy Hildegarde Naughton's proposal that, while she is in favour of repeal simpliciter, there be an addendum to it, it would be better to separate it out. If the committee agrees, in the body of the report there should be a recommendation that legislation or the heads of a Bill be published to reflect the views of the committee in order that, if a referendum is held, the public would have an idea of what the Oireachtas intended to legislate for. However, attaching it to repeal simpliciter would not make repeal simpliciter very simple.

I have a similar position. I will be supporting repeal simpliciter, but I also support Deputy Hildegarde Naughton's suggestion that the heads of a Bill be published in tandem with the referendum Bill in order that citizens would be aware of what they were voting on. That would be wise and I suggest the report specifically request the Government and the Minister for Health to publish the heads of the Bill before the referendum.

I do not think there is a contradiction in that repeal simpliciter is not an alternative to repeal and replace with alternative legislation. We know from testimony that legislation is being prepared and that, in order for it to be facilitated, Article 40.3.3° has to be removed from the Constitution. I echo the points made. We need to make the position clear and give some space for those who are in favour of legislation.

I do not think everyone understands the process, in particular those who have not been part of it and those who do not understand Dáil and legal procedures. Essentially, the legislation will not be put to the people unless the referendum is carried. That will be down to the public. The legislation would just be to give an indication of what might follow. We should include in the report that if that is what is done, that it be done without delay afterwards. There is a concern that there would be a time gap. I will be supporting the amendment in favour of repeal simpliciter.

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom fíorbhuíochas a ghabháil le Cathaoirleach an choiste as ucht na hoibre atá déanta aici sa phost sin. I congratulate the Chairman on bringing us to this important day. For those watching at home, this is an example of the Oireachtas doing its work properly. I commend all members of the committee on their diligence.

I support the motion tabled by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. Like Deputies Lisa Chambers, Billy Kelleher and Hildegarde Naughton, I believe it is important that the heads of a Bill be published in tandem to indicate the intent of the Government because it is about ensuring there will be information available and a wide and sensible debate, if possible.

I reiterate what has been said. However, if we insist on the publication of legislation simultaneously in putting the referendum, we will be in danger of delaying it. I asked the Taoiseach in the House today if he could give us a guarantee about the holding of an early referendum. His reply was that he wanted to have a referendum held in May and that he would be asking all Members of the Oireachtas to co-operate in making sure that would happen. Therefore, as we are up against time, repeal simpliciter is the best way to ensure that will happen. We know from evidence that the heads of a Bill are being published.

I want to tell members, as I was not aware of it, that if we are to vote, we will have to ring the bells, if everybody is not present. If we are coming close to the calling of a vote at any stage, although I am not trying to imprison members and those who may have to leave the room, they should be mindful of the fact that we will have to ring the bells if everyone is not present.

A press release yesterday, 12 December, from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists welcomed new figures that showed that Ireland was one of the safest places in the world in which to have a baby. A maternal death rate of 6.5 per 100,000, or one in every 15,301, is extremely low compared with a rate of 8.8 per 100,000 in the United Kingdom and 26.7 per 100,000 in the United States. Figures published by Maternal Death Enquiry Ireland show that maternal deaths in Ireland are extremely rare and that the rate is marginally ahead of rates in the United Kingdom. The data also show that 66% of maternal deaths were due to a pre-existing health condition, with heart disease being the leading cause of death. Dr. Peter Boylan, chairperson of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who came before the committee, stated:

These figures should offer reassurance about the high level of maternal care and the safety of the Irish maternity services for women and babies. A maternal death rate of 6.5 per 100,000 or 1 in every 15,301 is extremely low and compares with a rate of 8.8 per 100,000 in the UK and a rate of 26.7 per 100,000 in the US.

As I have said all along, Ireland is one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby, as confirmed by Dr. Boylan. I will not support anything that will not retain Article 40.3.3°. I will be supporting Deputy Mattie McGrath's proposal that the committee recommend that the article be retained.

Although I have already spoken, I would like to make the point that if the metric we are going to use to measure women's health is how many we let die, we are in a bad situation.

Thank you, Deputy. I will move on to Deputies Durkan and Mattie McGrath. I apologise to Deputy Durkan for not seeing him indicate.

I am not quite invisible. We should recognise the important issues involved in this debate and the evidence adduced during the hearings.

(Interruptions).

Can we have one voice in the room, please?

Over the past ten years, both sides of the debate have called for a referendum. In accordance with those expressed wishes, it follows that we should go along with the recommendation to put before the people a question on which they can decide. I think we should proceed in that context.

Thank you, Deputy. I do not think we should overstate our power at the end of the day.

Our power is not the ultimate power at all.

It is up to the Irish people.

Do the motions have to be moved, formally proposed and seconded?

They do not. Obviously, I am opposed to this. The deletion of Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution is not required to protect the life of the mother. It is possible to provide any additional clarity that may be required by medical professionals by way of ordinary legislation, or amended medical practice guidelines, or both.

Thank you, Deputy. I call Senator Ned O'Sullivan.

I am ad idem with my two colleagues, Deputies Lisa Chambers and Billy Kelleher. I do not propose to speak about each vote we will be taking. My understanding of the procedure is that we are now in a voting situation.

Exactly.

We have all spoken at length for the past three months.

Thank you for making that point, Senator.

I think we should proceed to the individual votes, maybe with a proposer and a seconder.

As he has indicated, I will let Deputy Jonathan O'Brien in.

I was going to propose what Senator Ned O'Sullivan has just proposed.

Two sensible men.

I had already made the same proposal.

Yes. It is all very sensible. I call Deputy Rabbitte.

While I am very much in favour of a referendum, I am not in favour of repeal simpliciter. I am in the same position as Deputy Browne. I support what he has said for all the same reasons.

Thank you, Deputy. The clerk will now ask members, in alphabetical order, to vote "Tá" or "Níl" on motion 1, repeal simpliciter. I will go last. I will be abstaining, unfortunately, as I believe it is the most appropriate thing for me to do as Chairman of the committee.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 6.

  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

In line with the conversation we had earlier, after each motion we will put another question to the committee regarding the position of the Citizens' Assembly. We will now move on to motion 3, in the name of Deputy O'Connell. She has proposed a substitute motion 3, which encompasses the original motions 3, 4 and 5. As no new issue is being raised in substitute motion 3, I am accepting it for consideration. It will now be discussed with motions 4, 5, 7 to 9, inclusive, and 10 to 17, inclusive, all of which deal with the risk to the life or health of the woman. I should advise that if substitute motion 3 is accepted, motions 4, 5, 7 to 9, inclusive and 10 to 17, inclusive, cannot be moved. Part of motion 9 is an exception to this. I will deal with that later.

On a point of clarification, the original grouping list we received referred to motions 11 to 17, inclusive. Is the Chair correct in referring now to motions 10 to 17, inclusive?

Some of us have a different grouping.

This change has been made a result of the late substitution.

All right. Okay.

It has been clarified.

That is fine. Go raibh maith agat.

I call Deputy O'Connell to move-----

Will the Chair circulate the new grouping list?

There is no new grouping list.

Will the Chair call out the groupings again?

I will. Motions 3, 5, 7, 8 and 11 to 17, inclusive, are being taken along with motions 4, 9 and 10 because they are encompassed by motion 4. I ask Deputy O'Connell to move motion 3. I will take short contributions on the motion before we make a decision on it.

I move motion 3:

That the Committee recommend that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the life or health of the woman is at risk and that a distinction should not be drawn between the physical and mental health of the woman. Provision for gestational time limits for the termination of pregnancies be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation – any assessment in relation to the termination of pregnancy where the life or the health of the woman is at risk be made by no fewer than two specialist physicians.

I would like to explain the genesis of this motion. As a committee, we were tasked with looking at the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. Some 72% of members of the assembly voted to recommend that "a distinction should not be drawn between the physical and mental health of the woman". That is why this motion mentions physical and mental health. I understand that termination of pregnancy where the life of the woman is at risk was dealt with in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. This motion seeks to bring everything together. I realise that members have concerns about health risks. We heard extensively at this committee about individual cases in which the level of risk can be very low in the morning, but the woman's life can be in danger by the evening. In order to deal with that, this motion provides that where the life or the health of the woman is at risk, this determination shall be made by no fewer than two specialist physicians. The 2013 Act provides for a determination to be made by two or three physicians. This committee has not heard of any case that has happened up to now in which a second or third physician has not been available to sign off on it.

I promise I will not go on all day. It is important for members to understand what we mean by risk to the health of the woman. Severe hypertension - blood pressure - can be difficult to control in the case of a pregnant woman. It is often the case that when high blood pressure kicks in around the 20th or 22nd week, it gets to a point where the only way to rectify the problem is to deliver the child. Severe hypertension, which is difficult to control, is often associated with kidney disease in the woman that is likely to deteriorate in pregnancy. The outcome for the woman in such circumstances is often a stroke.

I would like members to think of a woman who has one, two or three children at home - I have three at home - and is going to have a fourth child, but who has hypertension at 23 weeks and faces the possibility of being rendered disabled and unable to communicate for the rest of her young life. Often, diabetes can be more difficult to control during pregnancy. There are also clotting disorders. On its own, a clot in a leg is not a major problem, but if it becomes a pulmonary embolism, that is, a clot in the lung, it can pose a serious risk of stroke during the pregnancy if the pregnancy is not terminated.

Members may have concerns regarding gestational time limits. The motion reads: "Provision for gestational time limits for the termination of pregnancies be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation". I cannot understand how anyone could have any issue with that, given that the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists comprises the experts in this field.

Generally, the issue of gestational age limits only applies to late diagnoses of foetal abnormality, for example, anencephaly, due to scanning being unavailable, which we have addressed in the ancillary recommendations. If viability is reached, it is not regarded as an abortion, but a pre-term delivery. Doctors always make every effort to save the baby's life. Viability now sits at approximately 23 weeks. Although survival rates are low at that gestational level and disability rates in survivors are high, we have maintained the lives of people born at 23 weeks.

I wish to reassure members that the health risk to the mother would be defined by two doctors and the gestational limits would be set by the doctors' governing or ethical bodies.

I have a difficulty with how the motion is worded. I have a formal proposal to make. I do not agree that a single motion should deal with both life and health. The committee has received evidence stating that simply being pregnant creates a risk to one's health, so it is important that we have the correct wording. I would like to see the phrase "substantial risk to health" used.

My formal proposal is that motion 3 be subdivided into parts A and B, with part A reading: "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the life of the mother is at risk." It takes into account the existence of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 and that this issue is catered for. It is why a formal proposal on that ground was not submitted on behalf of Deputy Kelleher, Senator Ned O'Sullivan and me.

Part B would read: "That the committee recommends the termination of pregnancy be lawful where the health of the woman is at a substantial risk" or "there is a substantial risk to the health of the woman". The rest of the motion would remain the same. I formally make this proposal.

I understand that motion 9 is in this grouping. It is not terribly different from the composite motion proposed by Deputy O'Connell. The only difference is that not just legislation would be required, but also regulation through the Medical Council and An Bord Altranais.

If this composite motion is accepted, we should also recognise that there cannot be a delay in receiving medical opinion where there is a serious risk to health. That matter could be included.

To speak in support of the motion, it is a well-worded composite based on motions proposed by a number of parties. I respectfully disagree with Deputy Chambers, in that the evidence has been clear - we cannot grade risk. That has been a consistent message from the medical experts who have presented to us. For that reason, we should support the substitute motion 3.

I will interject to say that we discussed the possibility of voting on motions and then clarifying by voting on the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations. That covers us, but I will continue to take comments from members.

This is an important distinction. From the evidence presented during the hearings and having regard to the rapidity with which a woman's health can deteriorate in a situation such as has been set out, what may well not be a serious risk at a particular time may be a progressive risk, with its progress rapid, so that by the time the risk is determined as being serious and action is taken - if it is presumed that the seriousness of the risk will determine at all times what happens - it may be too late to save either mother or baby.

