Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013: Committee Stage

SECTION 1

Amendment No. 1 in the name of Senator Jim Walsh has been ruled out of order because it is declaratory in nature.

Will the Leas-Chathaoirleach explain why it is out of order because it is declaratory?

The ruling that has been made is that it is declaratory in nature. That rules it out. That is the decision I have been issued. If the Senator wants to speak on the section, he can.

I will do so.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I suggest the process should be looked at by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. This is not the first time this has happened. It has happened to a number of Members that they receive a letter on the day advising them that their amendment have been ruled out of order.

The reason I tabled the amendment and the reason I am not happy with the section is it is a misnomer. The Title should convey what the Bill is about. If the Bill is about anything, it is very definitely not about the protection of life. It is about destroying life, particularly the life of the unborn. It may be argued - I accept and concede it may be so argued - in regard to sections 7 and 8, that it will have the effect of protecting women's lives. We could dispute whether that is necessary-----

On a point of order, the Senator is straying beyond the topic of section 1. This is more of a Second Stage speech.

That is not a point of order; it is a matter for the Chair. I will certainly curtail any transgression to other sections, but because I had ruled the amendment out of order, I did allow Senator Jim Walsh to speak on the section. In doing so I am allowing him some latitude. He has had only one minute so far.

Section 1 clearly deals with the Title of the Bill, about which I am talking. I am saying it is a misnomer. I am conceding, however, that, in some instances, particularly in regard to sections 7 and 8, there may be an arguable reason for the Title. However, once one moves to section 9, all pretence about protecting life is eroded and eradicated. The Bill will lead to a situation where babies will be aborted - the baby will be killed and its life terminated. We have to speak in plain language. The Title should reflect what the Bill is about, that is all, and the language used should be honest.

I have argued before that many of the arguments made, particularly by the Government, have been in sanitised tones. We saw where that got us in the last century, when sanitised language was used to describe the most horrific of events. We should not allow that to happen in this instance.

Regardless of what one thinks of section 9, specifically with regard to sections 7 and 8, the wording of the Title of the Bill is correct, that is, Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. Prior to the 2002 referendum, the Title was the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill 2001; therefore, this is a minor change in wording. I do not see any difference from that Bill which was the last time such a Bill was brought before the House.

As I said yesterday on Second Stage, personally, I have an issue with section 9 and will deal with it when we get to it. However, in regard to sections 7 and 8, specifically with regard to medical emergencies owing to illness and protecting the mother's life in the case of emergency, that is effectively what it is. I have no difficulty with the Title of the Bill, as it flows directly from the Twenty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy) Bill 2001 and there is a very minor change in wording.

I believe the Title of the Bill is correct and the proposal made is unacceptable.

Let us be clear on this issue. I declared the amendment tabled by Senator Jim Walsh out of order because it was declaratory in nature. Rather than talking on the amendment which has been ruled out of order, I will allow comments on the section. I remind the House that many substantive amendments will be proposed during the course of the debate on the Bill. It might be prudent, therefore, for Members to concentrate on the more substantive amendments before us, although I do not want to stymie anyone.

On the section, I believe the Title is correct. It is also important to realise that this legislation does not in any way move outside the terms of Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution. Senator Jim Walsh, in his contributions this morning and yesterday, has indicated that this legislation is over-ruling that element of the Constitution. That is not the position. The legislation stays within the remit of the Constitution which is quite clear that the State has a duty to protect the life of the unborn and this legislation will do nothing to change that position. It is giving protection both to the unborn and the mother, which is what we are talking about. Therefore, the Title of the Bill is correct and accurate and a true reflection of what we are trying to achieve in the Oireachtas.

I support Senator Colm Burke. The Title of the Bill is correct. I urge colleagues to also look at the Long Title which sets out in more detail what the Bill seeks to do. It is very clear that the Short Title of the Bill reflects this.

I find myself in agreement with Senators Jim Walsh and Colm Burke in that I have no doubt that, as Senator Colm Burke said, the Bill intends to legislate for the Supreme Court's decision in the X case and to activate or implement through legislation the provisions of Article 40.3.3°, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, it is worth recalling that the Bill started out as the protection of maternal life Bill and it is hard not to see a political motive in the subsequent change of Title to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. Hence, given that there was no change made in the interim that in any way operated to protect unborn human life, I believe Senator Jim Walsh has made a very valid point and I support him.

Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis an Seanadóir Jim Walsh maidir leis na pointí atá déanta aige anseo i dtaca le Teideal an Bhille seo.

The Title of a Bill is very important because it frames the legislation and what it is about. The Title of this Bill, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013, clearly sends out an impression that the Bill protects all life during pregnancy, when of course we know that is not the case. The definition of political framing is "an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual's perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases." It is generally considered in one of two ways, the first of which is frames in thought, consisting of the mental representations, interpretations and simplifications of reality. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 is one such example of political framing. This is especially reflected in its Title. The overall aim and objectives of the Bill are focused solely on the health, safety and well-being of the mother, in regard to her personal interests, without any reference to those of the baby. This can be clearly seen in Chapter 1, which is titled "Risk of loss of life of pregnant woman". Sadly, there is no section in the Bill called "Risk of loss of life of the unborn". To say therefore that the Bill is compatible with Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution is misleading, and Senator Walsh's raising of this issue is very important. I am not making any political points in this regard, but we are being asked to approve legislation. The current constitutional provision protects the life of the mother and the child. This legislation, entitled "Protection of Life During Pregnancy", protects only the life of the mother. There is no mention of protection of the life of the child. How can that be compatible with the Constitution?

I remind Senators that we are dealing with section 1. Senator Walsh proposed a change to the Title in an amendment that I have ruled out of order. We are dealing with section 1 as it stands. I do not want to broaden the debate into constitutional or other issues that can be dealt with very well later in the debate. Many amendments have been tabled and they are worthy of debate.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, as titled, is misleading, misnamed and disingenuous. In other countries, a Bill providing for what we are to provide here would be called the abortion medical Bill or, at a minimum, the termination of pregnancy Bill. This is misleading. It is not about saving both lives and is a clear departure from the two-patient model. It is certainly not compatible with the equality principle understood in Article 40.3.3°. To rename it as the abortion Bill, the abortion medical Bill, or the termination of pregnancy Bill would be far more honest. For that reason, I support the proposed amendment.

The proposal has been ruled out of order. We are on section 1.

I refer to the Title of the Bill. Before the debate really kicks off, it might be no harm to remind ourselves exactly what the Supreme Court stated. Otherwise, it will give rise to all kinds of irrelevant arguments. On 5 March 1992, Chief Justice Finlay spoke on this point. He stated:

I, therefore, conclude that the proper test to be applied is that if it is established as a matter of probability that there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother, which can only be avoided by the termination of her pregnancy, such termination is permissible, having regard to the true interpretation of Article 40, s.-3, sub-s. -3 of the Constitution.

This week-----

The constitutional interpretation of section 1 is very narrowly focused. There will be ample room for points that can be made on later sections. We should not lose sight of two points: first, that the amendment proposed by Senator Walsh has been ruled out of order, and second, that we are dealing with the technical name of the Bill, be it wrong or right.

That is exactly the point.

I do not want Members to expand and go beyond the parameters of the debate. Otherwise we will have all kinds of debates.

On the naming of the Bill, the life of the unborn is contingent on the life of the mother. Of course it is the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill - there can be no other name for it.

On a point of clarification, I remind Senator Mullen that the Title of the Bill has not changed since it was published as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Again, that is not a point of order.

That was the first of three short points I wished to make: when initiated, the Bill had the Title it now has. We published heads of the Bill which were discussed in this Chamber and had a different title. For the record, however, it should be clear that the Title of the Bill has always been the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

As I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach does not wish us to trespass into other sections, I will not do so other than to respond to Senator Ó Domhnaill's point, which carries quite a charge. I do not wish to paraphrase what he said, but essentially it was that the Bill contained little or no reference to the unborn - I believe he said there was none. That is manifestly untrue and I am afraid it connotes a failure on the part of the Senator to read the Bill. The tests that are set out in sections 7 to 9, inclusive, and 13 are clear and onerous. Not only that; in the plain terms of the Bill, if he cares to look at those sections, the Senator will see the following phraseology. The definition of "reasonable opinion" states that it is an opinion formed "in good faith which has regard to the need to preserve unborn human life as far as practicable". That is the precise phrase in the Constitution.

