An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1992: An Coiste agus na Céimeanna Deiridh. Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1992: Committee and Final Stages.

Alt a 1 aontaithe.
Section 1 agreed to.
ALT 2.
SECTION 2.
Tairgeadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh alt a 2 mar chuid den Bhille."

I do not agree with any scrap of this legislation. It is an utter waste of time. I am just registering that point now. I am not calling for votes all day — that would be a waste of time — but the legislation before the House is a disgrace.

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.

Question put and agreed to.
AN SCEIDEAL.
SCHEDULE.

There are amendments to the Schedule. Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Senator Costello.

Tairgim leasú a 1:

I gCuid I, leathanach 7, líne 3, ", comhairliú nó cúnamh" a chur isteach tar éis "faisnéis",

agus

I gCuid II, leathanach 7, líne 9, ", counselling or assistance" a chur isteach tar éis "information".

I move amendment No. 1:

In Part I, page 6, line 3 after "faisnéis" to insert ", comhairliú nó cúnamh",

and

In Part II, page 6, line 9, after "information" to insert ", counselling or assistance".

Again we have an amendment to the Constitution presented in a most negative fashion. It reads:

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State,

—it does not use the words "right" to information—

subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law——

Obviously the matter has to be legislated for in any case and that would have been the proper thing to do. Now with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights the whole section is quite irrelevant because the decision has been explicitly stated in that particular case.

What type of information? Information relating to services lawfully available in another state. What is the character of that information? What is the nature of that information? How broad is it, how extensive is it, how useful is it? In a sense we are buying a pig in a poke. We are told that there shall be no limit to information; but we are not told what the nature of the information is to be, how extensive it is, how useful it is and whether it is to be curtailed by the legislative proposals that are stated here. I am saying in this amendment that we should at least spell out some further elements in relation to the freedom of information we are seeking and include therefore counselling or assistance relating to services lawfully available in another state.

There should be a fullness of information available to people and we should terminate once and for all this sad situation of women who are pregnant making decisions on very limited information, deliberately being deprived of information, deliberately being deprived of counselling, deliberately being deprived of assistance. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that we are not simply left with the basic negative amendment but that there is an attempt to spell out, to some degree at least, some of the provisions we would expect to see in the legislative proposals.

There is a very good reason for this amendment. I compliment Senator Costello, having tut-tutted slightly about another one of his amendments. I am very glad this is in because the people who have so arrogantly given to themselves the title of pro-life have said they are in favour of information on abortion being made available to people as long as it is information which tells them how awful it is. They have no objection at all to information on services lawfully available in other states being made available as long as the information is calculated to dissuade people from using those services. That has been made clear over and over again.

In regard to the wording of this, is it information which will give both sides, or is it information which will tell people how wrong it is? I accept there is a phrase "freedom to obtain or make available... information". Since there is a capacity to regulate this by law, the regulation by law could, to say the least of it, demand that fairly horrific accounts of the extreme effects of abortion should be part of any information on the issue. I am not saying this is the intent of the Government; what I am saying is that this is not quite as clear and explicit a constitutional guarantee of proper information, which, as the European Court of Human Rights felt obliged to point out to us, might in fact result in women deciding not to travel to Britain to have abortions.

I support this amendment. I think it is necessary. Given the rather confused position of the Minister for Health on the whole issue, both inside and outside the other House, it should be written down that people are entitled to be told in a dispassionate fashion the options available to them, the consequences of the various options available to them and also that they be assisted in the execution of whatever choice they choose to make. Any other concept of information makes a mockery of the high flown guarantee of freedom to travel we had a minute ago. We are going to say: "You are free to travel but we will not tell you anything about where you are travelling to". This is a mockery of the intent of that. It confirms my view — and it is one that Senator Norris has expressed more explicitly all the way through this — that the solution was never to have had this infernal amendment in the first place and the solution now is to get rid of it. We are now involved in extraordinary intellectual and moral contortions to try to make to irreconcilables fit together in the interests of our feeling better about ourselves. It should contain specific reference to counselling and to assistance. Otherwise information can be loaded or can be controlled in a way that will make it loaded. We should not allow ourselves to walk back into another position of having some people dictate what kind of information should be given on it.