We have had this debate and I respect the point made by my colleague, but it is important that we remember something. If we recall the evidence that we heard, cases were referred to in which there was a rapid decline in the health of the mother. Either that rapid decline was not spotted in time or, if it was, it was impossible to do anything about it because it happened so quickly that no difference could be made.

In the interests of the health and safety of the woman and, for that matter, the child, it is better that action be taken earlier rather than later. That is the evidence that was adduced in the Citizens' Assembly's hearings and at this committee. That is the best medical evidence. In order to ensure we do not have equivocation, we need to attach to the motion the most serious element that can happen in a particular case.

We should be conscious of the points raised by Deputy O'Connell regarding medical conditions and the degree to which a woman's condition and, consequently, that of the baby yet to be born can deteriorate.

It is important to point out that the first part of Deputy Chambers's proposal is the Citizens' Assembly's first recommendation.

May I clarify something that might have got lost in what I was saying? I apologise if I was not clear. I am trying to separate the life and physical health elements into two separate votes. Deputy Kelleher, Senator Ned O'Sullivan and I have motion 10, which deals with risk to health, so we have no difficulty in that regard. In the interests of clarity, however, and given that the first vote that the Citizens' Assembly took was just on the life element and that we have legislation on that point,-----

And we will vote on that.

-----I am suggesting that we split the motion in half. We would still be voting on it as it stands, as I am not dissecting or taking away from it. I am merely suggesting that we just vote on the first line - risk to life - separately to the health element.

A few other members have indicated. I will allow them to contribute, after which I will make a comment. We will then need to move on.

The elephant in the room is that, in Britain, abortion on the grounds of mental health issues in particular has been the ground on which the widespread availability of abortion - effectively abortion on demand - has occurred. This is despite the fact that the ground has shifted in this area. When we heard evidence about mental health, we were reminded that there was no evidence associating abortion with improvements in mental health for women and that there was some evidence of a low to moderate increased risk to women's mental health in certain cases. That has led to calls for a change to the approach in Britain, even among those who support abortion as a right generally, so as not to link abortion with mental health as a ground. That was not challenged before this committee.

Linking mental health with physical health, in effect, seeks to bring in abortion on demand under the pretext of a therapeutic intervention.

On the question of physical health, we have heard no evidence at this committee that the health of any woman was compromised by the requirements of the settled law of Ireland. That is a fact. We have heard no evidence that any doctor was ever pursued by the criminal law for having made an appropriate therapeutic intervention that resulted in the loss of the life of an unborn child. The reason for that is as follows. Under the settled law of Ireland the threat to a woman's life does not have to be imminent. Several times Deputy Durkan has mentioned cases where people have died. I would like to hear what he is talking about because the settled law of Ireland has not compromised anybody's life.

I urge the Senator to direct all his comments through the Chair.

I will make two final points about the two specialist physicians requirement. First, it is known that the requirement in Britain to have the signatures of two doctors has been widely flouted on occasion. There is evidence, and needless to say this committee did not seek the evidence, of pre-signed letters of authorisation from doctors. That is a chilling reminder of how this law can easily be abused.

Second, any reference to best available medical evidence is a euphemism. The people, who this committee considers vectors of the best available medical evidence, spoke in terms of requiring abortion on request. In fact, their evidence always operated to reject distinctions between health grounds and a more general dealing with abortion on the grounds of a request. In one particularly chilling case we heard doctors speak in a very blasé fashion about late-term abortions and that we should not be distracted by late-term abortions of children even for a trivial reason like a cleft palate.

Please stick to the point.

I urge the rejection of these amendments.

I thank the Senator and call Deputy Jan O'Sullivan.

I reject the two statements about mental health being a ground for abortion on demand and that no woman's life has been at risk because of the current law. I disagree with both statements.

I support the composite motion put forward by Deputy O'Connell. There is merit in Deputy Catherine Murphy's motion to draw up guidelines in consultation with the Medical Council and An Bord Altranais. Perhaps guidelines would be drawn up anyway. Maybe we can include the provision in the wording in some other way but it is a useful point.

We can put it in.

I have a procedural question on the motions put forward by Deputies O'Connell and Lisa Chambers. Will we vote on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation in terms of a real and substantial physical-----

That is the plan. It does obviate the necessity, in fact, to vote. I mean some aspects of the motion, as I said before.

I refer to the ground of where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman, which currently exists already. Will we vote on the matter?

Yes, we absolutely will.

I am a bit confused now. I support Deputy O'Connell's motion. There may have been a little disagreement over the requirement for two specialist positions but one would not die in a ditch for it. Her motion brings together several of the grounds which, if accepted, would not allow for us to subsequently vote on the reasons because the reasons would then be accepted. One of the recommendations is to link physical and mental health. I support what Senator Gavan said about the gradation of risks. All of the medical evidence suggests that one cannot grade risk as it is a fluid and moving thing. I think we should be guided by the doctors and nurses on this matter.

On a point of clarification, An Bord Altranais was abolished and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland was created.

That is true.

I suggest we refer to the board when we speak about the organisation.

I call Deputy Buttimer. I mean Senator. I seem to have promoted him to Deputy.

The Chairman is following a good pattern.

I call Senator Buttimer.

The settled law of this country has been shown to us on this committee as acting as an impediment to doctors, obstetricians and professionals doing their job.

I am happy to support the composite motion as it brings together different strands and, in particular, embraces the evidence that we have heard. I would like Deputy Catherine Murphy's motion on the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and Medical Council to be encompassed in this motion as well.

There is no difficulty there and we will get to that. Senator Ruane indicated a while ago and I must allow her to comment.

I have no issue with Deputy O'Connell's motion. I have an issue with the way the motions are grouped because my two motions are excluded even though they seek to include socio-economic as a health ground. We have heard lots of evidence about how some countries and jurisdictions, that have access to abortion on health grounds, also include socio-economic but do not name it as a ground.

I fear at this point that people do not understand how class, being in a minority group or being disadvantaged and suffering deprivation can have an impact. Sometimes these matters only come to light after the 12-week period. I hope the up to 12-week provision captures most of the women who might find themselves in this situation because of their socio-economic status. However, it does not mean that their socio-economic status will not affect them in their 14th or 15th week of pregnancy. They may find themselves on the street at any stage of their pregnancy. Their parents may have put them out of the family home because of the pregnancy. Perhaps the pregnant woman is unable to access supports or the father of her unborn child may have abandoned her. Loads of socio-economic stuff can come up after the 12th week of pregnancy. I hope that we could incorporate socio-economic under the health ground like other jurisdictions do. A vote on Deputy O'Connell's motion will totally rule out our consideration of socio-economic as a health ground. Can we address the matter?

I know that the socio-economic reason is recognised as a ground later on. I feel people are a little fearful to name socio-economic as a ground. I thought that people would be more susceptible to encompassing it as a health ground instead.

Has anyone else indicated? Deputy Lisa Chambers has indicated her wish to comment. I remind members that we need to move on.

I have listened to all of the contributions. We will get an opportunity to vote on the risk to life later on.

On the recommendation.

For clarity, I support services being provided where there is a risk to the woman's health and trust that doctors will make the right call.

Motion 9 deals with the Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. It is a very good suggestion. As I am a lawyer I think inserting the word "substantial" would make things clearer for me. However, I will not be difficult and scupper everything because of one word.

Can we move on?

Madam Chairperson, Senator Mullen asked me to clarify a matter and I think that I should do so.

I did not make my remarks lightly. I made them having dealt with individual cases and not just sparsely but in recent times. All of the medical attention was available but it was not enough to help people determine when the right time to intervene was. It is critical, regardless of whatever intervention taken place, that recognition is given to the fact that both the mother and the baby are at risk at the same time. I mean an intervention, not necessarily to terminate the life of either. The time it takes to provide the medical assistance that is required can range between half an hour and two hours. It is important for me to emphasise that lives can be lost in that period.

(Interruptions).

I would like to just hear the voice of Deputy Durkan and I do not want to ask again today.

The medical practitioners have experienced such situations and can confirm what I have said. In all of the cases that I have dealt with, of which there have been a few, the patient was the first person to indicate that she was unwell and that she did not have the confidence to continue. We must keep all of that in mind.

The question is on the composite motion 3.

We are all present so we can vote.

I want to ask a question. It is up to Senator Ruane to do the following. Can her motions on the ground of socio-economic be extracted and voted on separately?

We will come to that.

Because it says it is included in this.

It is okay. We will deal with it. The vote has been called and I will ask the Clerk to the Committee to read out the names.

Is this on the composite motion?

Yes, on the composite motion.

A Chathaoirligh,-----

There is no further comment; we are voting.

On a point of order-----

One cannot make a point of order once the vote has been called.

I only want to ask that what we are voting on would be read out. That is a reasonable request. Members are talking about composite motions.

The actual motion, that is fair enough.

Please. Each time we vote, we should have it read out.

Yes, that is fair enough. The motion states:

That the Committee recommend that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the life or health of the woman is at risk and that a distinction should not be drawn between the physical and mental health of the woman. Provision for gestational time limits for the termination of pregnancies be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation – any assessment in relation to the termination of pregnancy where the life or the health of the woman is at risk be made by no fewer than two specialist physicians.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 6.

  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

Can we have quiet in the room, please? I am sorry to be so bossy but we will never get through our work unless we listen to one another.

We will now put the first Citizens' Assembly recommendation now: "That the Committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman."

On a point of order, "real and substantial risk to the life of the woman" is not a motion in itself. What are the prior words that govern that from the Citizens' Assembly recommendations?

We are voting on the position of the Citizens' Assembly, basically, the first recommendation.

What was the full wording of that recommendation?

A "real and substantial".

That the termination of a pregnancy would be lawful, obviously, in circumstances where there is a real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman.

Were those the words, "the termination of a pregnancy would be lawful"?

A real and substantial physical risk to the life.

Sorry, one second. What I have in front of me here-----

I do not have it in front of me. I would appreciate the assistance of the secretariat on that.

The "real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman" is the crux of the issue. It is basically, "That the Committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a real and substantial physical risk to the life of the woman." Is that agreed? Agreed.

Now we will move on to reason 2. There is an amendment in the name of Deputy Mattie McGrath, motion 6. I will allow Deputy McGrath to move the motion.

I move motion 6:

That the Committee reject risk to the life of the woman by suicide as a ground for the lawful termination of pregnancy.

I sat through the 2013 Oireachtas hearings. The evidence adduced at the 2013 Oireachtas hearings on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 re suicidality and mental health remains relevant. Abortion is not a viable treatment for suicidality. We heard that. That is my amendment.

This is the only recommendation, as far as I can see, governing the possibility of subtracting from the grounds for abortion that are currently legal under the law of the country. It is fair to say that there was substantial evidence before the health committee in 2013, including from suicide prevention experts who recommended against suicide as a ground. There have been substantial and evidence-based claims that this is not an evidence-based ground for abortion. Certainly, there was evidence from psychiatric experts before this committee which appears to distance the majority of the psychiatric medical profession from this whole business of providing for abortion on the ground of a threat of suicide.

While I accept that the committee's apparent will to see abortion legalised as a matter of right on demand will make the issue moot anyway, I support Deputy Mattie McGrath's proposal that we reject this use of suicide as a ground.

I should note in passing as well that a small, but significant, number of children have died as a result of this invocation of a threat to life. It does not make sense in terms of evidence-based medicine. It never did. It certainly is a major injustice to the children involved.

It certainly does not make sense in terms of suicide prevention. If one thinks of any other situation where a threat of suicide would lead to a particular fulfilment of a demand, it is easy to see why this was bad law to begin with.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 17.

  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

We will now vote on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation.

Question, "That the Committee recommends the termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman by suicide." put. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Chairman, is it not the case that when the Chair puts the recommendation, that all in favour say, Tá; and all against say, Níl. That is a voice vote and it is only then, members say Vótáil. Is that how it works?