This will be a long debate - as long as it needs to be - but we really should not misrepresent matters.

With all due respect, neither should the Minister of State transgress. We are dealing with section 1, on which I would like us to focus.

I have no problem with either Title. Will the Minister of State tell me when a termination is not an abortion? It seems to me it is such, and we should be honest. What upsets me about this Bill is that it is a queasy little Irish solution for an Irish problem, which is an insult to Irish people. We should be open and address the issue, tragic as it is, and we should be making provision for cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

It is astonishing that the Minister for Health stated he did not know he was excluding health reasons, given that he is the Minister for Health. I do not mind if this is called the abortion Bill; that is fine by me. I am not sure it does protect life in every circumstance, going on the basis of the words used by the Taoiseach, who said nothing had changed. He said, "This Bill changes nothing". The implication of that is very clear. A woman in the same situation as Savita Halappanavar would face exactly the same circumstances as she did and therefore could die. How on earth can that be the protection of life?

Let us be mindful of the fact that we are going into areas that will be dealt with by substantial amendments further along in the debate. This is purely on the Title of the Bill.

I accept that. The Leas-Chathaoirleach will note that my last words asked how this Bill can ensure protection of life. That directly addresses the nature of the Title, the effect it has on the Bill, and what the Bill purports to do, namely, to protect life. My point is that, if it exists, that protection is minimal. I would have no difficulty if the Bill were called the abortion Bill.

I find myself in agreement with most of what Senator Norris has said. I repeat the question for the Minister of State. Will he tell me where in the Bill there is protection outlined for the unborn, if this is the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill? We all know that in pregnancy there are two lives involved, that of the mother and that of the unborn. My understanding is, as Senator Bacik stated on radio this morning, that most abortions occur in the first trimester. I agree with her. I cannot see mentioned anywhere in the Bill how that life will be protected in the first trimester, or in the second, for that matter. Can the Minister of State point to this in the Bill?

I refer also to the point made by my colleague, which is absolutely correct, that in 2001, the Bill introduced by a previous Government used the term "protection of human life". The change in the Title is not significant, but the Senator will be aware that there is a huge and significant change in the intent of the Bill.

Suicidal intent was excluded from the Bill. That is the core of the objection, as no reasonable person objects to a mother's life being protected and saved where it is medically at risk during pregnancy, but there is no evidence whatever to suggest that a mother's life is in any way assisted by aborting her baby at a time when she has suicidal intent.

The question is: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I wish to speak on the section.

I hope the Senator will not be reiterating what he said before. We are trying to move on, because this is a very technical section. Members should realise that the more substantial issues might not get as much time as one would wish later on.

I take grave exception to what the Minister of State has said, having thrown out the idea yesterday and again today that Senators should read the Bill.

I stand by that.

I inform the Minister of State that I have read the Bill from cover to cover.

Read it again.

I have read thousands of pages of submissions also. Perhaps if the Minister of State had read some of the submissions of legal and medical experts, he would not be sitting there trying to ram a Bill down our throats that does nothing to protect-----

On a point of order, we agreed that the debate should be conducted with respectful language. Nobody is trying to ram a Bill down anyone's throat.

That is not a point of order.

The Senator knows well that that is not a point of order. I advise Senator Ó Domhnaill that we are dealing with a specific issue and he has made a point to the Minister of State. Clearly the Senator and the Minister of State differ on the interpretation.

That is fine and I accept that. I did not throw any charges at the Minister of State until he threw a charge at me first.

The Senator just did so.

Democracy should prevail and we should have an honest debate.

The point has been made.

Perhaps we could have a debate without seething anger. It would be a start.

I ask Senator Ó Domhnaill to conclude.

We should have an honest debate and call the Bill what it is.

The Senator and the Minister of State could agree to differ.

We should not have any anger.

I will speak through the Chair if allowed.

Please confine the comments to section 1.

Absolutely. To be fair to my colleague, Senator Norris, he has had the decency and honesty to call this Bill what it is and acknowledge that it is an abortion Bill.

We cannot have this.

It could be called the abortion of life during pregnancy Bill 2013, the protection and rights of the mother during pregnancy Bill 2013, the end of life during pregnancy Bill 2013 or the termination of unborn life during pregnancy Bill 2013. Any Bill that does not protect the unborn baby is seriously flawed, opposing and contradicting the Offences against the Person Act 1861 and the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn child and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right." Usually, an amendment to the Constitution has to be voted on by the public and approved in order to become law so why is the Government afraid to let the people decide?

They have already done so twice.

What is it afraid of?

The Senator is transgressing beyond the remit of section 1.

This is about the Title of the Bill.

The Sentor is broadening the debate to other areas. We should not debate referendums, as this relates to a simple amendment that has been ruled out of order. The Senator has made his point.

I ask for clarification on how the child is protected.

That is not an issue for this section. This is the Title of the Bill.

It is the Protection of Life During Pregnancy-----

With all due respect, there are several pages of amendments and the issues can be teased out when discussing them, rather than in the technical Title of the Bill. I want to move on from this issue.

In fairness to Senator Ó Domhnaill, he has made a point that we are trying to ram the Bill down people's throats. We had three days of public consultation in January and a further three days in May.

That has nothing to do with the Title.

An allegation has been made.

With all due respect, the allegation was made because the Minister of State had provoked Senator Ó Domhnaill on a certain issue. We should not go beyond that.

I have a final point.

We are discussing the Title, and the Senator's legal expertise should allow him to realise it is very technical.

On that technical point, Mr. Justice McCarthy of the Supreme Court noted in the X case: "I think it reasonable, however, to hold that the people, when enacting the amendment [to the Constitution in 1982] were entitled to believe that legislation would be introduced so as to regulate the manner in which the right to life of the unborn and the right to life of the mother could be reconciled". That is exactly what we are doing with this piece of legislation. That was the judgment in the X case 20 years ago.

I wish to put a simple question on the Title of the Bill, which is a sleight of hand being perpetrated on the people. The Title was dreamed up in the immediate aftermath of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar, and it was put out in order to gain traction among the broad mass of the Irish people, who would automatically and sympathetically go along with a Bill with the phrase "protection of life during pregnancy" in its title. Who is against the protection of life? Nobody is against that.

I have no difficulty with 90% of this Bill. I welcome it and applaud the Government for providing the legal clarity that those in the medical profession have sought for a considerable period. If that medical clarity had been inculcated in the procedures surrounding the treatment given to the late Ms Halappanavar, who knows what would have been the outcome, irrespective of the medical incompetence that surrounded the case, which had nothing to do with the ending of life. I am asking the question about having the phrase "protection of life" in the Title, as section 9(1) indicates that it shall be lawful to carry out a medical procedure as a result of which an unborn human life is ended.

That is a matter to be dealt with in section 9. I urge Senators to be reasonable and deal with the technicalities of this section. The amendment was ruled out of order. Most speakers have already transgressed section 1.

I am attempting to explain why the Title is incorrect.

The Senator is using other sections to make the point. It may be more appropriate-----

Excuse me. Could I rely on the Leas-Chathaoirleach's advice on how else I could do that?

The Senator has referred to section 9, for example.

This section deals with the Title of the Bill and in order to back up the argument I make I must refer to another section of the Bill. It relates directly to the argument I am putting forward that the Bill is not about the protection of life but rather the ending of life. The Title has managed to massage significant swathes of the people that are not opposed to this. If I just saw the Title of this Bill, I would not be opposed to it either and would welcome it.

I do not want to detain the Seanad as I agree with the comment that there are much more substantive issues to be addressed. None the less, the issue is of the utmost importance. I am inclined to leave the issue if the Minister of State is prepared to give an undertaking that between now and Report Stage, he will consider the matter and comments made.

I have made my point on the 2001 Bill and I take Senator Walsh's point that it did not contain a suicide clause. The Long Title of the Bill is important for those who are seeking a balance in the right to life of the mother and the unborn baby. The Long Title is "Bill entitled an Act to protect human life during pregnancy; to make provision for reviews at the instigation of a pregnant woman of certain medical opinions given in respect of pregnancy; to provide for an offence of intentional destruction of unborn human life; to amend the Health Act 2007; to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861; and to provide for matters connected therewith". There are sections about which people may have differing opinions, but the Title follows from the 2001 Bill; therefore, I have no difficulty in that regard.