At this point I would like to offer a word of explanation to Sentor Keogh, who took me to task for my phrase "Mickey Mouse amendments" in respect of the travel and information amendments. It bears on what Senator Norris said a moment ago in exasperation that though we are here conscientiously doing our parliamentary duty, in another sense we feel that all this is hypocrisy, a waste of time, and would have been totally avoided if people had not caved in to crawthumpers in 1983 and are still caving in to crawthumpers. That is what I meant when I said that these are "Mickey Mouse" amendments. What I meant was that the mentality behind them was a petty mentality and a hypocritical mentality and that in any western civilised decent society we should not have to be talking about gauging how far you can give the right to travel or what precise amount of information you have to give. This is in any case totally contrary to the spirit of the European Community.

There is an article on the recent court case in today's edition ofThe Irish Times by Sandra Coliver legal officer of the centre against censorship in London. She says:

In the contemporary world of television and radio broadcasts, satellite and cable transmissions, telephone and fax machines, no state can realistically hope to impose acordon sanitaire to prevent the free flow of information.

Indeed, any interference with this free flow of information in turn interferes with the free movement of people and services which is the touchstone of contemporary European democracy.

The Minister admitted that on the travel issue, and the remarks he made about freedom of travel being of the essence of the European Community apply equally to freedom of information. Any pussyfooting about how far we should permit information is unrealistic and I would like to make that point clear. I support Senator Costello's amendment before the House.

I think it was in the Dáil that the Minister for Justice said the State has no business being involved in abortion information services. Why not? Why should the State not be concerned with what is an anxiety, a real social and moral agony of certain citizens?

Again I refer to the contemporary discourse in the United States where someone like Mario Cuomo could maintain that, as a Catholic, not only would he make a distinction between his views as a Catholic and his duties as a legislator but as a legislator, his obligation might be not simply to provide full information on abortion services but to fund such services. The State, in my view, should not be stepping back from involvement and if it really means what it says by "information" should give the total picture and not limit itself to certain areas of information.

The point was well made this morning in connection with yesterday's Supreme Court judgment that it is a violation of human rights and of the rights of pregnant women in particular, in crisis pregnancies, to limit the information they have to telephone numbers in a directory, or other such uninformed services, instead of giving them full access to counselling as is envisaged in this amendment so that they may be in possession of all the information they require and not just a section of it. In the end — and this was also behind the Mario Cuomo argument — the result of providing complete information may be a lessening of the incidence of abortion. There are numerous reasons the supply of information should include every aspect of that including all kinds of counselling.

I strongly support this amendment for the reasons my colleague, Senator Murphy touched on. I am interested not only in the question of information but I am very glad the Labour Party put in the question of assistance as well. That takes us back to the point Senator Doyle was very appropriately making about the kind of class distinction that is implicit in the Bill making these services accessible only to people with a certain standard of income. We are declaring that abortion is permissible, it is legal, it is available but it is not accessible to many people without assistance. I wonder if the Minister is prepared to state that where the life of a mother is threatened — and these cases will be rare but they will exist — the State is prepared to subsidise the travel arrangements for this woman so that her life will be spared, otherwise this entire debate is about the price of a ticket to London and who can afford it and who cannot. I find the whole thing disgusting. I think this prurient obsession with the mechanics of reproductive biology——

There will be no need for her to travel if her life is in danger. That is the point.

What about her health?

What about her health?

I will deal with that.

There are a series of defects throughout this legislation. I take part of the Minister's point, but he referred to Miss X and he also referred, in a very chilling but revealing phrase, to the other cases which will arise. That will be seen on the record. I agree with him. There will be other cases — there will be the Y case and the Z case and then I suppose we can run all the way back through the alphabet because there will be more cases, and particularly this dangerous distinction between the life and health of——

The cases will arise but the problem will not. That is what we are about here.