Yes. That is how it works. Does Senator Mullen wish to call a vote?

No, not in the sense of calling for a vótáil.

I should have been clearer.

Is the point I made on the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and the Medical Council noted and articulated in the report?

Clerk to the Committee

Yes.

I do not think there is a need to do anything more than that.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

No. 7 has already been discussed. We are moving on to reason 3.

Question,"That the Committee recommends the termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a serious risk to the physical health of the woman." put and declared carried.

We now proceed to reason 4, the issue of a serious risk to the mental health of the woman.

Question, "That the Committee recommends the termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a serious risk to the mental health of the woman." put.

Is that an amendment?

Clerk to the Committee

That is the substantive motion.

Is it from Citizens' Assembly?

We cannot move motion No. 8, and that may be leading to some confusion. We are voting on the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation.

I ask members to bear with me. At the outset we changed how we would do our voting. It just takes a little longer to organise it.

Before we proceed, could the Chair state the matter on which we are voting?

The question is "That the Committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a serious risk to the mental health of the woman."

The clerk will now ask members, in alphabetical order, to vote "Tá" or "Níl" on the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 4.

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

We will now proceed to reason 5, a serious risk to the health of the woman. We have already dealt with motions 9 and 10 and we will clarify the issue raised by Deputy Catherine Murphy on the Medical Council and the An Bord Altranais. We will put the question on the substantive recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly.

On a point of clarification, is this a vote on a serious risk to the health of a woman, without distinction as to physical or mental health?

Exactly. I will read out what we are voting on.

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a serious risk to the health of the woman." put and declared carried.

We will now proceed to reason 6, risk to the physical health of the woman.

On a point of clarification, in the context of the previous composite motion do the provisions around gestational limits and so on hold?

Clerk to the Committee

That still holds.

That still holds.

Clerk to the Committee

Senator Ruane has an issue and wishes to include "socio-economic considerations."

Senator Ruane raised an issue that is relevant to this. I propose that we vote on the issue and we can take note of any issues such as the issue that Senator Ruane has raised in the report.

Rather than vote on the two motions separately, we can just remove the word "physical" because there would be no distinction between physical and mental health, as per the previous vote. So rather than vote twice on my two motions, I suggest that we have one vote but we remove the word "physical".

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Will the Chair outline what we are voting on?

I will be delighted to clarify what we are voting on, when I know myself.

The question is "That the Committee recommends the termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a risk to the health of the woman and that socio-economic considerations be taken into consideration in this regard."

As all members are present, we can vote on motion 12. The clerk will now ask members, in alphabetical order, to vote "Tá" or "Níl" on motion 12.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 10.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Senators Catherine Noone and Ned O'Sullivan.

We will now move on to reason 7.

Chairman, it is my understanding that we are putting the question on reason 6.

Yes, reason 6 refers to the risk to the physical health of the woman.

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a risk to the physical health of the woman.", put and declared carried.

Is it possible to have a break?

We will take a ten-minute break now.

Sitting suspended at 4.05 and resumed at 4.15 p.m.

We are now back in public session and will move on to reason 7, risk to the mental health of the woman.

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a risk to the mental health of the woman", put and declared carried.

We will move on to reason 8.

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a risk to the health of the woman", put.

Is it the case that motions 14 and 15 fall?

Yes, exactly.

My apologies. I just wanted to be clear on that.

That is fine. I will put the question again. Everyone is present. However, I remind members our work will be delayed if they leave and do not come back. I am not trying to keep them prisoner but, as I said, we will get through our work more quickly if everyone remains.

With regard to the last vote, did the Chairman say at the end that someone was missing?

No, there was no vote. We have not had it yet. The question is whether the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy would be lawful where there is a risk to the health of the woman.

Question put: "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy would be lawful where there is a risk to the health of the woman."
The Committee divided: Tá, 14; Níl, 6.

  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

We now move on to reason No. 9 which is where the pregnancy is a result of rape. There is a motion in the name of Deputies Kelleher, Chambers-----

I am sorry about this but I would like to get some clarification if I may. It may assist others because, as the Chairman will understand, a lot is happening.

It is hard to follow.

Is it the case that reason No. 6, which is on risk to the physical health, reason No. 7, which is on risk to the mental health, and reason No. 8 have been voted through?

I apologise for holding up proceedings.

That is no problem.

The motion is that the committee would recommend, in view of the complexities of legislating for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape and incest, that it would be more appropriate to deal with the issue by making the termination of pregnancy lawful with no restriction as to reason up to a gestation limit of up to 12 weeks through a GP-led service.

I move motion 18:

That the committee recommend, in view of the complexities of legislating for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape and incest, that it be more appropriate to deal with the issue by making the termination of pregnancy lawful, with no restriction as to reason, up to a gestational limit of up to 12 weeks, through a GP-led service.

The purpose to this is to allow for termination of pregnancy up to 12 weeks without reason. In particular, this would also facilitate the issue around rape. We have heard substantial evidence that suggests it would not be possible to legislate directly for terminations in the context of rape. There are varying views in the committee but I think the overwhelming evidence and legal advice is that it would be impractical to legislate for that purpose. A further factor would be the time constraints surrounding the necessary proofs if rape was provided for as a standalone ground in legislation. Overall, this would facilitate many of the issues surrounding that complexity-----

Can we just have Deputy Kelleher's voice, please?

I thank the Chairman. This would address the complexity involved in defining that particular issue which was identified during the committee hearings. Further, this would be without restriction, so no reason would be required up to 12 weeks. We also provide that this would be a GP-led service. We heard evidence that many women and young girls are taking abortive pills that are purchased online through the Internet. They are delivered by An Post to this country and consumed to carry out a termination. This happens without any health or GP oversight.

Having listened to the evidence of the Irish College of General Practitioners and others I think it is important that there would be some medical oversight that would ensure there was quality control in other words and that where women or girls procure a termination by abortive pills it would be done in their best interests. That is the purpose of the amendment and I hope it gets broad support.

I thank Deputy Kelleher. I will call members but a lot of people indicated at the same time. Members should let me know if they wish to speak. I noted Deputies O'Connell, Louise O'Reilly, Catherine Murphy and Naughton.

Motion 28 is in my name. I am fully supportive of the motion tabled by Deputies Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan but I have a couple of issues with it on a technical level. The intention is to have a GP-led service. What about a case where somebody in a rural area does not want the local GP to know and presents at a Dublin maternity hospital? Could we amend the motion to say a GP or hospital doctor could deal with it? Perhaps I am wrong but I do not see any mention of termination tablets or oral medication.

That would be a matter for the medical advice to the person. It would be decided by the clinician. Whether it would be surgical or medical would not be a call I would feel competent in making.

I just want to make sure there is no ambiguity here. I was going to table an amendment to the motion but we can discuss it here. A person could be contraindicated to use termination tablets even at five weeks. The motion covers both surgical and medical.

It leaves it entirely in a clinical-led situation.

It leaves it to the doctor.

The other issue I have is that my understanding – I have checked this with consultants – is that currently termination tablets are licensed up to ten weeks in the domestic, non-clinical setting and thereafter can be used depending on the doctor. The reason I changed my original motion to 12 weeks was to allow for variations in menstrual cycle length but also to encompass a change in the drug licensing laws. The morning after pill in this country was licensed for 72 hours and now we have a version available for five days. That changed in recent times. I just do not want the motion to be in any way restrictive if something developed. We could include medical doctor rather than GP to cover cases where somebody presents at a hospital. I accept what Deputy Kelleher said about the doctor making the decision and that is fine, but also that it would be determined by licensing practice.

This is an indicative motion and it will be underpinned by legislation which would have to provide more clarity.

I thank Deputy Kelleher for the clarification. I will move on to the next person who indicated.

On a point of clarification, as a proposer of the motion at which point do I come in? Is it at the beginning? I am happy to wait. I do not mind.

I think Deputy Lisa Chambers should perhaps come in at this point.

I do not wish to cut across anybody. In relation to the GP-led service, I have no major difficulty with including a reference to a medical doctor but the reason the motion is drafted in this way is in recognition and acceptance of the fact that people are ordering medical abortion pills online. As Deputy Kelleher stated, they are being delivered by An Post in this jurisdiction. That is happening and the evidence we have is that this could pose a risk to the life or health of the woman who is taking it and who, because of the current legal status, may be afraid to seek help if it is needed. By making it a GP-led service there will be medical oversight by qualified persons, which we are not. I am not a qualified person so I am reluctant to stray too far into the medical aspects of the issue. It is a matter for the Minister for Health to prepare legislation and for the consultants and doctors working in this area to deal with that in more detail. The reason we use the phrase "without restriction as to reason" is that we have issues around rape and incest and other such complexities. Perhaps it is possible to legislate but it would be extremely difficult. I tend to think it is almost impossible to legislate based on the evidence that has been put before the committee.

The reason we say "up to a limit of 12 weeks" is based on the evidence that was given to the committee and I went on to the Women on Web website where it states that it is available up to 12 weeks. I assume that what is on the website is put up there by the doctors running it. I have no difficulty in adding in "medical doctor" but the idea is that it would be a localised service done by a GP.

I know a lot of people have indicated but I will make a suggestion that might work. We could say, "The committee recommends in view of the complexities of legislating for a termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape and incest that it would be more appropriate to deal with this issue by making the termination of pregnancy lawful, with no restriction as to reason up to a gestation limit of up to 12 weeks through a GP-led service or delivered in a clinical context and determined by law and licensing practice in Ireland." Is that agreeable to members? I will come back to those who have indicated.

I think we are conflating two things here, that is, allowing 12 weeks for the use of the abortion pill with putting a limit on the request for an abortion because of rape and incest. I think it is a very sensitive issue and we need to be careful. If we put a 12-week limit on a request for an abortion in the case of rape or incest we may well be excluding a whole cohort of women. We are going through a period now where Women’s Aid has 16 days of drawing our attention to the question of domestic violence and we are seeing programmes on the television in the home. The Rape Crisis Centre gave a presentation recently in Dublin City Council. There is a whole cohort of women who live in abusive relationships who are scared to come forward to look after their own health while they are caught in that abuse and while they are caught in that trap. It may take more than 12 weeks for them to get out of that space. It could be 16 weeks or 18 weeks. If we limit access to 12 weeks then we are doing some of the most vulnerable, done down, badly treated women in society a huge disservice. That includes women who are victims of incest who get pregnant as a result. Again, we are looking at an extremely difficult situation to get out of both mentally, physically and financially and it may be that they are the ones who are in need of the late abortions more than anything else. We are conflating two things about the use of the abortion pill up to 12 weeks and the very serious nature of rape and incest.

We have already agreed that a provision for gestational time limits for termination of pregnancy would be guided by the best available medical evidence and provided for in legislation.

Yes, except we are dealing with the rape section now.

We are voting on the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly also, so they are not mutually exclusive. We will be voting on the two.

I wish to speak on the motion tabled by Deputies Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan. I agree with you, Chair. I would like to cover rape and incest. We heard from Tom O'Malley of the difficulties around proving rape and all that entails such as court cases and delays. It is also important to address the fact that abortion pills are widely available and unregulated with no medical oversight. The incorporation of the line suggested by Deputy O'Connell into the motion, to the effect that it would be done in a clinical context determined by law and licensing practices, could perhaps cover the medical abortion pill. I think that would cover it all. My understanding is that it is safe to take the abortion pill up to ten or 12 weeks.

I will read the question when the remaining members have spoken, namely, Deputies Louise O'Reilly and Catherine Murphy and Senator Mullen.

On behalf of Sinn Féin we will not be voting against the motion but neither are we in a position to support it. We will be considering further the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. It is a long-standing policy of Sinn Féin that we accept the need for the availability of abortion in the case of rape, incest and sexual violence but in order to best reflect party policy we will be supporting reason 9 because we think it is important that that is supported. We had understood a different sequencing in terms of how things were going to happen. That point has already been articulated. We are not in a position to support the motion but neither will we vote against it this afternoon.