I fully support section 1 of the Bill and agree completely with the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in that regard, in addition to his initial comments. I remind the House that we have spent 30 minutes discussing the Title of the Bill and I intend to give all the necessary time to complete this Stage. Ministers are prepared to sit on Friday and Saturday if necessary to deal with Committee Stage but I hope the time allocated will not be abused. I ask Members not to abuse the time of the House.

The Title is accurate and fairly comprehends the constitutional requirement to protect unborn life with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother.

It does both and comprehends both requirements. It is a fair and accurate Title and there is no intention to review it between now and Report Stage. That is the Title that the Government proposes will remain.

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 39; Níl, 13.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.
  • White, Mary M.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Brian Ó Domhnaill and Jim Walsh.
Question declared carried.
SECTION 2

I welcome the Minister for Health to the House. Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 18, 43 to 45, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed?

No. I have already spoken to the Clerk about this and, in particular, the second group of amendments. As many of them are unrelated, I do not agree to the grouping of these amendments. I know it makes sense to group certain amendments. It is the extent of the groupings and the related issues that I am opposing. I do not want it to impede us getting through all the sections and using our time productively. If there is a re-examination to regroup them in an order which makes sense, I will be happy to withdraw my objection.

Is the Senator objecting to this particular group of amendments?

We will look at the others when we come to them. The Sentor is entitled to make his views on the grouping.

All we are agreeing on is this particular grouping. Is that correct?

Yes. That is all we are dealing with now.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“ “fatal foetal abnormality” means a medical condition suffered by a foetus such that it is incompatible with life outside the womb;”.

I spoke about the issue of fatal foetal abnormality last year, in respect of the D case in the European Court of Human Rights in 2006, which was brought by someone known at the time as Miss de Barra and who we now know as Deirdre Conroy. She became pregnant with twins, but one foetus died and the second foetus was diagnosed with the life threatening Edwards Syndrome. She travelled to England for a termination and then took a case to the European Court of Human Rights. Her argument was that it was a breach of her rights that the only way she could have ended the non-viable pregnancy was to travel abroad for treatment. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the State, as Miss de Barra did not go through the Irish courts.

On behalf of the State, Gerard Hogan argued that Miss de Barra had a good prospect of succeeding had she brought an application to the Irish courts for legal abortion in Ireland. Gerard Hogan, on behalf of the State, argued that the X case had demonstrated the potential for judicial development in this area. The following is the kernel of my argument for including fatal foetal abnormality in this Bill via this amendment. According to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, the foetus was viable in the X case, whereas in the D case there might be an issue as to the extent to which the State was required to guarantee the life of a foetus which suffered from a lethal genetic abnormality. Gerard Hogan, on behalf of the State, also argued that the courts in Ireland were unlikely to interpret the provision with remorseless logic, particularly where the facts were exceptional. Gerard Hogan and Donal O'Donnell SC, on behalf of the State, argued that it had been established that if there was no realistic prospect of the foetus being born alive, then there was at least a tenable argument which could be seriously considered by the domestic courts to the effect that the foetus was not an unborn for the purposes of Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution, or that even if it was an unborn, its right to life was not actually engaged as it had not the prospect of life outside the womb, that the foetus with a life threatening abnormality might not be found eligible for constitutional protection by the Irish courts. If it was an unborn, its right to life was not actually engaged as it had no prospect of life outside the womb. It was also noted by the European Court of Human Rights that there was a feasible argument to be made that the constitutionally enshrined balance between the right to life of the mother and the foetus could have shifted in favour of the mother where the unborn suffered from an abnormality incompatible with life. He won. The State won.

Why is this case not at the centre of our legislation? Why is the Government not including this Irish victory in the Bill? Why is the Government thinking one way in Ireland and arguing another way successfully in the European Court of Human Rights? I would like an answer to those questions.

It has been shouted across the Seanad that this case was inadmissible. The European Court of Human Rights chose not to hear the case for a number of reasons. First, the Government had persuasively argued that Miss de Barra would have a fair and humane hearing at home.

Second, there was every possibility that the Irish courts would have found that an abortion in her circumstances would have been lawful under the Constitution and that she should have taken her case to the Irish courts before going to the European court. Therefore, the big win for Ireland was that its courts and Constitution were perceived as humane, reasonable and capable of dealing with Ms de Barra's case without needing any interference from the European court. In essence, the Government escaped having laundry aired in Europe, with the publicity and ethical pressure that a full hearing would have brought. Ms de Barra kept silent at the time. Having had the abortion and taken the case, she could not very well have turned around to litigate in the Irish courts. The Government was allowed to continue on, as always, not having to tackle the issue head-on.

The judgment on admissibility runs to 30 pages. Therefore, it was not just a technical, quick decision. It is not the same as a case being thrown out of the Irish courts. When cases are thrown out of the Irish courts, it is usually because they have no merit or are vexatious. In Europe Ms de Barra's case was declared inadmissible, not because it had no merit but because the European Court of Human Rights felt the Irish courts would have offered her a fair hearing and that the Constitution was up to the job. This was a huge win for the Government in the European court.

Where is that win in the Bill? I would like it to be included in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities. Why is the Government arguing one set of circumstances in the European court and another on our own shores? Why was a reasonable and accepted argument for abortion in circumstances involving a fatal foetal abnormality deemed by the Government acceptable for argument in the European court by Gerard Hogan and not used, or at least argued, included or discussed, in the Bill? I include also the deliberations of the expert group. As part of our amendment, I would like it to be included. I would like women - be they married, single, couples or partners – to at least have this choice. I would like the Bill to include our amendment and give those women making a profound decision in their lives a choice.

We have heard one of the most important contributions to a debate that I have ever heard in this House. We should congratulate Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell on her discovery and exploitation of this very significant legal precedent. I do not believe such a case was made in the other House. If it was, I certainly do not remember it. I pay tribute to the woman involved, whom I have had the honour of meeting. She was remarkably courageous. The case shows double dealing on the part of the Government. It has not had the courage to face up to this. Part of the reason is a sectarian threat. This has happened every time abortion is mentioned. I strongly object to it and the secret deals that have occurred with the Government bypassing the people. Protocols were inserted into the Maastricht treaty and the original highly sectarian amendment in 1983 was put through despite strong opposition from very prominent people in the Church of Ireland.

Up to 1869, the position of the Roman Catholic Church was that abortion was permissible up to 166 days. For this information, I am very grateful to Patsy McGarry who published a wonderful article in The Irish Times. This means that the current interpretation is a modern one. This needs to be borne in mind when considering the so-called ethical issues.

The amendment of Senators Marie-Louise O'Donnell and Fiach Mac Conghail is about fatal foetal abnormality, about which I will talk first. My amendment, No. 18, seeks the insertion of "or at the request of a pregnant woman in the case of fatal foetal abnormality or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest". I am horrified that people should refuse a woman the right to choose. A woman may very well choose to continue with her pregnancy in circumstances involving a fatal foetal abnormality, incest or rape. It is possible that a young woman or young girl might do so. A young woman has the right, in addition, not to have the product of a violent assault borne within her body for nine months. Denying this right is cruel and inhumane.

Cases of fatal foetal abnormality are reasonably rare but not exceedingly rare because there were approximately 1,500 women with cases of fatal foetal abnormalities last year. They are at the extreme end of the spectrum, but I suppose all cases are extreme in that there is nothing more extreme than a fatal foetal abnormality. The extreme that highlights the case is when what is within the womb is plainly not human or a citizen. It plainly can have no rights. If it is simply a piece of flesh that has no head, brain, proper vital organs or capacity for sensation of any kind, how can anybody with a conscience be so presumptuous as to refuse the affected woman the right to have a termination? If the woman involved has a conscientious or religious feeling that she must continue with the pregnancy, nobody will force her not to. However, in this case, young women are being forced to give birth to what I have described, with no disrespect, as simply a piece of flesh with no sensation, capacity for sensation or any form of feeling. That is obscene.