The cases and the problem will arise. The Minister knows it will.

Saying it does not make it true. It will not.

The Minister believes it will not but I am certain it will.

The word "information" is a catch all because language has been debased, vitiated and corrupted by the proponents and supporters of Article 40.3.3º already, and in the Minister's speech he deliberately obfuscates language when he is talking, for example, about directive and non-directive counselling. Either he does not know what it means or he is deliberately muddying the waters.

I think I know what it means because for ten years I was a tutor and in that ten years I had about ten young women who came to me with crisis pregnancies. I was able first, to listen to them and let their unhappiness emerge, take the temperature down and then get them to a non-directive counselling agency. As far as I know, only one of those women had an abortion, the other eight or nine did not. That was because they were able to receive information in the broadest sense, meaning counselling, in which all the options were laid out before them and the inevitable consequences, negative and positive, of either course of action were laid out before them.

It is clear that for a number of people in the pro Article 40.3.3º lobby, and perhaps also for the Minister, "information" means only information which puts the sad idea of abortion in the most negative way possible, I can tell this House, as a tutor for ten years, with some experience in this, that that is guaranteed and calculated to drive young women to London in panic, distress and confusion and to have abortions that they might not otherwise have. I presume this House has already on the record the relevant fact that The Netherlands, which has abortion on demand, as it would be described, which also has adequate and proper contraceptive services and education, which we do not have in this country and also abortion counselling——

They have compulsory abortion counselling.

——compulsory abortion counselling, has a lowerper capita incidence of abortion than we already have in this sparkling, sin-free society in Ireland.

I am happy to strongly support the amendment.

I will take up at the point where Senator Norris left off. There is another tragic area of which I am sure the Minister is aware. When access to information, counselling and help is not available to women in the tragedy of a crisis pregnancy, there is resort to self-inflicted abortion and the black market area. We are inclined not to mention this anymore assuming that it has been cleaned up. It has not. There are desperate women who cannot afford to travel for what they feel is necessary and who resort to self-inflicted damage in the hope of causing a spontaneous abortion. We all know the stories of the three bottles of gin and the hot bath. That goes on in our community still.

Women are desperate when they discover they are in a crisis pregnancy for whatever reason, be it incest, rape, the menopausal woman who is absolutely terrified of a child in her 45th, 46th or 49th year, the teenager who just cannot face home because of the wrath of her parents when she finds she is pregnant. Many, particularly those who cannot afford to look at the option of travelling abroad, still resort to self-mutilation to try to rid themselves of the problems, with appalling medical consequences. This is an area that does not get an airing and it is another reason we must have the fullest information and counselling service available.

The experience in other countries is that where they have the fullest supportive counselling and information service for crisis pregnancies of one kind or another, the abortion rate decline's dramatically. If women feel they have the support of the State in the different care areas and that people are there to see them through, their desperation will decrease and they will get the strength to cope with the pregnancy. I am very concerned that supportive counselling services and a whole range of facilities to help women should be available. Abortion counselling is only one small part of the possible options when a woman finds herself in that position.

For the record I would like the Minister to indicate in detail whether the Government feel that yesterday's judgment in the European Court of Human Rights will be fully satisfied by this wording if it is passed by the people. Are we totally in line now with what yesterday's judgment requires of us?

I would like to agree with what Senator Doyle has said about support and counselling and social attitudes. People out there are faced with all sorts of problems, and crisis pregnancy is one. Fear of the bank manager, of financial problems, is another matter we all come across frequently and wife battering is another. As a politician, I give a lot of time to trying to ensure that people feel there is somebody out there to whom they can relate. People should feel, no matter how big their problem, that there is somebody out there willing to listen. We must promote that attitude generally in society. No matter what problem a person has, or how they get into it, they should never feel that judgment will be passed and when they come for help they should get full support in resolving the problem. That is something we all wish. In general, in most facets of Irish society there is good progress in that direction. We are less judgmental.