Science does not stand still. If the licensing period is ten weeks, we have got to future-proof to some degree, even if there is a doubt about that.

We are conflating issues. I had a motion, 27, stating termination of pregnancy should be lawful with no restriction as to reason, up to a gestational limit of 12 weeks. That was to capture quite a lot of factors. I had another amendment on circumstances where there is a surgical abortion rather than a medical one and on decriminalisation. Several factors can get rolled in together.

We are going to deal with the decriminalisation aspect.

I know but I am not sure that putting the various aspects together is the best way to achieve our objective.

The clinical approach is a better one. There will be primary care centres that may well have nurses prescribing who are educated to degree level. We have got to capture that and not overly restrict what can be done. I take the point that is being made. The witnesses from Holland were quite useful in this regard. In their jurisdiction, they have a 12-week limit but they drew attention, in particular, to the fact that those who tend to present later, where there has been rape or incest, for example, tend to be younger. The delegates from Holland outlined how they deal with a combination of factors, as in a rape accompanied by distress and mental health issues or, perhaps, a physical health issue where somebody very young is involved. One can proceed by separating the two factors but I am concerned that we are trying to capture everything in one measure. I am not opposed to it but I would rather see us dealing with each separately. The amendment on the clinical aspect is a good additional one.

I cannot understand how members who might have voted against the provision of abortion on grounds of health simpliciter - on the basis, presumably, that it imports too wide a set of grounds and invokes the undemonstrated and, in fact, contra-indicated use of mental health as a ground - could vote for or support abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, which is effectively what this is about.

On a point of order, that is not what it is about; that is the Senator's interpretation. I reject outright the use of the term "abortion on demand" and the statement that our motion here suggests it.

I do not need to note that was not a point of order; it is simply an interruption of another speaker who did not interrupt the Senator.

Again, on a point of order, that is the Senator's interpretation.

It happens a good bit in here.

Yes. I do not interrupt, actually.

The Senator does.

I just want to put that on the record. I do not believe I have ever done it.

To me, this is a very distressing proposal. Motion 18 does not state "in view of the difficulties with regulating the online purchase of abortion pills". The substance is "because it is difficult to legislate for termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape or incest". I get why many good people are conflicted about those cases. They are very heart-rending and difficult but there is something reminiscent of the judgment of Solomon about proposing that, since they are so complex to deal with, we should therefore propose that a much wider category of unborn children may be legally killed. If one examines the law in Britain, one notes that the vast majority of Britain's staggering number of abortions per year, which is nearly 200,000, take place in the period up to 12 weeks, as I understand it.

At meetings of this committee, we never examined the size of an unborn child at 12 weeks, or just under. As far as I know, we never looked at any images of an abortion. I believe Deputy Mattie McGrath invited people to inform themselves at some level but the committee did not do so. I do not even know whether the people proposing this could tell us or discuss in detail the size or developmental stage of the little creature whose legal right to exist is proposed to be dismissed here. There is no difference between a surgical abortion and a medical abortion considering the impact on the unborn baby. We have what I would regard as a really distressing proposal. It is harder to imagine a better example of how politicians can lose sight of the humanity of unborn children through this whole process. As I have said before, if one asks people the situations in which one can take away the right of unborn children, the answer seems to be, "more and more, actually."

This is a very disturbing proposal. It is for abortion on demand. Having no restriction as to reason effectively means that if a person asks for an abortion, she gets it. I am not clear from the wording whether it is intended that the general practitioner would prescribe the pills or whether they would have to be taken in a general practitioner's surgery but I do know there is no child under 12 weeks in the womb who would have the right to the protection of the law if the Irish people were to take this on board. It is a staggering proposal and I urge people to reconsider it.

We are in danger of straying and staying here until Christmas, the way we are going. I have just a couple of points. People are confused about why we are here. We are not drafting legislation; we are issuing guidance to the Oireachtas to draft legislation. The idea that some people raised, namely, that our vote on this would be misinterpreted as a statement that there should be terminations in cases of rape only up to 12 weeks, does not reflect what anybody is saying. A way of dealing with this is to take the vote on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation first. I would imagine that it will be carried on its own. It does not imply a restriction regarding any limit in cases of rape. We should then consider the motion on the period of 12 weeks without any restrictions as to reason. For some, a termination will be because of rape. For others, there will be other reasons. So be it; that is the motion. That will deal with the matter so we will not just be cutting off access to terminations in cases of rape at 12 weeks.

I have outlined our position and the rationale that underpins it but I want to be very clear that this will not hinder us from supporting the final report. We fully accept that this is a process from which a report will emerge. Not everyone will agree with it but we fully intend to support the report.

Unless somebody has something different to say-----

I have a procedural point. We need to have consistent language in the various recommendations. In the decriminalisation section, there is probably better language in respect of clinical and medical guidelines and so on. In writing the report, we should use the same language in each section.

That is a good suggestion.

We need to acknowledge the widespread use of the medical pill that is now available for termination. It is already being used, and it is also used in the United Kingdom and many other countries. In tandem, we have to recognise that there are no legal or medical supervision requirements attached to the use of the product. To fail to address that issue could possibly leave the State liable in terms of its duty of care. We need to bear that in mind.

Is there a restriction on the second intervention? Deputy O'Connell intervened for a second time earlier.

It was a clarification. Does the Senator want to clarify a point?

If there is a certain amount of this is going on, one could have a public education campaign. One could do as I suggested earlier-----

We will get to that-----

-----and guarantee that a person could seek medical care. To legalise something bad because it is already occurring, however, is really to say we should not have any law in the land prohibiting anything.

The other way-----

I am not going to allow a conversation on this. I want to put the question.

I know but we need to answer. The other answer is that we ignore it altogether and pretend it is not happening, in which case criminalisation remains in place, leaving it open to somebody to take an action against somebody who is already availing of a particular route to deal with a situation such as rape. If it is intended that we should oppose that and restrict the ability of a woman who has been raped and needs to avail herself of the facility in question, I do not believe we should isolate her at all.

I was not going to say anything. After 21 days, an unborn child has a heartbeat.

I think that-----

(Interruptions).

The Deputy has the floor. If members want to briefly clarify something afterwards, indicate and I will allow it. Deputy Fitzpatrick, please continue.

This is a very important day. I would say to Deputy O'Connell that it is very bad form to butt in when people are speaking. In the three months of this committee, I have never once interrupted her. I have shown her some respect. People should not be afraid to speak up here.

I am trying to make sure that Deputy Fitzpatrick can speak uninterrupted.

This is a very serious issue, and in fairness I think Senator Mullen is correct. If we go ahead and approve this it is going to allow abortion on demand, as far as I am concerned. I think it is totally and utterly wrong. I said it from day one. The child's heart beats after three weeks, and I think it is very important that the people out there realise that if we pass this, it will be abortion on demand.

I am going to allow Deputy Naughton a brief comment. Deputy O'Connell wants to clarify something. Deputy McGrath also wishes to comment.

I will be very brief. For me, this amendment is really the only way to deal with rape and incest according to the legal experts we had before us. I do not know if the Fianna Fáil group would be willing to accept some form of amendment to this to include abortion pills. I would like to explain within this amendment that this is because of the widespread availability of unregulated abortion pills, about which we need to do something.

That can be done in the report too, Deputy.

I would like to have it included in some way. It may be that "licensing laws" or "determined by law and licensing practices" covered that-----

Would it be acceptable to Deputy Naughton to have that included in the report?

The difficulty in only including medical termination could arise if there are complications in the pregnancy of a very young girl, for example, who may need a surgical intervention for the termination to be completely carried out. Again, we are only being indicative here. The legislation will be published by the Government and brought to the floor of the Dáil. I do not think we need to be overly prescriptive. I understand the points people are making. This is proposing 12 weeks as outlined. If we get overly prescriptive on whether it is a medical or surgical procedure we potentially tie the hands of the experts, that is, the GPs or clinicians.

It is fair to say that abortion pills were an issue that Ms Justice Laffoy indicated that we should cover. We have covered it, and we discovered a lot of information about it.

This covers it, and our report needs to cover it. Would that be satisfactory from the Deputy's perspective?

I would be in agreement with that, and if we could put in "determined by law and licensing practice" as well, I do not think it takes-----

I am going to read out that question. Can I put the question? Sorry, Deputy McGrath.

This is why I said during the committee that we should have opened the debate up more and had a broader discussion. I am totally opposed to this, and I want to put that on record. I will be voting against it.

Thank you.

On a point of clarification, I do accept that Deputy Fitzpatrick does not interrupt people at the committee. However, there is no heartbeat at three weeks. Obviously, from the moment the sperm and the egg fuse the genetic material is there for all of us to have existed, but there is no heartbeat. At seven weeks there is a pulsating tube, from the evidence I have read. It is unfair to suggest that occurs at three weeks.

I am putting the question now on the motion, as amended.

Question put: "That the committee recommend, in view of the complexities of legislating for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape and incest, that it be more appropriate to deal with the issue by making the termination of pregnancy lawful, with no restriction as to reason, up to a gestational limit of up to 12 weeks, through a GP-led service or delivered in a clinical context, and determined by law and licensing practice in Ireland."
The Committee divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 5.

  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Deputies Jonathan O'Brien and Louise O'Reilly and Senators Paul Gavan and Catherine Noone.

We will now proceed to the Citizens' Assembly's recommendation.

Question, "That the committee recommend that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the pregnancy is as a result of rape.", put and declared carried.

We now move on to reason 10. This brings us to another motion in the name of Deputies Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan.

Question proposed: "That the committee accept that a medical diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality requires a compassionate approach to the family affected, and that termination of pregnancy services should be available in such circumstances."

I will be very brief. Certainly the evidence to committee-----

Before Deputy Chambers begins, I have to mention that there is also a motion 21 which is linked to this one. We will discuss these together. My apologies for the interruption.

The motion is to ask that the committee recommend that in circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality and a diagnosis of same by a medical team, the family affected be shown a compassionate approach. Evidence before the committee included a harrowing account of the legal situation that families find themselves in, where an individual spoke about suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because she was not provided with services here in her own country. For me personally, this is a matter the pregnant woman, in conjunction with her family, doctor, partner and those close to her, to decide for themselves. It should not be limited in law.

Thank you.

I welcome this motion. If Deputy Kelleher, Deputy Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan were up for this, we could insert a wording based on the evidence we heard from Dr. Peter Thompson on the issues around the diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. He spoke of two doctors acting in good faith. I wonder if we could put something like that in here. If a woman's baby is diagnosed with a severe fatal foetal abnormality, she would definitely want a second opinion, I would imagine. We have already spoken about two doctors in a previous motion. If we could mention two doctors acting in good faith, I think it covers the issues around fatal foetal abnormality not being a defined medical term.

Any time there is a medical intervention as such, it is important the phrase "in good faith" is used. It is a matter for the committee.

I have no difficulty with the concept. However, I think we are becoming overly prescriptive in an area where legislation will be required thereafter. We are tying the hands of the Legislature. This is requesting a compassionate way of dealing with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. To do anything beyond that would make it difficult for legislators to address.

We will support the amendment. I think, however, where there might be any conflict or difficulty, the actual reason above is simple and does not tie legislators down. There may be some dispute over what does and does not constitute a medical diagnosis.

It was unfortunate that many of those who sit around this table and call themselves pro-life did not stay to hear the testimony of Mr. Gerry Edwards and Ms Claire Cullen-Delsol from Terminations for Medical Reasons Ireland.

Reason 10 covers this. I am not sure we need the motion. Reason 10 is much clearer and simpler in its language.

I agree with the amendment in the case of fatal foetal abnormality and that we ensure we cater for it. I agree with Deputy O'Connell as I do not see it tying the hands of the Oireachtas. I am open to this and will support her amendment. Any parents would welcome having two specialists giving them expert advice.