The other issue I wish to address is rape. A young girl could be subjected to gang rape and it might not even be clear who the father is. This seems to be a gross invasion, a gross violation, of a woman’s right to dignity and freedom. Sometimes, quite a young girl may be raped. I do not how anybody could insist that this appalling insult to humanity should be followed with a demand that she continue with what she may very well regard as an unwelcome and repulsive colonisation of her body by her attackers, or a demand that she keep the child. I do not know how anybody, in conscience, particularly any man who cannot even experience ordinary pregnancy, could be so self-righteous as to demand, in such circumstances, that a woman or young girl continue with her pregnancy.

The same is true of incest. Incest is one of the most shocking crimes and very often, the victims are very young. The violation may start off as abuse and, as a result of a violent sexual assault by the father, a child may become pregnant. Apparently, a minority in this House are saying such a young girl should be forced to continue with her pregnancy, irrespective of whether she wants to do so. Two or three years ago in Recife a nine year old girl was raped by her father and became pregnant. Her mother took her to have an abortion. However, the Archbishop of Recife excommunicated the mother and the daughter and the rest of the family for supporting them. I found that deeply shocking. It was absolutely horrifying and lacking in compassion, human understanding and imagination.

The opportunity to take these points on board is lost because of a lack of courage on the part of the Government. If we make these amendments and there is an objection or they are challenged in court, so much the better. Let us find out whether these matters are beyond the power of Parliament because of the grossly ill-advised, sectarian amendment made in 1983. Let us put it to the people again. I would be very happy to do so in the light of everything we have learned since. I have certainly changed my mind on abortion. I started off by being horrified by it.

When I was a tutor in Trinity College Dublin, approximately once a year a young woman would come to me with a crisis pregnancy. I gave them all of the information available on non-directive counselling and all the rest of it. One of them had an abortion and remained happy with her decision. The other nine did not. I am quite sure if non-directive counselling had not been available, they would have hopped on the boat and had this operation in the most awful, dehumanising circumstances and come back without counselling. Honesty and openness and facing reality and the truth will ironically reduce the number of abortions, whether in this country with some kind of subterfuge or exported to England, as the vast majority are in our usual hypocritical way. I strongly support Senators Fiach MacConghail and Marie Louise O'Donnell's amendment. I also appeal to the Government, even at this late stage, to consider these cases which are morally inarguable for fatal foetal abnormality and pregnancy as a result of incest or rape.

I do not decry people who are concerned or worried. There was a wonderful man on the radio yesterday who had a son with Down's syndrome. He was the epitome of everything that was good in Irish life. He had sacrificed himself and was Carer of the Year, but I think he was a little confused because he thought that if this Bill went through, one would have to abort a child with Down's syndrome. That would be unforgivable and not right. The Bill will not do anything like that. That is just confusion on the part of a really good man. I hope that before the Bill comes into law, or when it does, that he will be able to relax and realise that there is no threat to people with Down's syndrome who have proved themselves to be such an addition to our society with their uninhibited affection, directness and honesty. They may be held to have limited intellectual capacity, but, my goodness, they compensate for it in other ways. I would never stand over a foetus being aborted simply because it had Down's syndrome. That is not what the Bill is about and it would not even be the case if the amendments were accepted. I believe the Minister would personally be sympathetic to these matters. He is adopting the stony face of a professional politician, which is fine by me. He probably feels politically and legally constrained, but an act of courage would be called for.

I welcome the Minister who has taken a leadership role here. At the forefront of this debate he is legislating for the X case judgment, of which I am absolutely in favour. Therefore, all of my comments are based on this. We are not playing politics with the Bill. Women finally have a choice, even if it is limited, and the responsibility that they should have. The X case judgment is being legislated for and the vacuum is being closed, which I completely support.

On a technical point, there is a typographical error in amendment No. 3. Therefore, we will withdraw it and reintroduce it on Report Stage. It should read "incapable of life outside the womb" not "capable of life outside the womb". That should have been picked up earlier.

The nub of my colleague's eloquent and important contribution to this debate is the definition of "the unborn". Why was such a narrow definition included in the Bill? Why was that necessary, particularly because it precludes from being dealt with such a barbaric and horrific treatment of Irish women with regard to fatal foetal abnormality. I heard the Minister's comments and response on this issue in the Dáil and the default answer is that we are just dealing with the X case judgment, but it does worry me. I do think the Minister and his Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, have compassion. The Minister of State's letter to The Irish Times a couple of days ago clearly showed empathy towards the women concerned, of whom up to 1,500 travel to England. We know that over 80% of the population are in favour of legislating for cases of fatal foetal abnormality and offering compassion to the women involved. We are bringing forward this amendment because of the ruthless exclusion by the Minister's Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, who said quite clearly on Sunday that this area would not be revisited in the lifetime of the Government. This might satisfy certain members of civil society, but it does not satisfy us. It shows a ruthless lack of compassion and interest in further debate which many other Members of the House would like to pursue. There is an argument that we should pass this Bill, as it stands, and that then there will be incremental momentum and we can consider issues such as rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality and inevitable miscarriage. The signals are not there and for the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to say what he did worries me. It gave me a chill.

In respect of the definition of the unborn and Senator Marie Louise O'Donnell’s remarks about the D case, there are a couple of intriguing opinions and views that I would like to share with the Minister, some of which he knows already. One of the most intriguing is that, while the expert group spoke about the A, B and C case, it also spoke about the D case and acknowledged that in July 2006 the European Court of Human Rights had refused permission to hear that case on the grounds that the applicant, Deirdre Conroy, had not exhausted domestic remedies by bringing the case to the Irish courts. It stated:

In rejecting her application, the Court said that the X case had shown that Irish courts were capable of protecting individual rights by way of interpretation. It suggested that there was a feasible argument to be made that the constitutionally enshrined balance between the right to life of the mother and the foetus could have shifted in favour of the mother when the unborn suffered from an abnormality incompatible with life.

It was left hanging there, but Mr. Justice Ryan and the expert group clearly felt it should be included. It mentioned another case, Miss D v District Judge, HSE, Ireland and Attorney General:

A similar case, this time concerning a pregnant minor, came up in May 2007, when seventeen year old 'Miss D' brought a case against the Health Service Executive (HSE) when it tried to stop her travelling to Britain to have an abortion. Miss D was four months pregnant at the time of the hearing, and had learned that the foetus had anencephaly, a neural tube defect resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, which is usually fatal within three days of birth. Miss D had been in the care of the HSE for some months, but was refused permission to leave the State to have an abortion and was told that the HSE had notified the Gardaí that she was not permitted to leave the State. Unlike the C case in 1997, Miss D said she was not suicidal, although she was deeply traumatised by the fact that her baby had no chance of survival. The Court ruled that there was no law or constitutional impediment preventing Miss D from travelling for the purpose of terminating the pregnancy, and said that the actions of the HSE social worker in telling the Gardaí that Miss D must be prevented from travelling were without foundation in law. However, the Judge stressed that the case was about the right to travel alone; no comment was made by the Court about the substantive issue of abortion and as Miss D was not suicidal, the question of her having an abortion in Ireland was not raised.

The expert group is allowing a door to remain open for political leadership to take on an issue of human rights. The amendment is to give women a choice. Some women might decide to bring their pregnancy to full term, but others do not want to do this. That is very evident because many of them go abroad. We have heard traumatic stories, by which the Minister has been moved, having met and spoken, as we have, to some of the Termination for Medical Reasons group. It is an opportunity for the Seanad to implore further that this issue be dealt with. It is a political issue, not a legal one, on which I would like to hear the Minister's views.

Interestingly, the Irish Human Rights Commission, the National Women's Council of Ireland and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and others give a sense that this is a political decision, not necessarily a legal one. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties alludes to the fact that, potentially, Ireland could fall foul of Article 3 of the convention. Obviously, it mentions the D case, but it also mentions that R.R. v. Poland and P. and S. v. Poland indicate that Council of Europe states are obliged to ensure that women seeking lawful terminations are not exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the convention. Clearly, those women with fatal foetal abnormalities fall under that. Applying this principle in an Irish context, according to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, it seems clear that the current treatment of women with pregnancies involving a defined set of fatal foetal abnormalities, that is, where it is clear that carrying a foetus to term will not result in a viable life, potentially falls foul of Article 3 of the convention. That is something on which I seek the Minister's view because it is political leadership for which we are looking here, to go beyond the X case and to call on the Government to acknowledge and express compassion for this barbaric and upsetting abuse of pregnant Irish women.

