There are definitions in section 1 which are inadequate and misleading. I wonder in the circumstances whether the Minister might consider amending or changing some of them. The term "termination of pregnancies" is, by itself, clear enough; most people will understand what that represents. However, we then find it is defined in terms that changes the nature of what is meant in a different format. It now means the "intentional procurement of miscarriages of women who are pregnant". The emphasis has been changed. There is no reference to the effect it has on the other being, the termination of life of the other being. People are very familiar with the notion of miscarriage. It is used in any context in respect of a woman's experience during pregnancy. It is a well known term; it means something that happens to the woman over which she has no control and relates only to the woman's experience.
I have found, not only in the debate in this House but in the general way matters are couched, that we are not facing up to the awful reality of abortion. We call a termination of pregnancy "a procurement of miscarriages". It is much more than that. It is the termination of a life in being, although there may be a miscarriage as well. Why do we try to soften the reality by presenting it in a format which does not make us face the reality? If someone will tell me that it does not mean the termination of an unborn child's life, then I will listen; but until such time as I am told that, I find that this kind of presentation is calculated only to confuse and understate the awful consequences of what is perpetrated. The initial statement is simpler and clearer than the manner in which it is defined and perhaps the Minister can give me some guidance on that.
This section also defines a "person to whom section 5 applies". Maybe this is why the Minister said in his general statements when introducing the legislation and in observations outside of this House that it would not apply, for instance, to a friend or a relative of the woman. I see nothing in this legislation that clearly defines and gives that effect. I want to inquire if the Minister is relying on this definition to justify his statements, if friends or relatives are excluded from this provision? If the Minister is not relying on this definition, which one is he relying on? Many people may agree with the Minister in saying that friends and relatives should not be subject to any penalty for giving personal and bone fide advice, but where in the Bill is this clearly defined? This section says "a person to whom section 5 applies"— those who would be subject to the disciplines or the constraints of the legislation —"means a person who engages in, or holds himself, herself or itself out as engaging in the activity of giving information,"— this definition is trying to make the English language even more complex; why do we not just say "engaging in giving information, advice or counselling to individual members of the public in relation to pregnancy."?
I raise again the query I had on Second Stage of this Bill. What is there in this section that does not give free rein to an active member of the Irish Family Planning Centre or the Well Woman Centre from acting in an individual capacity, seeking out someone and presenting themselves as a friend with an interest to help? We now know from the honest statements of the Irish Family Planning Centre what its purpose is through the formal agreement it has with abortion clinics in England; and the Well Woman Centre has similar formal agreements. At least they are honest, although we can ignore this if we wish. I am anxious to ensure that such people cannot avail of loose drafting to behave as if they are dissociated from the organisation in which they work and operate by presenting themselves as a friend. If this is the consequence of this section, could the Minister assure me how such people will not be allowed to drive a coach and four through this by simply changing their status and saying: "I am not now an official of the Irish Family Planning Centre. I am not now an employee of the Well Woman Centre. I am now acting in a personal capacity. I just met her as a friend". I want to stop that and to leave no doubt that such misrepresentation and distortion can happen.
A "woman" is defined in this Bill — in a Bill that lacks precision on a range of fronts, I find this definition strange — as "a female person". The only presumable intention there can be behind that is that it extends the definition of "woman" to the widest possible range from birth to death, otherwise it hardly needs to be defined. A female person, like her male counterpart, will stay female from birth until death. Presumably this definition is intended to extend the meaning of the word "woman". Where "woman" appears here in relation to abortion, abortion information and abortion services, we are talking about any female from a young girl to an old woman.
I am concerned. I have had telephone calls this morning, not from lobbyists. The people that have affected me most in the last few weeks are mothers, many of whom cried. I got a letter this morning from a person who apologised for invading my privacy, saying they are not members of any organisation or political party and do not belong to any lobby group, political party or group, pro-life or otherwise, but is simply a concerned parent. I thank that concerned parent and many others. Concerned parents are asking if we will allow young girls have information on abortion. Are we saying that our society is such that we can legislate so a youngster from the date she becomes pregnant can have this information? What safeguards are we writing into the legislation to protect that youngster?
Far from clarifying what is meant by a particular phrase, the definitions in this section confuse and distort the meaning of the original phrase. "Termination of pregnancies" is defined as "a procurement of miscarriages of women who are pregnant". I prefer the original phrase without it being defined. If we are to talk about the termination of a pregnancy, we should say what it is — the termination of a life, not just a miscarriage.