I think we are all in agreement on this. It is just about getting the wording right.

Just to respond to the suggestion about two doctors. This amendment does not preclude that happening. What we are saying is that we will not be deciding but for the Legislature to decide who will make the recommendation and how it will work in practice. We are indicating and making recommendations. It is guidance. That is why it is left without being too specific because we do not know what the impact of that could be in terms of legislating. It would be easier to leave this out.

There could be a compromise if we could put "...of foetal fatal abnormality so that a medical diagnosis made in good faith...".

That sounds reasonable.

It just covers a doctor.

Every medical decision is based in good faith. If not, it is a criminal offence.

Of course. It is perhaps being overly cautious but it is probably no harm.

I call on Deputy Mattie McGrath.

I did not indicate.

Sorry, it was Senator Mullen.

Two issues struck me from the evidence we heard from medical people and from the various families. It became increasingly obvious that what people were looking for was not just the permission for the termination of pregnancy where a child's condition could be said to be fatal such that they would not live long after birth. We also heard medical people saying there should not be a closed list. This seemed to me to veer quickly into very much a case of severe disability grounds.

Second, this is one of these areas where, almost by definition, one is talking about the termination of the life of an unborn child late in pregnancy. We heard from different people.

I was here for the group Deputy Louise O'Reilly referred to. Even if I was not, I do not think anybody's motivations in being here or absent should be second-guessed by any colleague on the committee.

We have had this conversation before. I note the Senator's comments.

It was open to you, a Chathaoirligh, to interrupt Deputy Louise O'Reilly when she said that earlier.

I should have.

From where I am sitting, it seems to be too predictable that when I would defend myself-----

No, in fairness it is just because it will bounce back and over. I did not raise it earlier because I did not want us to have a row about it.

With even more justification, I am sure you would understand.

I want to it on the record. I had to drive to the North the night in question. I made it my business to speak to those guests outside and even passed them a note explaining why I could not stay on after they had made their presentations, which I listened to.

It would not impede your neutrality, Chair, were you to make the comment that in your view that is an unfair charge to be levelling by definition.

It was not unfair.

Sorry Senator, I do not want to waste our time. We decided we would be businesslike in our approach today. I actually defended you, Senator, on this point in your absence and on the last occasion it was brought up. I will defend you again. You were here for the contribution in question.

I would ask for a greater defence than that. I would ask you to rule, as the Chair, that such comments are not fair or appropriate anyway. That is the difference. Whether I was here or not is not the point.

If I were to rule on all the comments that were not appropriate or fair in this committee, I do not think we would ever get through the work. I want to move on.

I am disappointed that you care so little for the reputations of members of the committee who have acted in good faith and who did not deserve to be so personally attacked by colleagues.

This is the last thing I am going to say on the matter. I have shown that I allow everyone to speak here. I care for everyone's reputation and they need to care for their own. I am moving on. Deputy Catherine Murphy has indicated.

I have not finished my substantive points.

Well, you should have.

I was interrupted by the Chair, as you may recall.

No, you did not get interrupted. The Chair does not interrupt. I chair.

You may recall from your chairing that you intervened.

Please make your substantive point.

The substantive point is that people such as Ms Liz McDermott and the organisation she represents have pointed out obvious things. For example, in a world where we are supposed to be defending, in terms of human rights, the rights of people with disabilities, it is inappropriate to have a separate category of abortion precisely for people with disabilities simply because they are severe.

Sorry, we are not talking about disabilities. We are talking about fatal foetal abnormality.

People with these conditions - I do not use the term foetal abnormalities of the kind you describe but use the term "life-limiting conditions" - qualify as a category of persons with disabilities.

Second, there is the reality that in some cases a diagnosis can be faulty. There are people, such as Martin and Sinéad McBreen, who some of us would have liked the committee to have heard, who received a different story from what the reality turned out to be. There are also the fears of people that there is a culture in this world where doctors, instead of saying they will help and support people, as well as providing perinatal hospice facilities, abandon people to the cold logic of choice. In turn, it creates a world where more and more people will feel that such babies are not to be accorded a legal and social welcome. It is difficult and harrowing. We can offer people something much better by saying we will accompany them and give them every love and support but that we will also honour the very sick child until their natural end.

First, often the abnormalities in question will present late in a pregnancy and involve small numbers. These are extreme situations in which people find themselves and are very unexpected. On most occasions, it is even more distressing because it involves a baby who was wanted and all the positive things that go with that.

The Citizens' Assembly was straightforward. I do not have an issue with the one as it is presented. It is covered one way or the other. It cannot be diagnosed earlier. That is the reality.

The reality is that many women do not get scans until beyond 20 weeks.

Some do not get them at all.

I move to reject this because I believe this to be in contravention of, among others, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am disappointed with the use of the term "fatal foetal abnormality" because the HSE has issued guidelines around this. We had that debate with some of our invited guests here. I believe it is a crude term.

I have met many people and families who have had that diagnosis and had full gestation with a baby born that lived for a considerable time. One girl I know in Cavan is up to 11 years of age. I have met numbers of them. It is crude language to put in for that reason. I am totally opposed to it.

Thank you. Unfortunately, we are not all here because there is a vote in the Seanad. Your arrival is nicely timed, Senator Buttimer. I know you have a lot going on in the Seanad today.

Question, "That the committee accepts that a medical diagnosis made by a doctor acting in good faith of fatal foetal abnormality requires a compassionate approach to the family affected, and that a termination of pregnancy service should be available in such circumstances.", put.
Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 3.

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
Question declared carried.

The next question is on the Citizens' Assembly.

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.", put.

Clerk to the committee

Does the Senator want to call a vote?

Does the Chairman not go through the process of calling those in favour to say "Tá" and so on?

Question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the unborn child has a foetal abnormality that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.", put and declared carried.

We move on to reason 11. This relates to when the unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth. We have two proposals, one of which counters the other. We will dispose of motion 22 first. The question is: "That the committee recommends that the termination of pregnancy should be lawful without gestational limits in cases of significant foetal abnormality." The motion is in the names of Deputy Smith and Senator Ruane.

I take the point that other Deputies have made to the effect that we are not being prescriptive about legislation. We are not drafting legislation here. These are simply recommendations. I take the point that the Citizens' Assembly recommendation deals with the matter. However, I have been approached by parents who have asked me to try to get this through without gestational limits. This is why the recommendation was put forward. The idea is to show compassion to people who have been through the experience. They want to know that the gestational limits will not apply to them.

Having listened to the evidence of all witnesses I believe those provisions that put the woman and family at the centre of a case of desperation or a crisis pregnancy are absolutely the way to go. The choice that a person might make in such a circumstance will be difficult. It would not be easy and it would not be done without consulting many medical experts. I assume we all understand that in the context of the motion.

I wish we lived in a society that really cared for those who suffer disadvantage and disability and those who are most vulnerable, but we do not. We have not even ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities yet.

Recently, we watched the terrible tragedy of carers and the situation that they are left in for years. Often this abides for their entire lives. They are neglected by the State and not given proper respite care. There is extraordinary disadvantage for people in society. I only wish those who care passionately about the unborn cared even a fraction as much about those who are born.

I echo pretty much what Deputy Smith has said. We have not set gestational periods on any other recommendation relating to health and fatal foetal abnormalities, apart from the limit of up to 12 weeks.

Earlier, Senator Mullen spoke about a category of people. He said people with disabilities are a category of people and that we are looking to introduce abortion because they are a category of people. What he says is true: people with disabilities are a category of people. They also want access to bodily autonomy. People with disability need access.

We look at all the different situations. We have heard so many times that there are as many situations as there are pregnancies that end up in a given situation. Perhaps a woman is in a family where there are already children with disability. Perhaps she has several children or none. Perhaps she has no support or resources. Bringing a child that has a severe anomaly into the world can bring a major pressure on the family and a person's health. I believe that we need to remove the gestational limits in respect of severe or significant foetal abnormalities, as we have done with all the other health grounds.

I have to go to help with a quorum. I indicated my wish to speak in case there was a list. I though other people may have indicated.

Thank you. Please go ahead.

I would like to think that anyone who wants to protect unborn children cares about life at all stages, including vulnerable life. I would like to think that my career demonstrates a consistent vision of seeking to protect human dignity and seeking a society that goes the extra mile in terms of dispersal of public funds and so on. This means reaching out and supporting people with disability in particular. If Deputy Smith's comments were in any way directed at me, I would like to show her my record sometime.

I wish to comment on the business of the recommendation on a child with a significant abnormality. We spoke a good deal about children with Down's syndrome. Of course, they are only one category of children with disability or abnormality, but they are children who are particularly well known and loved in Ireland. We did not hear evidence on it, but eventually we got evidence about how in Britain over 90% of children who are scanned and found to have Down's syndrome are aborted. I believe the figure is the same in Netherlands. The corresponding figure is up to 97% or 98% in Denmark, with only four children being born. From my perspective, any child with a foetal abnormality deserves extra love, care and protection from society. The test of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. It is a really tragic development if there is a whole category of human beings who, because they are more vulnerable than the rest of us, are singled out to ensure they have fewer rights at any stage of pregnancy.

That is the journey that has been taken in the western world. We heard Dr. Thompson invite us to disregard the fact that in certain cases children with something as minor as a cleft palate might be aborted up to birth, which is the law in Britain. It was chilling testimony. However, it does not matter if it is severe or not so severe because what the child needs is protection and what the family needs is support. I, therefore, oppose this sincerely.

Question put: "That the committee recommend that the termination of pregnancy should be lawful without gestational limits in cases of significant foetal abnormality."
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 15.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

The next matter to be considered is whether the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the unborn child has a significant foetal abnormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

Question put: "That the committee recommend that termination of pregnancy be lawful where the unborn child has a significant foetal abormality that is not likely to result in death before or shortly after birth."
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 15.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Senator Catherine Noone.

We now move on to reason 12. There are two motions, which counter one another. Motion 24 is that the committee would recommend that the termination of pregnancy should be lawful on socio-economic grounds, with a gestational limit determined by the woman in consultation with a doctor. This is in the name of Senator Ruane.

I move motion No. 24:

That the committee would recommend that the termination of pregnancy should be lawful on socio-economic grounds, with a gestational limit determined by the woman in consultation with a doctor

Although this is now a standalone ground, it is hard to speak to it without acknowledging how the majority of the committee voted on the woman's health ground. I struggle to understand how people can separate a woman's health from her socio-economic status or her living conditions, whether poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, prostitution or otherwise. Her socio-economic circumstances are one of the main reasons a woman will seek to access abortion and 70% of the Citizens' Assembly voted in favour of allowing it. If termination is not permitted on socio-economic grounds, this would highlight to me that access to abortion remains a class issue. Although we will cater for many women up to 12 weeks, many women will not be able to access a doctor or perhaps not even know they are pregnant until that time has elapsed. I worked with hundreds of people in addiction for years. Some of the women did not have periods for years due to the damage to their body. However, they became pregnant and nearly six months had elapsed before they realised it. Given how a woman's social situation impacts on her health, this should be allowed as a ground to access abortion. Women from more affluent areas who do not meet the requirements or do not get to the doctor or find out that they are pregnant before the 12 weeks have elapsed will still be able to travel. If we deny women the right to an abortion on socio-economic grounds, we are saying that we do not care about women who are in less favourable conditions.

Thank you.

I have one more point. Many people have spoken to me about the socio-economic ground as if it is only a financial issue. The suggestion is that these women just do not have enough money for an extra child. People do not really understand the impact of class on a woman's situation. It is not always about finances. There is a multitude of factors. I hoped this would pass as an indicator under the health ground, but it did not. However, I hope people will reconsider their position on the socio-economic ground when voting on this recommendation.