Although I will not go into it in great detail, the Irish Human Rights Commission also has a view, in probably more polite terms. It states that it is recommended that were the Bill unable to include provision for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality on foot of the current constitutional position, the question of further constitutional refinement be considered.

Our response to the Minister is twofold. We propose that the definition of the unborn be changed to a position where it allows the Minister to look at such cases. We propose: " "unborn", means a foetus which has reached that stage of development at which, if born, it would be capable of life outside the womb;". We are saying there is an opportunity to redefine what "unborn" means within the parameters of the Bill and that will give release and allow for fatal foetal abnormality.

The Minister will probably come back to me on the Attorney General document, but I want to hear his own view on this also. We are not political grandstanding here. I am not a member of any political party. I do not know whether we will press this to a vote - Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell and our team must discuss it. I want to hear the Minister's own political view on this as a medical doctor because that might give us a sense of leadership as well, and, certainly, refute the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte's comments earlier on.

There are other amendments that have been grouped together for us which include rape and incest. Of course, this also was discussed in the Dáil and dismissed. Surely, as Senator Norris eloquently argued previously, as is included in our grouping, the notion that we should not trust a pregnant woman is repugnant to me. The idea that the pregnant woman will find herself in a position where her pregnancy is almost a disposable object is one in which I do not believe and with which I disagree. As a father of two children, both of whom are teenage daughters, if they were put in a position of incest or rape and there was a pregnancy, I am in a lucky position of being a middle-class person with a credit card who can afford, if the choice was required, to bring my daughters abroad. There is a poverty trap in this Bill whereby women who do not have the facility and who cannot go abroad will be subject to vilification but also to the strong arm of the law with regards to imprisonment or punishment.

I support the amendments in my name and that of Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell. I look forward to hearing the Minister's view on them.

I thank Senators O'Donnell and Mac Conghail for tabling these amendments which I strongly support.

Like many other Members of the House, I met several of the women from the Termination for Medical Reasons, TFMR, group who have gone through the terrifying and upsetting experience of having babies with fatal foetal abnormalities. I listened to their heart-breaking stories. These ladies came into the AV room last year and spoke of how, initially, they were overjoyed to hear that they were pregnant. Many of them were married couples who had been trying to have babies for a long time and wanted nothing more than to be able to have a little boy or girl. Then I heard them outline how that initial joy turned to deep, deep sadness upon hearing that their child simply could not survive outside the womb. What was most upsetting for me in all of that was to hear them outline how, at a time of such sadness, the State turned its back on them and told them that if they wished to terminate their pregnancy, the only way to do so was to make a lonely journey to England on their own.

As Senator Mac Conghail stated, this amendment is all about choice. I completely understand how some parents, on being given a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, would choose to continue with the pregnancy and I respect any woman who would make that choice. Equally, I listened to Ms Arlette Lyons, Ms Deirdre Conroy and others from the TFMR group, who came in and spoke to us, explain that the reason they chose to seek a termination was because, for them, as mothers, it was the compassionate and humane thing to do. One woman outlined how her own body was crushing her baby, and how her baby was in constant and immense pain as a result of that condition and would never be otherwise. I can completely understand how any mother in that position would come to the decision, upsetting as it is, that the best thing for her to do is to relieve her baby from that pain and suffering. In such circumstances, the State should facilitate that choice.

As Senator O'Donnell outlined in her initial contribution, the State has previously argued in court that termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality is legal in this country or at least that there is an arguable case that it may be. She outlined quite eloquently the facts from D v. Ireland before the European Court of Human Rights where then senior counsel on behalf of the State, Mr. Gerard Hogan, questioned the legal definition of the unborn and contended that if it had been established that the foetus had no realistic prospect of being born alive, then at least a tenable argument could have been made to the effect that the foetus in that instance was not an "unborn" for the purposes of article 40.3.3°, and that its right to life might not actually have been engaged in this case if there was no realistic prospect of life outside the womb.

As has been outlined, Ms D lost her case in the European Court of Human Rights because the State successfully argued that if she had taken a case in Ireland she might have won. European law quite clearly states that one cannot have recourse to the European Court of Human Rights unless it is an absolute last resort. One can only go there after one has gone through all the legal channels in Ireland, usually the whole way up to the Supreme Court. Having lost the case here, one can take a case under the European Convention on Human Rights before the European court. The State argued that Ms D's application was inadmissible because she could have won her case here. That is why, when the Minister was bringing forward this legislation - as he will be aware, I support the Bill - I hoped he would take the opportunity to deal with this issue. I was really disappointed when the Bill was printed and that had not been done. I have read all of the arguments that have been made in the other House and I have seen the Minister's responses to different queries. I wrote to him directly about this issue.

I understand that the Government is now arguing that it does not think the provision is constitutional but I do not understand how that argument can be made with any sincerity when the exact opposite was argued by the State successfully before the European Court of Human Rights.

I agree with Senator David Norris that the only thing preventing the Government from including this provision in the Bill is a lack of political courage. Women like Deirdre Conroy, Arlette Lyons and others who have come to Leinster House and gone on the national airwaves to share their incredibly painful personal stories have shown immense bravery. The very least we can do is ensure we take this opportunity to include provision for fatal foetal abnormalities in the Bill. We have a duty to prevent any other woman having to go through that experience. For anybody to be given such a diagnosis is hugely devastating in itself - there is no happy outcome in that situation - but the least we can do is relieve their pain in so far as we can. Women have spoken of travelling to Liverpool and the excellent care they received there. The fact remains, however, that they are obliged to travel to a hospital across the sea, away from their families and home, in order to secure a termination. They spoke of how they had to take their babies home in a cardboard box in the boot of their car or carry ashes home with them. It is absolutely barbaric and inhumane to inflict that type of torture on people. We can and must do something about it.

Several speakers referred to the issue of pregnancies arising from rape or incest. As I said yesterday, I believe an unborn baby has a right to life and I do not support abortion on demand. I also believe, however, that there are certain circumstances in which the non-availability of termination is worse. It is not a black and white situation, as human experience in general rarely is. This is especially so when it comes to painful human experiences such as those facing women with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormalities, women who face a risk to their life from a medical condition or as a consequence of feeling suicidal during pregnancy, and women who have gone through the torture of rape. Women who are pregnant as a result of rape should have a choice. We know from other jurisdictions where such a choice is available that many women choose to continue with their pregnancy. Many find it within themselves, while coping with the immense personal distress resulting from rape, to give birth and either keep the child or have him or her adopted. Others simply cannot do so, which I can understand.

Another speaker referred to a woman who is the victim of a gang rape, who has been violated in the most disgusting and unimaginable way. It is understandable that anybody who has endured that type of ordeal might feel she simply cannot cope with having the child of her attacker growing inside of her. It would be a daily reminder for the term of her pregnancy of the trauma she endured. Women in those circumstances should have a choice to terminate their pregnancy in this country. They should not have to make the lonely journey abroad. They should not, in addition to the stress of the rape, be made to feel a sense of shame by having to travel abroad to obtain a termination.

At the same time, I must, as a legislator, respect the reality that the Constitution does not allow for termination in cases of rape. In fact, it clearly specifies that such a procedure is only allowable where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. If and when a referendum is brought forward, as I expect it will be, I will argue that there should be provision for termination in cases of rape. Regrettably, however, I cannot support colleagues' proposals at this time. I would not be doing my job as a legislator if I did. We all have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the separation of powers and to respect the will of the people. I am confident, however, that most people would vote in favour of a constitutional amendment providing for terminations in cases of rape. That is clear from the opinion polls. Although I cannot vote in favour of an amendment which I know to be unconstitutional, I thank Senators Fiach Mac Conghail and Marie-Louise O'Donnell for tabling the proposals. It is an incredibly important issue for us to debate.