I object to the constant suggestion in this debate that those people who believe the right to human life extends to pre-birth)do so purely on Catholic dogma. That is an injustice to the non-Catholics who hold that view. I have met agnostics who have held that view and I think we all got some literature from an inter-church group promoting the pro-life view. Therefore, I think that to categorise those people who oppose the legislation of abortion as being totally some Catholic sectarian view of the world is not borne out by the facts.

On the information issue, it is proposed that it would be regulated by law. It is easy to say that nothing should be regulated by law, that we should have total free information, but very few agree that information should not be regulated by law. Let us take a very simple, mundane example. There are legal restrictions on advertising of cigarettes; we do not say it is your own business, we restrict advertising by law. We also make it legally obligatory to give information in a certain direction on every cigarette packet that is sold. The regulation of information by law is not unique to what is being proposed here. It is something that is common throughout all facets of human existence.

Nobody is objecting to it.

There was an objection earlier. I am glad the objection to the regulation has been withdrawn.

It has nothing to do with regulation by law.

You said it should not be regulated by law.

Senator Murphy said it. I did not say Senator Ryan said it but it was said from the Opposition benches. In my view, it is reasonable that information flow has to be controlled by some law or some system. It is common in all societies but it seems to me that when we get to certain activities the normal rules that apply in society are meant to go out the window. The normal recognition of having to draw a line somewhere that we accept in human behaviour, the facing of that reality, suddenly goes out the window when we come to discuss the so-called moral issues.

I cannot understand why people cannot accept that most issues are moral issues. To me, and to most people, morality consists of the common good and, therefore, the Social Welfare Bill is a moral Bill because it says we take from the richer or better off and we give to the poor.

It is not sexual morality, and it is only sexual morality we get hung up on.

I can only speak for myself and say four-fifths or more of my life is spent dealing with the moralities outside of sexual morality. My concentration on sexual morality issues would be concentrated in the same way as in other issues and that is protecting people as we would with battered wives or rape victims. The abortion issue comes down to one fundamental point, whether a person is a person before birth or not. If you say "yes" you approach it in one way, you say there is a civil right there to be protected. If you say "no" it is quite logical, and I said this yesterday, sexual morality is not involved; it is a question of civil rights.

When I spoke on the substantive issue and the amendment on Second Stage I made two points which are relevant to this amendment. All of us accept the right to travel as unquestionable; that is not an issue. Implicit in the right to travel however, is the daily opportunity for Irish women to travel to England for abortions as they have been doing for many years. It is not logical to disregard the implications of the right to travel.

We cannot smugly escape reality by saying that we are not aware of abortion carried out across the water. Abortion is readily available to Irish women abroad and we have to face that issue which brings us to the question of counselling.

It cannot be said often enough that the most unattractive, horrific and most dreaded prospect for a woman is to contemplate abortion; it is the last thing a woman contemplates. Many unfortunate women who have gone through that process, as we know from features in newspapers, magazine articles, etc. go through lives of hell after the event. Many have tragically been the victims of long term psychiatric care because of a previous abortion. If one accepts that abortion will be readily available once we have the right to travel and if one accepts that abortion is an extraordinarily unattractive and a last option, then we should have a State supported pregnancy counselling service staffed by experts to offer humane support to women in distress because of pregnancy.

A woman properly counselled and with adequate emotional support will decide against abortion. Over the past 15 years roughly 5,000 women per year have made the lonely journey to Holyhead with one dreadful consequence. That calls into question our national attitude to sexuality, the sex education programmes in schools, our support system for unmarried mothers, our entire value system, and poses fundamental questions.

All of us, with the horrific exception of a few paramilitaries who attempt genocide in the Northern part of this country are pro-life. Being pro-life has a deeper meaning to it and more significant consequences than any statement of aspirations in public fora. Being pro-life means being supportive of pregnant women and being in favour of an awareness programme in schools about sexuality and sexual problems. In this context complete counselling services are needed which will seek out those in need of them. We cannot escape. We are in this unique position, because of our contiguity to England. Abortion is available to Irish women, for a small travel fare; the distance to travel is short. That is why counselling is so important.