I would first like to note that the Citizens' Assembly spontaneously raised this matter. It did not arise from the guidance of the chairperson, Ms Justice Laffoy. It came from the body of the floor at the Citizens' Assembly where 72% were in favour of it. This recognises and reiterates the consistent evidence we heard over the past three months from various witnesses, the latest being those from the Netherlands. When I asked what weight they would give to what we call socio-economic grounds - I think they called them social reasons - they kind of looked at me as if I was nuts because, to them, of course it was a big reason. It was obviously a clear reason to them. I am not interpreting anything from their looks but the attitude was almost why would one not consider a person's social and economic background. Senator Ruane touches on something really important here. If we recognise that abortion is a reality for women already in Ireland, except we export it, we also have to recognise that so many more women did not have access to it because of their class situation. This is a class issue. Some 92% of terminations happen in the first 12 weeks. The pill can deal with it, which is a great step forward. In future laws, perhaps we can recognise it. However, it would be great if the committee would take on board the evidence and the recommendation from the Citizens' Assembly and have that as a reason to be put to the Oireachtas.

What this issue has in common with the previous one about abortion for children with significant foetal abnormalities is that the committee will not recommend them here today. However, we need to be careful about how it is presented. In reality, these things are, by definition, being recommended by the committee up to 12 weeks in the earlier motion passed, which is in effect abortion on demand up to 12 weeks. In not voting for these today, the committee is not recommending allowing abortion on socio-economic grounds or for significant foetal abnormality after 12 weeks. However, even there, the committee is just saying, "not for now" because it has already voted to propose the repeal of the eighth amendment. The committee is saying that is does not recommend to our legislators to propose this now, but the public needs to know that it is certainly on the agenda for later. I oppose this.

I think it is important to state that we are approaching this slightly differently that the Citizens' Assembly and that is absolutely fine. It voted on the criteria and it then looked at gestational limits. We have already agreed to provide access to terminations without restriction as to reason up to 12 weeks, and that is going to cater for the overwhelming majority of Irish women who need to access a termination. In that sense, it is important to make that point. However, I agree with the speakers putting forward the motion. We are talking about small numbers here but the issues of class and economics are very important considerations. I think the gestational limits should be extended to incorporate those people and that we would not restrict it in that way.

I supported the previous proposal, "That the committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy be lawful where there is a serious risk to the mental health of the woman", whereas this proposal also states "that socio-economic considerations be taken into consideration in this regard". I am comfortable with the previous one but I have a difficulty with this one in that I think it is moving from medical to surgical abortion. I feel more comfortable making the distinction and having a gestational limit. I will not support it from that point of view.

Thank you. I remind members that, while anyone can speak, they should keep contributions as-----

Can I make an amendment that, if people are concerned about that, if they look back-----

Concerned about what, exactly?

If they are concerned about the fact there is no gestational period. That does not mean there are no medical guidelines or best practice. If that needs to be put in at the end, so be it. Deputy O'Connell's first motion, which we voted on, stated "Provision for gestational time limits for the termination of pregnancies be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation".

Essentially, apart from the point made by Senator Ruane, my issue is around viability and having no gestational limit. I would be far more comfortable if that was decided by somebody. As somebody who is very much a believer in choice, the choice of the woman, I have a difficulty with this, from a viability point of view. I understand these are women on the margins of society with whom some of us, through our other jobs, have come into contact with. Deputy Ruane is correct that people are sometimes six months pregnant before they realise it. However, I think that if something can go in to include a gestational limit, I could at least not vote against it.

Perhaps we could agree that. Will the Senator suggest a wording?

While it would be fair enough to elaborate on the amendment, I do not think any doctor is ever going to carry out an abortion on someone who is eight months pregnant. That is just not the same thing that I would intend here. If there is a line that can better suit the intention-----

Does the next motion take it up to 22 weeks?

That might not pass and it might be separate.

Is there an amendment the Senator would like to suggest to her own motion?

We could add in that "the provision for gestational time limits for the termination of pregnancies be guided by the best available medical evidence and be provided for in legislation".

What about taking out "without gestational limits"?

It might read "determined by the woman in consultation with her doctor in accordance with best practice".

The question is, "That the committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy should be lawful on socio-economic grounds determined by the woman in consultation with her doctor in accordance with best practice."

As I indicated previously, the previous motion 18 deals with the gestational limit and access up to 12 weeks. I cannot support the suggestion that we would go beyond 12 weeks on socio-economic grounds. I think the motion as it stands, or as it is proposed that it be amended, is seeking to go further. I wanted to put that on the record.

That is fine.

I have a difficulty in this regard.

Your difficulty can be reflected in your vote.

Question put: "That the committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy should be lawful on socioeconomic grounds determined by the woman in consultation with a doctor in accordance with medical best practice."
The Committee divided: Tá, 3; Níl, 11.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Jonathan O'Brien, Kate O'Connell, Louise O'Reilly and Jan O'Sullivan and Senators Jerry Buttimer, Paul Gavan and Catherine Noone.

We will now put the question on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation itself.

Question put: "That the Committee recommends that a termination of pregnancy be lawful for socioeconomic reasons."
The Committee divided: Tá, 5; Níl, 11.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Deputies Lisa Chambers, Billy Kelleher and Jan O'Sullivan and Senators Catherine Noone and Ned O'Sullivan.

We will now move on to reason 13, which deals with the issue of no restriction as to reason. We have several motions on this, most of which we have discussed.

We have already dealt with the ones up to 12 weeks on the basis that the abortion pill is mentioned in the report and also the GP-led process, which was to address the issue of the HSE, costs and all of that.

Once such matters are reflected in the reports then the 12 weeks provision can go and we will just have the 22 week provision.

Is the Deputy withdrawing her motion?

Does Deputy Murphy wish to withdraw her motion?

Yes. Mine is covered with the other one and I am happy with that.

Does Deputy O'Connell wish to withdraw her motion?

I withdraw my motion as the matter has been dealt with.

Is Senator Ruane pressing her motion?

Yes. When I came to this meeting I had decided to withdraw my motion because I hoped that members would support my other two motions. I am afraid that the provision of access up to 12 weeks will rule out a lot of women who will need to access an abortion at 13, 14 and 15 weeks. They will not be catered for in any shape or form.

Question put: "That the committee recommends that the termination of pregnancy be lawful, with no restriction as to reason, up to a gestational limit of up to 22 weeks."
The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 17.

  • Daly, Clare.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
Question declared lost.

As a result of that decision motion 30 falls and now I will put the question on the Citizens' Assembly recommendations.

On a point of clarification, does motion 30 fall or is it negatived if reason 13 is accepted?

It is negatived.

Rather than take motion 30, we are moving to the reason. Is that the proposal?

That is the point, I suppose. Yes.

We are voting on the substantive issue.

Yes. We are going to vote on the substantive. Senator Mullen is right.

I propose that we take a short break after this vote and before we start discussing the ancillary recommendations, particularly given that there is a natural break between the two.

We will get through these matters very quickly.

Are we now voting on reason 13?

Yes, the Citizens' Assembly recommendations.

It is the substantive issue of the Citizens' Assembly recommendations.

We have done that with every vote.

We have done it.

As Deputy Daly has pointed out, the Citizens' Assembly voted for reasons first and then limits afterwards but we have done things a little differently. To clarify, will we be supporting reason 13 but in the context of our earlier motion 18?

Yes, it is important to clarify the matter.

I wanted to clarify the matter as it could be misconstrued.

I wish to be associated with what the Deputy has said.

The question is: "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful, with no restriction as to reason." Those in favour say "Tá".

Members

Tá.

Those against say "Níl".

Members

Níl.

I think the question is lost - sorry, is carried.

Is the question, "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful, with no restriction as to reason"?

Vótáil. Did the Chairman mean to say that the question is defeated?

Just one second. We need to clarify this. If you just give me one moment, we will clarify this. I will repeat the question. I am sorry if I caused any confusion. The question is: "That the committee recommends that termination of pregnancy be lawful with no restriction as to reason, in accordance with the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations."

How does that refer to this topic? We agreed on no restriction up to 12 weeks.

In a way we have done this and that is why it is difficult.

It is important to elaborate it again. The last question was very much linked to rape even though it does say "without restriction". It is important to have it as stand-alone matter as well in order that it can never be misconstrued that it was only passed in relation to rape and that it actually encompasses everything. It is important to vote on it again as a stand-alone matter, that is, without reason.

People can indicate their disagreement-----

Will the 12 week gestational limit be reflected in the body of the report?

Absolutely. Yes. We can vote on that basis.

Notwithstanding what has already been voted, it seems to me that if the committee votes for reason 13, I would interpret that as introducing ambiguity after the Fianna Fáil amendment that was taken earlier. If there is no distinction then I think people would be entitled to-----

I wish to comment, in the interest of clarity.

Yes, just a clarification.

Can I finish making my point?

(Interruptions).

Let Senator Mullen finish making his point.

People would be entitled to presume that the committee had introduced a new ambiguity in that area.

I thank the Senator.

In the interest of clarity, my party has been very co-operative with this committee and constructive but its members are acting as individuals on this matter. I say that for the benefit of Senator Mullen. He may not be aware that members of the Fianna Fáil Party have a free vote and we are acting as individuals on these matters. I know that he was not being mischievous.

I reiterate that people can reflect their disagreement by voting against the motion if they wish.

The key thing here is to give clarity to the Government and the Oireachtas in drafting the legislation about the opinion. The problem is we are comparing apples and oranges. We have done it a different method. Why do we not do "no restrictions as to reasons up to 12 weeks" or whatever the actual vote was - 22 weeks, the way the Citizens' Assembly actually did it on the gestational periods so that we are absolutely clear?

Sorry, Chair. Does that contradict an earlier vote that we took which stated that the issue of gestational limits would be referred, that legislators would legislate and then they would take advice from the medical people? I am really confused now. The question, as written in front of us, does not include any gestational limits at the moment and is not related to any vote that was taken before.

It is open to the committee not to vote on this proposal. Is that something that there is agreement on?

No, Chair. I do not understand what we are voting on. I have two copies of the recommendations by the Citizens' Assembly and there is no reference to a reason 13. I can see the words "socio-economic reasons" and there is nothing after that.

I have the document in front of me as well.

The matter is referred to in the report of the original Citizens' Assembly and is at the bottom of a page.

I do not understand what I am being asked to vote on. I am happy with the 12 weeks but I am unhappy with no reference to gestational limits.

The Citizens' Assembly in its report states that on reason 13, no restriction as to reasons, it voted as follows: number of eligible voters - 88; number of votes cast - 88; number of invalid votes - 1. In terms of subheads the report states: A. Never for this reason - 29 votes; B1. Up to 12 weeks gestation only - 25; B2. Up to 22 weeks gestation only - 23; B3. With no restriction as to gestational age - 4; and prefer not to state an opinion - 6. There were 52 votes or 64% in favour of the 12 weeks.

That is not what the Chairman asked us to vote on.

That is what I understood we were voting on.

The problem we have is that we were asked to vote on the Citizens' Assembly recommendations. We agreed at the beginning that after dealing with the motions pertaining to a reason, we would vote on the reason. I suggest that we do not vote on this particular reason because it may create confusion. Is that agreed?

I propose that we do not vote on this in view of the fact that we have already set limits on it.

That is a proposal. I agree.

I second Deputy Kelleher's proposal.

We will vote on the proposal, if that is okay.

Are we going to vote on the last proposal?

On the proposal of no vote. We are voting on the proposal not to vote.

Hang on a minute-----

Sorry, Senator Ruane, an agreement has been reached.

That is very unfair. All the recommendations are there. Just to vote not to vote to suit particular lines is not good enough. All of the recommendations are there.

We agreed to vote on all of the recommendations. That is a recommendation. Now we are going to agree not to vote on it.

I thank the Senator. I call on Deputy O'Brien and then Deputy Daly.