While this legislation will save women's lives in physical emergencies and where there is a threat to their lives from suicidal ideation, there is a category of women in very distressing circumstances for which it does not cater. There are many women observing this debate who have experienced those circumstances and who must be very upset to know the Bill would not have changed anything for them. I will be voting in favour of the amendment on fatal foetal abnormalities because I strongly believe it is constitutional. I have taken legal advice on the matter and studied opinions by a number of senior counsel. In addition, I have read the arguments put forward on behalf of the State at the European Court of Human Rights. The provision can be included in the Bill and I urge colleagues on all sides of the House to support it.

I commend Senators Marie-Louise O'Donnell, Fiach Mac Conghail and others for bringing forward these very important amendments. It is important that we are debating these issues in the House. I agree with colleagues that it is inhumane to require by law that women who are faced with the appalling diagnosis that they will not give birth to a live baby must travel abroad if they wish to have their pregnancy terminated. There are women in that situation who do not choose to have a termination and opt instead, after discussion with their partner and family, to bring the pregnancy to term. That choice must of course be respected. However, the fact that we do not allow women who would choose to terminate a pregnancy in those circumstances to do so in this country is inhumane. I would very much like to see us legislate for this. I join colleagues in paying tribute to Deirdre Conroy and the women in the Termination for Medical Reasons group who showed great bravery in telling their personal stories and describing the very difficult and traumatic situation in which they found themselves as a result of the law in this State.

It is outrageous that we force women in those circumstances to travel. It is likewise outrageous that we force women who have been raped or are victims of incest and wish to terminate a resulting pregnancy to travel. It is outrageous that women who face a real and serious risk to their health have to travel. The reality, however, as Senator Averil Power pointed out, is that the cause of this outrageous state of the law is the eighth amendment which was introduced in 1983. It is not the fault of this legislation, which is seeking to protect women's lives in a situation where a continuation of pregnancy puts their lives at risk. We know from the Supreme Court decision in the X case, as confirmed by that court in subsequent rulings and by the people in two referenda, that the only circumstances in which abortion is lawful in Ireland is where it is necessary to save a woman's life as distinct from her health. We cannot, under the Constitution, legislate for risk to health.

I share the legal opinion to which Senator Power and others referred that in accordance with the decision in the D case and the State's arguments therein, there is a very strong case to suggest it would be constitutional to legislate for a right to termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, simply because in those cases there is no prospect of viable life for the unborn and, therefore, the constitutional protection for the unborn does not apply or, at least, as far as is practicable, the State does not have a duty to vindicate that right to life. There is a very strongly arguable case in this regard. The State made that case in the D judgment, a judgment to which the European Court of Human Rights referred in its ruling in the A, B and C case. I authored a legal opinion, which was signed by a number of colleagues in the Labour Party and submitted to the Minister last year, asking that he consider inserting provision for fatal foetal abnormality in this legislation. I also put that case at the hearings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in January and May.

I listened very carefully to the opinions of the legal experts at those hearings but I do accept that this issue is not yet constitutionally settled. That point is conceded in the report of the Irish Human Rights Commission. There is as yet no Supreme Court decision upholding the legal argument put forward by the State in the D case. If a case were sent to the court - I believe such a case is waiting to happen - I would expect the decision to be in favour of allowing legislation for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. However, if one examines the wording of the constitutional text and what Gerard Hogan argued at the European Court of Human Rights, it seems clear that where there is a prospect of even a few minutes of life for the unborn child outside the womb, then provision could not be made in law for a termination of that pregnancy. There would have to be a very clear medical prognosis that there was no prospect of viable life outside the womb. It is a very extreme situation and it is appalling that we cannot legislate for it. The reality, however, is that including it would render the legislation less constitutionally robust. Even as somebody who has argued strongly for its inclusion, I accept that provision in this regard would require a referral of the Bill under Article 26. It would certainly make it less constitutionally robust than in its current form, which is conservative, restrictive and clearly within the terms of the 1983 amendment and the Supreme Court decision in the X case.

The right to a termination in cases of rape, incest and risk to health is a separate issue.

Much as I and others would like to see that legislation, we cannot do so within the terms of the X case and, more particularly, the 1983 amendment. There is an issue in this regard for us. Some 4,000 women a year travel to England for an abortion on the grounds provided for under the UK Abortion Act 1967. We cannot legislate in the same sort of way as that Act or even for more limited grounds, such as rape or incest, without the repeal of the eighth amendment. As a legislator acting within the Constitution, I accept that. I urge colleagues to support this Bill as it reflects what we can do constitutionally. Within the current state of settled law, it will provide protection for the right to life of the woman in the most extreme circumstances. I think we will see further cases taken on the issue of fatal foetal abnormality, which will settle the law on it. However, I accept that it is not settled currently.

I thank my colleagues for the valuable contributions they have made this morning and for putting forward these amendments. However, I agree with Senator Bacik with regard to the restrictions that exist under Article 40.3.3°. When the Minister came to deal with this issue, it was very much about the decision in the X case and in the A, B and C v. Ireland case. All of the public consultation during the six days, three in January and three in May, focused on those cases. The issue is referred to in page 10 of the report dealing with the public hearings in May. There was a discussion on the matter during the public hearings and some valuable contributions were made. I agree that the way the Bill is drafted confines what we can deal with and we must stay within Article 40.3.3°.

The issue of fatal foetal abnormality cannot be left in limbo and we must deal with it at some stage. It is interesting to speak to people in the medical profession involved in this area and to hear about the difficulties they have. People have mentioned the women who travel to England for terminations, but some people cannot afford to go or cannot go because of a medical condition they have. I have spoken to some medical people about the restrictions they face. One practitioner spoke about the difficulties of managing a patient where it is clear there is a fatal foetal abnormality and about the restrictions on that patient. The medical profession also has huge difficulty dealing with this area.

Another area where this difficulty comes into play relates to where a patient is 37 or 38 years of age and wants to have a family. However, on the first pregnancy the foetus is found to have a fatal foetal abnormality. These patients have only a certain time period in which they can try to have a family, but in such a case they are then restricted with regard to this matter being dealt with, although they are anxious to have a child. This issue is coming to the fore in regard to people in that age category and to the reason a mother takes the decision to not go through the pregnancy to full term and chooses to go to the United Kingdom.

There are a number of issues to be dealt with and they cannot be put on the long finger. However, we have made a decision with regard to dealing with this legislation and the issues raised in the X case, which were dealt with at the public consultation. I appeal to those who proposed these amendments to consider how they might frustrate the passage of this legislation, because if it was amended as proposed and subsequently tested, the whole Bill might be turned down and we would be back to where we were in 1992 and would have to start all over again. While I welcome the discussion on this matter, I believe we must deal with the Bill as it is and these amendments must be withdrawn.

I concur with Senators Colm Burke and Bacik in regard to the constitutionality of this Bill and that were we to try to amend it to include fatal foetal abnormality, we might find ourselves back where we do not wish to be. This is a moment when a kind of common sense applies. We have heard the stories and have seen the courage of the women who have come forward to tell their stories and we believe that in time we will legislate for this area and that the women who choose now to travel will no longer have to travel and will not have to go through the heartbreak of bringing a baby to term in the knowledge that it will not survive. The expression used by Senator Bacik, "constitutionally unsettled", is probably the most appropriate one to explain this difficulty, but we must wait again for this issue to be brought forward. I hope that wait is not too long.

The fact we are all debating this, that people have had the courage to come forward and tell their stories and that we have engaged with the Minister on the matter, gives us hope the issue will be dealt with. I was happy to sign the letter Senator Bacik sent to the Minister last year. Many of us support the call for legislation on this now and so does the public. It is a matter of time. This is not the right time to deal with the matter, although it appears to some to be the right time. Constitutionally and legally it is not the right time and we must wait. However, I hope, for the sake of those women who have been through such a situation and who must suffer every time they hear this issue being debated and for the women in the future who will suffer, that we deal with this issue soon. Unfortunately, this is an issue that will not go away. There have been great advances in medical technology, but it has not advanced to the extent that we can avoid further fatal foetal abnormality. I, like others, look forward to the day when we will legislate to allow women protection in this area. However, we are unable to do so with this legislation.

Senator Power has indicated she wishes to come in again on this issue. However, it might be appropriate now for the Minister to respond and then allow anybody who wants to come in again. Before I call the Minister, I call Senator Healy Eames who has not spoken yet.