No matter what amendment or legislation we pass in Ireland, people can make the trip to Holyhead with ease. All pro-life people who are appalled by that scenario must actively campaign for State support services which must become one of the major functions of the Departments of Health and Education and of voluntary groups. I am in favour of comprehensive counselling services and, like Senator Doyle, I would like the Minister's clarification on how yesterday's ruling affects the existing situation.

I would like to take up some points made by Senator Ó Cuív, one of which, strictly speaking, is irrelevant to the immediate consideration but since he got away with it I take it that I will also. He made the point that objection to abortion is not merely a Roman Catholic standpoint; people who are not Roman Catholics also share a universal abhorrence of abortion. Later on in his speech he said that one either believes that there is a person there from the beginning in which case one has to support the right to life of the unborn or one does not in which case one's attitude is quite different.

This is precisely the difference between the Roman Catholic view of abortion and what I might call the humanist view, or even the Church of Ireland view. The rigid belief that the fertilised ovum at the moment of conception is a person with rights, is the Roman Catholic point of view. It is not shared by the other Christian churches as far as I know to the same rigid extent. As the Senator rightly says, it determines one's view and that is why it is important for believing and practising Roman Catholics to try to rise above their personal convictions and see the wider picture as to what has to be done to safeguard the public good.

Germane also to our immediate consideration are the wrong parallels drawn by Senator ÓCuív between the kind of comprehensive information we are talking about here and the restrictions put on certain advertising propaganda and so on. Society rightly restricts the propaganda of tobacco companies and purveyors of racist propaganda but to compare these with a crisis pregnancy is totally misleading. Western society allows the citizen the maximum information about smoking and non-smoking and permission in the light of full information to make up his or her own mind. It is a wrong comparison. All across Europe countries have varying degrees of permissiveness towards abortion. Some have quite limited access but all agree that one must have the maximum information, including counselling, to allow the mature citizen to make up her own mind. That is the difference.

Finally, for Senator Ó Cuív's edification, I will quote Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which I take it he subscribes, and which lays down:

The right to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

I support Senator Doyle on the counselling issue. It would be remiss of us here today to leave without knowing what exactly the Minister intends to do. His words yesterday were: "That the Government would give careful consideration to the decision". That is a general statement which means absolutely nothing.

If we might refer for a moment to the breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The 1988 injunction, which prevented the dissemination of abortion information, has not made a whit of difference to the number of women leaving this country for abortions and, as Senator Doyle said, we are talking about women of all ages. It was stated yesterday that during the term of that injunction the number of women leaving this country for abortions actually rose. So I cannot see why we have to look negatively, as we typically do in this country, at counselling. There is no specific link that I can find between the provision of information and abortion. The opposite is true; the numbers obtaining abortions increase when counselling and information are not available.

With regard to the Minister's constituency, it took a long time for family planning services to find their way to Limerick. How in the past if one lived outside Limerick, my constituency, could one gain access to family planning? That is still an issue in rural Ireland today. I ask the Minister to direct the health boards to provide in quantity and quality information centres on pregnancy. I do not think there are many well-heeled women today in Irish society as a result of our economic problems, but it would be easy for a woman with means to receive counselling from a consultant or GP who is also employed by the health board; but the same information would not be available to a woman with a medical card. That is divisive and unless the health boards are directed by the Minister to provide quality counselling, I cannot see us going anywhere.

It is invariably women who, with support from medical, legal people, etc., run counselling services on shoestring budgets. If the Well Woman Centre and Door Open Counselling had not received their expenses, I do not know how they would survive. Let us face facts. I do not want the women of Ireland to have to suffer the consequences of a two-tier society. Women who can afford to travel will continue to do so, and those who cannot will be left in danger. We must look positively at counselling; when all the options are put before Irish women they will opt for the positive one.