I said at the outset that we should vote on every single recommendation. I do not have an issue with that. However, if we are now trying to link reason 13 to a gestational period which is in the Citizens' Assembly recommendation then I do object to that. We have not done that with any of the other recommendations. We have voted just on the reason. We have not taken a decision. If that was the case then we could go back through the Citizens' Assembly recommendations and start voting on the gestational time limits for each recommendation. That is not what we have done. If there is a vote, it should be just on the question that it would be lawful to access a termination of pregnancy with no restriction as to reasons.

I call on Deputy Daly.

We have already voted on what the Citizens' Assembly voted on. We voted on no restriction as to reasons up to 12 weeks. That was passed. We voted on up to 22 weeks and that was defeated. The key thing for us now is that the Oireachtas has clarity on what we are saying. The decision has been very clear and the report needs to be that this committee is strongly in support of access to abortion with no restriction as to reason up to 12 weeks. We voted on that. The 22 weeks one has been defeated.

We should move on to module 3.

I think the same as Deputy Daly. I have no problem voting on exactly what the Citizens' Assembly voted on, which was the different gestational periods. I have no problem voting for that. I am fully supportive of up to 12 weeks.

I think really that the consensus-----

I do not think we can vote on it as a general thing.

I am sensing, and tell me if I am wrong, that the consensus in the room is that we should not vote on reason 13. Is that agreed? We will move on.

I withdraw my proposal.

I thank the Deputy.

Can I express a concern which I think I share with at least one other Deputy, and possibly two or three. Please can it be noted in the report.

Certainly.

On reason 9, motion 18 that we voted in, from the three Fianna Fáil members of the committee, Deputies Lisa Chambers and Kelleher and Senator O'Sullivan, it starts with legislating for the termination of pregnancy for the complexities of rape and incest. Later on, the statement refers to making the termination of pregnancy lawful with no restriction of reason to a gestational period of 12 weeks. I am slightly concerned that those who are framing the legislation may interpret that as no restriction if one is going to say one was raped or suffered incest. I want this committee to say whether they mean that or do they mean no restriction up to 12 weeks?

That is not the intention at all.

We can reflect that in the report.

That is my concern.

That is fair enough and we cover that in the report. We all have to agree the report at the end of the day.

Will that go into the report?

Certainly, it will.

Will it be noted this is not the intention? It is not just about rape or incest. It is about 12 weeks.

Can we move on to the ancillary recommendations? The first section is decriminalisation. We have eight motions on that. We could discuss any of them. We will start with Deputy Daly's motion that the committee recommend the decriminalisation of abortion in all circumstances in Ireland. Can we link some of these?

This should not be a big deal. I do not think it is the particular wording. At every single meeting that we have had here, the issue of decriminalisation came up. Virtually every speaker, with maybe a few exceptions, so practically everyone who had varying views on abortion, believe that women and their doctors should not be criminalised for it. Obviously, the Oireachtas when it is legislating is going to define the legal circumstances in which abortion can be carried out. Outside of that however, the activity should not be criminalised. I think we can get agreement on that and write it up in the report. We do not need to vote on any of them. They are all trying to do the same thing.

I thank the Deputy. I call on Deputy O'Reilly.

Deputy Daly is right. There is broad consensus in regard to decriminalisation. I had some concerns with the decriminalisation in all circumstances because that might encompass that which is outside of the law. I know that is not the intention. If we are looking at motions 34 and 35, I think those kind of crystallise and I do not think that they contradict anything that Deputy Daly is saying. We could go for those. They are clearer. Some of it is implicit but maybe we should be clear on it.

I call on Deputy Murphy.

I have tabled motions. 34 and 35 mainly because we are looking to protect women from fairly unscrupulous people. It is to say what are the set of circumstances. It probably does not cover one particular group. I certainly would not want to see people who end up taking medication being criminalised either. However, we have got to position this within the context of health care.

One moment, I am wondering would Deputy Daly be willing to withdraw her motion on the basis that we find a motion that is-----

I think that is what everybody is effectively seeking to do. The Oireachtas is going to define the circumstances. What we want is nobody penalised-----

I think it very important-----

We can draft the wording in the report. We are not going to do it here now.

Is the Deputy suggesting a composite motion of the three of those?

Yes. We all know what we are trying to get at.

I think it is very important that we reflect in the report the situation described. Decriminalisation is a huge issue but we have to make laws for the most unlikely, unscrupulous scenarios that might arise where a doctor for whatever reason may decide to perform a termination at a very late period. That is a situation that we would not want to criminalise the woman for but it would be important to-----

In theory, if it was fully decriminalised, we could have a situation where a partner could-----

Exactly.

We all agree with the sentiment I think we need to be-----

I think a composite of motions 34, 35 and 36 would cover it.

Will I put that question?

We know what we want to do but we do need it reflected in the report.

When all speakers have been heard-----

We will take a decision on one.

Can we take a five minute break to get the wording?

We can get the wording together now. If we take a break it will take a while for everybody to come back. People want to get the job done.

We will do our best to accommodate but I think we are getting a bit slack if I might put it like that. We have done a lot of work. I prefer to take five minutes to sort this out. I do not want to be voting on something just because it is a convenience.

I do not think that is anyone's wish.

Are we going to come up with a wording right now?

Fine, we will take five minutes.

I have been indicating.

Perhaps Deputy Chambers has a suggestion?

Senator Mullen wants to come in as well.

Motion 37, the motion submitted by myself, Deputy Kelleher, and Senator O'Sullivan specifically deals with decriminalisation of the role of women. That is the area we were focusing on and it is purposely drafted so as to avoid allowing free rein to pop-up clinics or rogue doctors or abusive partners. We are not removing them from the full sanction of the law. However, we are removing the woman who procures an abortion from being criminalised. It specifically references also the 14 year prison sentence or up to 14 years. In my view, that motion encompasses all of the concerns that we raised at committee. It deals with just the woman and it specifically references the evidence that we have heard and the 14 year sentence that we want to get away from.

I am sorry, Senator Mullen first and then Deputy Naughton.

There is a difference between being criminalised and being prosecuted. There is a difference between being prosecuted and being convicted. There is a difference between being convicted and being punished. I make all of those points because I do not know if Deputy Kelleher was referring to all in the room when he said we all know what we want. I want to make it clear that I oppose this agenda to decriminalise abortion. The reason I do so is not because I ever want to see any woman targeted by the law but because the law exists not just to punish its breaches. It exists also to deter people from doing something that is harmful to themselves and others. What people seem to be saying here is, in the context where the committee is proposing to look for abortion effectively on demand - I do not need to say effectively but abortion on demand up to 12 weeks - is that any doctor who does it outside of a licensed clinical setting would be prosecuted. However, it seems to be the view that there would be no criminal sanction for any woman who would ever try at any stage of pregnancy, or no breach of the criminal law I should say. Even in Britain, which effectively has abortion on demand and late-term abortion on demand, abortion remains a criminal offence.

It is not prosecuted where some of the A, B, C, D and E grounds are met. This would be a charter for rogue doctors. This turns a blind eye to the fact that those who procure abortions for themselves end the life of an innocent child and, in many cases, cause hurt or potential hurt to themselves.

People seem to think that this is the only way in which one can prevent women from being fearful about going for medical care - I have heard this view canvassed - if they have procured an abortion pill and taken it. However, it is possible to have laws in this country which guarantee that a person who seeks medical assistance will not be criminalised by reason of any offence which the person discloses to have committed in the course of seeking that medical care and it would be bad public policy to decriminalise abortion. What I am saying to some degree makes no sense in the context of a committee that wants abortion but I draw the committee's attention to the British situation where it remains a criminal offence. If one wants to even maintain the fig leaf of a desire to keep abortions to as few as possible, one certainly does not start by decriminalising it.

I would be very much in favour of decriminalising abortion. I would agree with the motion of Deputies Kelleher and Lisa Chambers and Senator Ned O'Sullivan, motion 37. My only concern would be to add something in because of the chilling effect the witnesses - the medical experts who appeared before the committee - spoke about. They are qualified medical professionals who act in good faith. I strongly believe they need some kind of cover or protection in that. I completely agree with what was said about the woman, but we should add in that in the context of the chilling effect that exists for the medical professions. It is important that we include that.

I do not want to stop anyone speaking. I interject because the clerk and Deputy Clare Daly have come up with a motion that may work. Sometimes we have discussed matters and come up with motions, which is a helpful way to do it. It is:

That the Committee recommend that surgical terminations may only be legally carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic, and that medical terminations should be provided for through the licensing of medications for that purpose and prescribed by a qualified practitioner. Where terminations occur in such settings, no criminal sanctions should apply.

That covers that they are licensed.

That is the point I was going to make.

I did not wish to stop Deputy Jan O'Sullivan making a point.

Will the Chairman repeat it?

Can I put the question? I will read it out as a question. If anyone has a difficulty, of course, we will not rush it. It states:

That the Committee recommend that surgical terminations may only be legally carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic, and that medical terminations should be provided for through the licensing of medications for that purpose and prescribed by a qualified practitioner. Where terminations occur in such settings, no criminal sanctions should apply.

We are getting rid of the rest of motion 34.

Those in favour, say "Tá".

Can I ask Deputy Murphy a question on it? Why does the Deputy feel the need to insert this? Is she perceiving a situation where back-street abortions would return in a situation where we are attempting to decriminalise abortion and why does she see those two scenarios coming together?

I see it in a different way entirely. I see it in a way where we are recommending a range of changes. What are the scenarios where one makes that legal and how does one protect both women and doctors, mainly from somebody, for instance, who has been struck off the medical register, setting up and being in an unregulated environment that becomes a risk to the woman? It is the kind of thing that the medical profession would rightly frown on. It is actually turning it around a little bit. It is saying these are the settings in which terminations can legally occur.

There probably is one other thing, and motion 36 captures it to some degree. One cannot have somebody guilty either. I was not trying to capture everything. I was putting in some motions about my thinking but there would have been other ones I supported as well.

On that point, Deputy Naughton wants clarification.

If it helps the motion, I propose to insert that it be only "qualified medical professionals acting in good faith".

Is it that "qualified"?

I propose that medical professionals who are qualified to carry out this work who are acting in good faith would be protected. They are qualified, not people struck off, for example, acting in good faith.

I will insert the words, "acting in good faith". Can I put the question?

Deputy O'Connell, briefly.

Let us say the eighth amendment is repealed and motions 34 and 35 are included, we will not have dealt with where somebody ordered tablets online. After the inclusion of motions 34 and 35, it is still a criminal offence unless one includes motion 36.

If there is a girl in a frightened situation, does the committee get what I am saying-----

We need to protect the woman and ensure that no protection is extended to an unscrupulous doctor. It protects all those acting in accordance with the law and the woman, where she seeks to procure an abortion, regardless of how. It is to protect the woman and protect the doctors who are acting within the law.

Will I try again then?

Obviously, the woman and the abortion pills is one part of it, but if one has legislation that permits abortion in so many different circumstances one will still have circumstances outside of that where doctors who intervene should be decriminalised. What about where a woman's circumstances do not fall under any of the legislation and she might need to travel? There will still be women who travel and there will be doctors who need to be able to support and refer those women. There are other parts of it that need to be decriminalised. It also has implications for family members. At present, in many cases, family members are the ones who access abortion pills for their daughters and there are many who will still be criminalised under those three headings.

Will I try again to see if it is agreeable? The wording is:

That the committee recommend that surgical terminations may only be legally carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic, and that medical terminations should be provided for through the licensing of medications for that purpose and prescribed by a qualified practitioner acting in good faith. Where terminations occur in such settings, no criminal sanctions should apply, and in cases where a woman procures or seeks to procure an abortion for herself, that she be no guilty of an offence and that legislation to that end should be put in place.

Where it states, "procure an abortion for herself", I propose it should say, "regardless of the circumstances".

Where is that exactly?

Put it in after my party's motion 36.

What is Deputy Jonathan O'Brien proposing to insert? Sorry, I want to be clear.

