I am not under pressure; Fine Gael obviously are. If Fine Gael are in favour of assistance they should put down an amendment to that effect. At least we know where the Labour Party and Independent Senators stand.
I want to deal with a few points made by Senator Murphy. His logic was as usual compelling but I am not persuaded by it on this occasion. Senator Murphy referred to an article inThe Irish Times. I did not catch the reference but I think he said the writer was a lawyer. I do not accept that there is no distinction between rights to travel and to information in this context. There is quite a distinction.
In the context of which we are speaking the EC Court of Justice in the Grogan case recognised that there can be no absolute right to information on abortion. Each State is entitled to restrict the amount of information available in accordance with its own value system. I am surprised that a lawyer should make a case that there should be no distinction between travel and information in this context.
I think that reference was also made to the fact that people will be coming in now that there is freedom to travel, etc., and that therefore information can be disseminated. I do not accept that logic. There is a lot people can do in this country — people can get away with murder, larceny and assault on occasion, but does that mean we should not prohibit them travelling?
I take the genuine concerns of Senator Norris into account and bow to his considerable experience as a tutor and to his good work in this regard. My response to Senators Norris and O'Reilly and others is that the Minister for Justice has already indicated both in this House and in the Dáil that if the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution is accepted on 3 December, the Minister for Health will be bringing forward comprehensive legislation to deal with the matter. I do not think that we can get into debate here today on the exact provisions of that legislation.
Senator Costello was wrong when he said that we have no indication what that legislation is going to contain. The Minister for Health gave a comprehensive outline of what it will contain and the sort of counselling we are talking about which will be non-directive counselling giving the whole range of options available. Senators and Deputies on all sides will be pleasantly surprised when they see the proposals of the Minister for Health. Back-up services were requested to ensure that those proposals are effective; again Members will be pleasantly surprised in that regard.
I cannot pre-empt a debate on that legislation or predict what it will contain but the Ministers for Health and Justice have given commitments in this regard. If this amendment is accepted and the Constitution changed, we will provide legislation and support services. I accept all that was said and particularly the case made very strongly by Senators O'Reilly and Norris. They said that the more pregnancy counselling we have the less people will resort to the ultimate option of abortion. That is true and I think the Minister for Health also accepts that. The legislation will reflect that fact.
I was asked to speak about the decision of the European Court of Human Rights yesterday. I studied the judgment this morning and I can say now — and I am quite clear on this — that this amendment and the legislation which will follow it will correct the defect which the Court of Human Rights has found in Irish law. I understand that the Court of Human Rights found that we are in breach of the Convention on Human Rights because we do not allow access to non-directive counselling where there is not an economic link between the person providing the information and the person getting the information. The Minister for Justice made very clear in his address on Second Stage that this Bill will permit non-directive but not directive counselling. Directive counselling involves abortion referral and the intention of the Bill is to exclude that type of counselling from this jurisdiction.
The Minister outlined details of the legislation which the Minister for Health proposes to bring forward for legislative controls on the supply of information in the event of the amendment to the Constituion provided for in the Bill being accepted in the forthcoming referendum. He made clear that the legislation will cover, for example, information provided by a doctor or an advice agency to a pregnant woman who seeks advice concerning her own specific circumstances. He said there will be a requirement that, in such circumstances, information must be given as part of non-directive counselling on the full range of options available to the person concerned. The Minister said that non-directive counselling means setting out all the available options in order to let the woman make an informed decision. Freedom to obtain information regarding services lawfully available in another State which the Government's wording protects clearly allows for this type of non-directive counselling.
The Minister pointed out that, following the 1988 Supreme Court decision concerning information, doctors have been unsure of their legal position regarding counselling in crisis pregnancies. In his view the proposed legislation will not only resolve this uncertainty but will go further to link the provision of abortion information in crisis pregnancies with the provision of full non-directive counselling.
The proposed amendment to the Bill tabled by the Labour Party would insert the words "counselling and assistance" into the wording of the Bill and clearly allow for abortion referral. The Government are of the view that a provision of that kind is wholly unacceptable, and would not be in the public interest or in accord with other provisions in the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment will open up the right to provide and receive information concerning services available in other countries, not merely in those cases where termination of a pregnancy is lawful in the State but concerning all services lawfully available outside the State.
I have made it clear that the Government are prepared to permit non-directive counselling but are not prepared to permit directive counselling. The Government are advised that the word "information" in the Bill is sufficient, without any reference to counselling, to achieve that purpose; in other words, the word "information" includes counselling. In line with the Government commitment, the legislation the Minister for Health proposes to initiate should the people accept the proposal on 3 December, will provide for non-directive counselling and prohibit directive counselling. Non-directive counselling under the legislation will set out all the available options in order to let the person make an informed decision for herself.