There has been an increase in births to young unmarried women who choose to keep their babies. Such births are on the increase in Limerick and Dublin maternity hospitals and throughout the country. That is an affirmation of Irish women who have their children without adequate support services.

In rural areas unmarried mothers are still looked upon with scorn. Tongues wag and women suffer social ostracisation, especially from rural males, who completely disregard the fact that all babies have fathers. This issue was not mentioned over the last few days. Men whose girlfriends, spouses etc. have left the country for abortions are the hidden statistic; we know nothing about them. They take no responsibility. Young women who choose to keep their babies frequently bring them up in local authority flats while trying to hold down jobs, particularly in the catering industry. These women struggle to support their children and I find it hypocritical that it has been implied in the discussion relating to this amendment that Irish women rush off to have abortions with little or no commitment to their children. I will say more about that when we talk about the substantive issue.

I expect the Minister to state today that we will have counselling available not only for pregnant women but also for fathers who should accompany their partners to centres to give them that support, whether they wish to enter marriage or not. Single pregnant women are not anxious to enter into marriage either unless it is going to be a life long partnership of compatibility. A counselling service must be publicly acceptable, not a door on which people will be afraid to be seen to knock. We must get rid of that attitude. Irish society must come of age through improved information from schools and clergy and genuine support for family life, not solely on paper but evident in openness and honesty. Ireland parades itself on the world stage as morally superior to other countries in its support for family life. Let us begin to grow up.

I hope that the Minister will concede that we should have supportive counselling services for young women everywhere and so geographically located that all can avail of them without the necessity for long train or bus journeys. They must be situated where people can find them once they need help, warmth and support. Other areas of Irish political life must make available the financial support necessary to implement women's ultimate decisions.

I am delighted to see universal support on this side of the House for our motion. I hope the Minister will in his reply agree with the points so cogently and strongly made by people who feel deeply about this issue.

This amendment is particularly important because the wording of the amendment Bill before us is a typical piece of Fianna Fáil wink and nod, saying that they will conform to the requirement to provide information but that they will be very circumspect about the information made avilable. That is why they have put in "subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law" without the slightest indication of what those conditions might be.

We do not know what proposals will issue in forthcoming legislation. Fianna Fáil are asking us to buy a pig in a poke in the matter when there is a need for unrestricted information in crisis pregnancy counselling. Speaker after speaker on the Fianna Fáil side has said: "We do not want information or advertising; we do not want that sort of thing happening around the country. We are not going to tolerate that." The Minister for Health has already indicated that he does not see a role for the State in the provision of pregnancy counselling services. So what are we left with? We have a provision to vote on and there is a huge question mark over the intention of the Government to provide a proper information and counselling service. I hope the Minister will respond to all the points made and we will press this to a vote.

Several points have been made in the course of the debate. I regret the tone adopted by Senator Costello because normally he is reasonable and logical. I give him credit because the Labour Party have put down an amendment to state clearly that they want counselling and assistance included. I respect their honesty which can be contrasted with the typical hypocritical approach of Fine Gael with their fine words and hyperbole. If Fine Gael want directive counselling and assistance let them put down an amendment. They should not try to be all things to all men and all women.

What a grumpy Minister we have.

I am still reasonable.

Not like some of us. What a grumpy little man the Minister is.

Senator Doyle should withdraw that remark.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would like to point out to Members that we have only about eight minutes left.

(Interruptions.)

The Minister has no grace under duress. He differs from his colleagues in that.

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.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but as it is now 12.30 p.m. I must put the question, in accordance with the Order of the House today.

Is í an cheist: "Go n-aontaítear leis seo i gCoiste an Sceideal agus an Teideal agus go dtuairiscítear an Bille don Teach gan leasú, go gcríochnaítear leis seo an Ceathrú Céim, agus leis seo go ritear an Bille."

The question is: That the Schedule and the Title are hereby agreed to and that the Bill is reported to the House without amendment and Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.

Faisnéiseadh go rabhthas tar éis glacadh leis an gceist.

Question declared carried.