I thank Senators O'Donnell and Mac Conghaíl for tabling these amendments. This shows great courage. I have met and listened to women on both sides of this issue, women who have received the difficult diagnosis that their baby has a fatal foetal abnormality. I have listened to the stories of the trauma they all experienced, because in each case the pregnancy was wanted. These women had no desire to end the baby's life. This makes this situation very different from what is in the Bill before us.

I noticed the incredible anger among the women who had to take that trip to England, because they believed it was not right to give birth to a baby that would not live outside the womb. I also met women here in Leinster House who made the decision to give birth. I met one woman whose baby lived for 19 minutes after birth, one woman whose baby lived for 27 hours and one woman whose baby survived birth and was then six years old and in a wheelchair. In all cases, the diagnosis was similar for both sets of women. What struck me forcibly was that the women who were able to give birth were happier. I say honestly that what I noticed was these women were happier. I am not judging these women and I am not taking sides on this issue. The reason they presented to me as happier -----

On a point of order, they presented to the Senator as happier but not necessarily to the world.

With all due respect, that is not a point of order.

It is not right to make those kinds of assessments or judgments.

Senator Healy Eames should be allowed express her opinion, without interruption.

Senator O'Donnell should let the Senator express her opinion. We have listened to Senator O'Donnell's opinion.

Let her express a personal opinion, but not make it universal.

I have ruled on the point of order. Senator Healy Eames, to continue without interruption.

I am being really careful with my words here because I know that this diagnosis is the hardest situation of all. That is why I respect the amendments-----

Excuse me. That is why I respect the amendments being placed on this issue.

I have no time for browbeating.

As I have ruled on it, we should allow Senator Healy Eames to continue.

Senator Healy Eames to continue. We do not want any intemperance in this debate.

I might not agree with her but I will defend her right to say it.

If I could continue my point, the reason they said they were happy is because they had a reference point around the birth of the baby. They had those few minutes, hours or years with the baby. They had their family around them. They had a support group. Every year afterwards, they were able to celebrate that life. I am not saying this is my view. That is what they stated, and I have to take that on board.

Senator Mac Conghail makes a very useful point. However, notwithstanding the argument that this would not be constitutional, it is useful that the case of fatal foetal abnormalities is not being approved in this Bill because it is completely different to the suicide case. This is because there is real evidence - the evidence of an abnormality. We have scans and ultrasound technology and we can have second opinions. The whole issue of suicide was nebulous and, while we could assess risk, we could not predict the outcome. For that reason, it is good that this deserves debate today, but proper debate in its own time. As I said, it is the hardest case of all.

Rape is one of the most horrible crimes that could beset a woman or a young girl. It is beastly and it is against the wishes of the woman. I put on record yesterday my own personal story that, today, I am a mother because I have adopted two children. In both of those cases, their birth mothers had to have been faced with a crisis pregnancy where, maybe, they would have considered other options but they did not. During my own counselling for adoption, myself and my husband were asked if we would adopt the child of a rape. My initial reaction was absolute horror and shock, but then we thought about it and we said that is not the child's fault. That was something I considered a long time ago. I have a daughter now. If that terrible crime, and it is a crime, beset her, the question I would have to face is whether I would want a further injury placed on her after her being injured through rape. For me, with the right counselling and the right help, I would hope I would not have to support that. These are really difficult situations.

To go back to the amendments, I genuinely respect that they have been placed but I believe it is useful that the Constitution tells us that there will be another day here. I also thought it was very interesting that Senator Bacik said that where there is proof a baby may live for minutes outside of the womb, that is a different case. This is a set of circumstances that deserves debate and time in and of itself. It is a complex area.

I thank my colleagues for presenting these amendments to us. At their core, they are the type of political shades of grey which generally make politicians shudder. I heard the Minister respond to a similar series of amendments in the Dáil and I presume I can, with reasonable accuracy, predict what he is constitutionally and politically obliged to say in response to the amendments. Senators Colm Burke and Ivana Bacik have given an overview of why the amendments are constitutionally outside the remit of what we can consider within the legislation. Notwithstanding that, I believe they are certainly worthy of reflection and debate.

I have been around this place of politics a long time. Weeks and months come and go, and years pass, and occasionally there comes a week or ten days where, within that period, we get a particularly insightful overview of life. There was a week last year in September or October, although I cannot put a date on it, where, within the course of 48 or 72 hours, I attended two fascinating, troubling, uplifting, depressing and informative meetings. The first meeting I attended was at the request of Senator Bacik, who brought to the AV room the women, and their husbands and partners, who wanted to tell us their sad, emotive, powerful and sometimes angry stories of the difficulty they faced. This was the group referred to in very fine detail by Senator Averil Power, Termination for Medical Reasons. A bit like the GPO in 1916, half the Oireachtas now appears to have been at that meeting, but I attended that meeting and there were perhaps six or seven Members of the Oireachtas and five or six staff there. Their stories were powerful and sad. It was impossible to give a satisfactory answer to the concerns, the queries and the demands of those unfortunate prospective parents. I certainly did not have any words of consolation. I left that meeting both upset and concerned because it was not possible to tell those prospective mothers and their partners what they wished to hear. It was certainly a very upsetting afternoon for me.

Then, 48 or 72 hours later, in the same room, at the behest of, I believe, Senator Mary Ann O'Brien, who was one of the organisers of the meeting, I attended a session with the group called One Day More - parents, mothers, husbands and partners whose choice was perhaps different but in one sense the outcome was the same in that they were the parents of children who were born dead or born dying. They explained to us the horror stories which they had to endure, the lack of support which they felt and the lack of facilities. They decided to proceed with the pregnancies and, presumably, in the vast majority of cases the babies were born either dead or were born alive but dying, and died perhaps an hour, a day or a week later.

Both sets of parents faced the same mountain. Some felt they were just able to climb the mountain and others felt they were not. We cannot be judge and jury, but both told hugely sad tales. Without trying to upset my good friend and colleague, Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell, I would have to agree with Senator Healy Eames that, perhaps, if there was any degree of happiness in either room, if there was any degree of satisfaction, for me, and I can only speak as one who observed both sets of parents, the second meeting was slightly more uplifting.

The question I must pose to myself concerns what we can do to help both sets of prospective parents. Given the Bill before us for consideration and the constitutional provision, we can do very little but at least we can try to provide some degree of support, some additional facilities. I heard the Minister, Deputy Reilly, and other Ministers last week in the other House quoting Dr. Anthony McCarthy who, in dismissing some of the amendments tabled in the other House, pointed out the very inadequate psychiatric and psychological and other supports that are available to prospective mothers facing crisis pregnancies, whatever may be the reason for the crisis. Even though we have a broken economy, one point we can all unite on is the need to invest in further psychiatric, psychological and other supports. It was frightening to hear Dr. McCarthy concede on the radio, as I am sure he would have done in hearings in the Houses, that virtually no levels of support are available. We must tackle this together to ensure that support and advice are available.

Yesterday, in the inadequate time available to us on Second Stage to discuss the Bill in its entirety, I referred to the fact that even when the Bill has come and gone, with all its political consequences, there will still be 4,000 or 5,000 Irish mothers who go every year to Britain to have abortions. Wherever the abortion happens, whether in Britain or Ireland, it is a tragedy for everybody. Much of that comes about because of the lack of support. We may have removed the stigma of single parenthood, or pretend we have, but we are still failing to provide sufficient resources for mothers who choose that route. That is a debate for another day but we cannot move away from it.

On the second part of the Senator's amendment, in respect of rape and incest, it is beyond any of us to pronounce verdicts or certainty. The one thing we all agree on is the horror of rape, the shocking crime it is. Does one solve one crime by causing another difficulty? In the days of capital punishment did the fact that a murderer was executed ease the pain and suffering of the family of a murder victim? I am not sure it did. That may be a simplistic response to some of the very sensitive and complex arguments presented so well by Senators O'Donnell and Mac Conghail. It is a little beyond me at present to try to argue this. Senator Norris spoke about the importance of the word "truth". If we try to keep that at the centre of our deliberations we must realise it never has been the case that two wrongs make a right, or that easy solutions are always the correct ones.