I propose the insertion of "regardless of the circumstances". If we are saying that terminations can be carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic, or through the licensing of medications, that is the correct way to do it, but if a woman accesses a termination outside of those two grounds, she should not face any criminal sanction. That is my difficulty.

Can I go again then?

The wording is:

That the committee recommend that surgical terminations may only be legally carried out in a hospital or licensed clinic, and that medical terminations should be provided for through the licensing of medications for that purpose and prescribed by a qualified practitioner acting in good faith. Where terminations occur in such settings, no criminal sanctions should apply, and in cases where a woman procures or seeks to procure an abortion for herself regardless of the circumstances, that she be no guilty of an offence and that legislation to that end be put in place.

Those in favour say, "Tá".

Can I ask a question?

I am putting the vote.

The Chairman may do so if she wishes. I had a question.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 18; Níl, 3.

  • Browne, James.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Smith, Bríd.

Níl

  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
Question declared carried.

Can I ask a question now?

Was there any reference to gestation limits in the motion?

I read it five or six times.

It is interesting; that is all. Perhaps that is what the committee intended. That is why I asked. That is what I wanted to clarify.

I wish to clarify something. That never had any bearing on it. It is a question of the circumstances and the location involved. That is a disingenuous way of reading it.

I did not read it in any particular way. I sought clarification. As of now, no gestation limit is implied in the question.

We have clarified the matter. We are dealing with the ancillary recommendations of the assembly, on many of which there will be considerable agreement. I am conscious that Deputy Mattie McGrath has had to go to the Chamber. Is this an issue members would like to get through now? We will go through it.

We are dealing with the issue of contraception and reproductive health. There are four motions. I propose that we literally go through them and either agree or disagree with them.

Motion 39 states: "That the committee acknowledges that in over 50% of cases of unplanned or crisis pregnancies some form of contraception was used and failed, and is of the view that this is an area where we can do work to reduce the overall number of unplanned or crisis pregnancies by providing for more affordable and accessible contraception in the State".

I want to comment on this motion, please.

I wish to clarify a point. There seem to be some words missing. Nothing much turns on it, but the motion should read:

That the committee acknowledges that in over 50% of cases of unplanned or crisis pregnancies some form of contraception was being used and failed. Notwithstanding this, it is still of the view that this is an area where we can do work to reduce the overall number of unplanned or crisis pregnancies by providing for more affordable and accessible contraception in the State.

It does not read properly without the words in the middle, but nothing really turns on it.

I had intended to indicate, but I did not so; therefore, I will reserve my request for the next time.

Question, "That the committee acknowledges that in over 50% of cases of unplanned or crisis pregnancies some form of contraception was being used and failed. Notwithstanding this, it is still of the view that this is an area where we can do work to reduce the overall number of unplanned or crisis pregnancies by providing for more affordable and accessible contraception in the State," put and declared carried.

The next recommendation reads: "That the committee recommend that universal free contraception using a person's chosen method be provided by the public health service."

I have indicated a request to speak on these issues generally. I have no issue with the law of the land on the use of non-abortifacient contraception. However, I see this as part of a total abortion package. In the light of the paucity of evidence heard by the committee and the lack of respect for life shown by the committee in advocating abortion, it seems that tacking on these public welfare dimensions of the issue is really an effort by the committee to cloak itself in respectability.

I can understand everyone wants to come in on that issue, but can we just vote on the recommendation, please?

I am sorry, but I was in the middle of speaking.

I think the Senator had finished.

No, I was not; I was in the middle of a sentence. Disorder broke out.

I am putting the question.

You are telling me that I cannot finish my point.

Finish it, please.

There has been no discussion thus far of any of the ancillary recommendations. You are proposing to rush everything through by way of a vote without giving members a chance to contribute.

I am not. What I am proposing is that we get to tomorrow. The secretariat will have to do up the report overnight in order that we will have it tomorrow. Does the Senator understand that?

I understand there is something more important than rushing this through.

It is not being rushed through. We have discussed it.

Human life is important.

We agreed last week that there would be no speeches and that we would move to voting.

I think I have been more than indulgent.

The amendments follow on from the public sessions and information that is in the public domain. We need to vote now.

I am making a ruling. It is that we go through each of the recommendations.

That is an outrageous ruling, if members cannot offer any point or raise concerns.

In fairness, there is considerable agreement with the Senator on these issues also. Is there not?

No, because, as I said, there are some fundamental problems with these amendments. There is no evidence in them of any respect for the rights of parents to be the primary educators, as is the case under the Constitution; nor is there evidence of the rights-----

We discussed these issues in public session in recent weeks.

I presume the Deputy is speaking through the Chair.

We are at the stage where we are making conclusions. We decided last week to take this approach.

Let me say again-----

This is the closing down of debate.

I am not closing down debate.

That is exactly what has happened and I am not referring to the Chairman but to the entire committee.

Hold on; I am speaking. Last week we said we would vote today. We have had a considerable amount of discussion on all matters. In the course of our deliberations, in fairness, there has been much discussion on the ancillary recommendations.

They have come up consistently, especially in discussing the issue of free contraception. With respect, certain members may have missed part of the deliberations, but the issues have all been discussed at length.

I am sorry; I am not finished. With respect, I think we should vote on them and allow the secretariat to draft the report. We can then come back tomorrow at 5 p.m. to discuss these issues in more detail, if the Senator wishes. Is he agreeable to that suggestion?

No and I will tell you why.

It is farcical, on the one hand, to say we have had a full discussion of all these issues and then, on the other, to make an arbitrary distinction by saying we have debated these matters and that members have had an opportunity to contribute on certain other recommendations today which touch directly on legalised abortion. We have now got to this stage. I know that we are all tired; I am certainly pretty tired. I am hearing that because the secretariat has to reach a certain deadline, we can truncate the discussion. That is an implicit acknowledgement that the recommendations are less important. Frankly, I do not believe any of this serious stuff means that we should close down debate.

I have another suggestion.

I was not going to speak for half an hour; I was simply going to make a couple of points.

I suggest we adjourn until 5 p.m. tomorrow.

If a member wants to make some points, let him or her make a few. I do not mean that in a disrespectful way, but if there are some points to be made, they should be made and we can then move on.

Are we dealing with the issues of contraception, reproductive health and sex education together? Are we dealing with all of the ancillary recommendations together?

We are considering the issue of contraception.

We are not dealing with the issue of sex education yet. Is that correct?

Is this in connection with contraception or sex education?

I am unsure.

It relates to contraception and reproductive health.

I am trying to be helpful to the committee.

Thanks a million. The Deputy is being helpful.

Among the remaining proposals there are certainly recommendations such as that related to perinatal hospice services that I support. I have no difficulty with aspects of other motions, but they are far too generalised. The limited discussion we had on them showed no significant degree of consideration of the primary rights of parents. I do not see a reference to them in any of the motions tabled. I make it clear that while I have no issue with, for example, the legality of the use of non-abortifacient contraception, I will have no truck with the motions which come as part of an abortion package.

They are an attempt by the committee to cloak its very damaging recommendations in some kind of respectability associated with showing some kind of public responsibility. I want to make that clear. I do thank the Chairman and those on the committee. I accept that Deputy O'Brien did not wish to be disrespectful in the way that he said that. To judge from the attitude of the Gallery though, it was taken up in a different way. I think that is regrettable. That is all I had to say.

I thank Senator Mullen. I call on Deputy Rabbitte.

With the height of respect to Senator Mullen, he has seen the way I have voted all afternoon. I have been openminded for the past 13 weeks. However, one of the main factors that came before us related to the lack of sex education in school. He is dead right about perinatal care-----

Sorry, through the Chair.

This is all through the Chair. On sex education, contraception and reproductive health, we heard it over and over again. There was an underlying factor in all of their presentations, that there was a lack of education and a lack of understanding and a lack of communication from the Departments of Health, Education and Skills and others. It is amazing that Senator Mullen's colleague, Deputy Mattie McGrath, is actually leaving here to go and talk about social media whereas in actual fact it is all to do with communications. It was one of the main parts that was missing through all of the presentations here. What has been put here is not underlying our cloaking an abortion regime. It is actually trying to protect the future education of our children. It is a protection for society going forward. It is to enhance the mobility for parents, educators and the Department of Health is what we are looking for here. As a female and as a committee member who has sat here as the mother of three children, I implore that every one of these recommendations be put in as an auxiliary into the report. Take them all in one vote if need be.

(Interruptions).

Through the Chair, as a fellow human being I stand by my point. There is nothing in any of these amendments for example to talk about-----

Sorry, I am going to rule now.

-----encouraging people not to choose abortion. I mean, the hypocrisy of pretending that this is some kind of-----

Sorry-----

-----agenda for social responsibility-----

We take the Senator's point.

-----when the committee has just voted the way it has on a whole range of issues taking away people's lives.

I think so

I have to come in here. This is not the first time Senator Mullen has made widespread insinuations and assertions-----

Sorry-----

No, excuse me now Chairman. I will be heard. The Senator is making insinuations and innuendoes about the rest of us. There must be some kind of invisible moral high ground that I do not see here. However, Senator Mullen clearly identifies it and I am not on it.

Now I want to tell the Senator, through the Chair - and this is my last intervention and I will not be tackling Senator Mullen again on this issue - I really do think he is doing an injustice to his fellow Oireachtas members by the broad sweep with which he casts us all aside as being involved in some kind of a cover-up now for the work we have done. We have done our work in good faith, every one of us here including Senator Mullen. How dare he imply that I or any other member here has a less valid point of view to argue and that we should be ashamed of what we have agreed here or voted on, whether we were for or against. We did our job according to our lights and according to the remit that we were given. I just have to say that I object to this. Is Senator Mullen worried about contraception? If he is against contraception and wants to row back the clock on that one, let him come out and say it. Let him not attack us.

I made no insinuations against Senator O'Sullivan-----

No, no, no-----

This is an attempt-----

I am sorry-----

-----to cloak the fact that-----

Please----

-----people's lives have been voted away by this committee.

I am sorry.

This is the first time he has interrupted in the three months obviously-----

The Deputy would be right on that.

The Senator said he has never interrupted. I had indicated Chairman. I have no objection to taking all of the ancillary recommendations together. I do have concern around motion 47 and seek clarification, if it can be given. It says that "the committee recommend that improvement should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women". I have no issue with that. It goes on to say that "in the case where a woman seeks a termination of pregnancy, a seven day consideration and supportive counselling period is advised". If it is only advice, I do not have an issue. If it is going to be a mandatory cooling off period, then I do have an issue and I will be looking for a vote on it.

If we could in the report make sure that it is clarified that it is not a mandatory cooling off period in the way that we heard they have in Holland but that it is advisable or desirable. 'Desirable' would be my preferred word if we could change it.

Senator Gavan has indicated.

I just think it would be helpful, and I would ask our colleagues in Fine Gael in the spirit of unity to actually just remove that line about the seven day consideration. It is too prescriptive. We happily support the rest of it.

Defined by the medical practice?

I think it should read that the committee recommends that improvements should be made to counselling and support facilities for pregnant women, appropriate counselling should be provided to women as necessary during pregnancy, and, if necessary, following pregnancy.

I call on Senator Ruane

If we are voting on them all together in one clump, then obviously motion 43 would be taken on sex education. Would the members of Fine Gael add in the words "irrespective of ethos" into their amendment?

Of course, that is no problem. Tomorrow at the beginning of our meeting we will have a clearer outline of what we voted on in terms of ancillary recommendations because it will be in our report anyway. Can I put the question that we agree the ancillary recommendation motions that have been submitted by members in the context of the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations and we then agree to adjourn until tomorrow at 5 p.m.? Is that agreed? Agreed.

Question, "That we agree the ancillary recommendation motions that have been submitted by members in the context of the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations.", put and declared carried.

I thank the Senator for not pushing the issue to a vote.

I am just here to make my points.

The joint committee adjourned at 6.27 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Thursday, 14 December, 2017.