I do not envy the Minister his task. It is relatively easy for him to respond to these amendments as part of the Bill but the issues involved will not go away and will come before him, his Government and all of us again. We must just try to work together in as mature and realistic a fashion as possible to deal with the matter. I thank Senators for their amendments. I wish there was an easy answer but it is part of the complexity of both politics and life that for some questions there is not an easy answer. Perhaps that is why we are here, as legislators. I think back to the meetings I attended last October and November, powerful meetings with powerful presentations and people who chose different routes. I cannot condemn anybody for the route they have chosen.

I will be brief, having listened to the debate on the monitor. I refer to fatal foetal abnormality and the group of amendments tabled in that regard which I cannot and will not support. I, too, attended those meetings at the kind invitation of Senator Mullen. I met the One Day More group and have had personal experience of families who have made that very tough decision, who have had children born dead or who died, that nonetheless became part of the family. We also met families that day who had received the diagnosis that their child would not survive outside the womb. In some instances, however, they did, and for a significant length of time.

Perhaps it is a matter for the next session but after that presentation I called on several occasions for us to have a proper and full debate on perinatal care, and the resources available to families who find themselves in this situation. As I know the Minister's diary has been full in recent months, I did not push the issue as hard as I would have liked but I would like him to give a commitment to return to the House in the new session for a debate on perinatal care. The levels of care in that area are not what I would wish for. I fully understand we are in straitened times, to put it mildly. Some of the stories and testimonies I listened to that morning were very touching but there was also reference to either the care families received after the event, or the lack thereof. Legislating to permit abortion on the ground of fatal foetal abnormality is not something I would support.

Senator Bradford covered very well the awful situation of rape and incest, two disgusting crimes, as we would all agree. One must point out that the life of a viable child is ended on the basis that a terrible crime has been perpetrated on the mother. Again, that is not something I would support. Following this debate, however, perhaps in September or October or during that session, we might have a debate and put our heads together as legislators to consider how we can improve perinatal care. We have never had a full debate on that subject in this Chamber. Senator Mullen has called for one, as have other Senators, but we have never had an opportunity to discuss the issue specifically. That is something I would like. I wish to put on record that I will not support any of the amendments tabled by my Independent colleagues.

On a point of order, we have just got a new and revised list of Committee Stage amendments and have not spoken on some of them. Are we now precluded from doing so?

We are dealing with section 2 to which there was no change.

We are dealing with a group of amendments.

We can still talk on them. The Minister will not end the discussion but will reply to what has been said.

There are other amendments.

We have been waiting to hear what the Minister has to say.

My point is there is an additional grouping of amendments on which we have not spoken. For example, are we precluded from speaking on the issue of imprisonment?

We have not reached the revised groupings and will discuss them as we get to them. We are now dealing with amendments Nos. 2, 3, 18, 43, 44 and 45.

That is true. That was originally called group 1 but now more have been added.

We will not get to amendments Nos, 4, 37 and 38 until after we finish this grouping and start the next one.

I can clarify this matter because I have been through it in the other House.

The Minister could have answered my point.

We are dealing with amendment No. 2 but are also referring to amendments Nos. 3, 18 and 43 to 45, inclusive, which relate to the same topic and are thereby discussed together.

Amendments Nos. 3, 18 and 43 to 45, inclusive, relate to the same topic and are to be discussed together. They will be voted on separately when we reach the relevant sections.

I thank people for their very good contributions, which I know are heartfelt. These amendments attempt to provide for lawful termination of pregnancy following a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality or inevitable miscarriage, or in the case of pregnancy following rape or incest. These issues were discussed at some length in the Dáil during our debates on the Bill and I am aware that several Senators would have liked to see these grounds and others being included in the proposed legislation. However, these provisions cannot be included.

The main purpose of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 is to restate the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland while regulating access to lawful termination of pregnancy in accordance with the X case and the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v. Ireland case. Its purpose is to confer procedural rights on a woman who believes she has a life-threatening condition so that she can have certainty as to whether she requires the treatment. The Bill does not permit the termination of a pregnancy on the grounds of rape or incest alone, although it is permitted if there is also a risk to the life of the woman. I have received legal advice to the effect that inclusion of fatal foetal abnormalities as a separate consideration in the current Bill goes beyond the scope of the A, B and C v. Ireland case. The purpose of this Bill is not to confer any new rights or remove existing rights; it is to clarify existing rights for women so they know what are those rights and how to exercise them in accessing services. Doctors and nurses will also know what they are legally obliged or permitted to provide.

I am sorry I cannot accept the amendments but I would like to respond to some of the issues. Senator Bradford commented on the contribution of Dr. McCarthy, the president of the College of the Psychiatrists of Ireland. It is understandable to mix up titles.

I always thought consultants were addressed as "Mister".

The bottom line is that he did not say there were virtually no supports available. He stated that dialectical behavioural therapy was not freely available. He also pointed out during that conversation that this was useful in treating people who are emotionally disturbed with a personality disorder. To suggest women finding themselves in this group all fall into that category is not something I would accept for a moment.

Notwithstanding the European court case, the Supreme Court has not ruled on this provision as no case has been taken to the Supreme Court. It would require a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the provision and a possible referendum to make that decision. There was a ruling in favour of the argument that there may have been a tenable case, but that does not mean the case will succeed. We must be as constitutionally aware and secure in this Bill as possible because it is bound to be challenged and if we are not secure, it will fall. The definition of the unborn in this Bill is only for the purpose of the Bill and, as has been pointed out by many others, the inclusion of rape and incest would require a referendum.

Defining what constitutes an unviable life is extremely fraught. Does it refer to a child who would last only five minutes outside the womb or a child who would last for an hour, 24 hours, a week, two weeks or six weeks? In the other House a figure of 1,500 cases per year was bandied about, but I cannot see how that can be. There are 70,000 births per year and 2% to 3% of babies are born with anomalies, of which a very small percentage are fatal. That should in no way diminish the pain and hurt caused by such a terrible loss. I respect and admire greatly the courage of women from the Termination for Medical Reasons group, and only a person with a heart of stone could not have sympathy with that issue and the terrible plight they face. I cannot address that in this Bill because of the reasons outlined earlier by me and Senators Bacik and Colm Burke.

The Minister indicated that this had not been established from a constitutional perspective and there has not been a Supreme Court case. We put legislation through this House every day that enjoys the presumption of constitutionality. We work on the basis of advice from the Attorney General or other counsel, and we assume that the interpretation we work with is consistent with the Constitution. This often happens for areas in which there have not been settled Supreme Court decisions, and we never know the constitutionality of a piece of legislation unless it is challenged. In this House we must believe the work is constitutional unless there is a successful challenge.

As I mentioned, the State previously argued successfully before the European Court of Human Rights that provision for termination in cases of fatal foetal abnormality is constitutional. In her contribution, Senator Bacik stated that her legal opinion, as an eminent lawyer, is that the provision is constitutional. I accept that we cannot know for sure if that is true unless a case is taken against the provision. Equally, it is wrong to expect a woman to bring that case; we would not be doing our jobs by delegating that responsibility to some poor woman who has had to go through this horrific experience. Essentially, we would be telling her that not only do we want her to go through the experience but we want her to live it again when she goes to the court to assert her rights. That is not just my personal opinion, as it is shared by eminent lawyers throughout the State.

It has been argued that if we include this provision the Bill might be open to constitutional challenge, but anybody who believes this legislation will not be challenged in the courts is being incredibly naïve. As we are speaking on the Bill, people are preparing legal challenges to it. The most sensible course of action may be for the President to refer the Bill in order that the Supreme Court can consider it straight away and it can enjoy full constitutional protection. Challenges were made straight after the children's referendum and this Bill was challenged in court while it was still in the Dáil, when somebody brought a completely ridiculous case that never had any chance of getting anywhere. This Bill will be challenged and I do not accept that fear of challenge is a good enough reason not to include a provision that the State has previously argued as constitutional.

Members have referred to the One Day More and the Termination for Medical Reasons groups. As I noted in my opening contribution, I am in favour of choice, and it is unfortunate that a value judgment has been made about the choices made by women with different outcomes of pregnancy when they were told their babies could not live. It is not fair. No matter what decision a woman makes, it is right for her and her family. I completely understand how a family might decide that having a precious five minutes or hours is right for them, but equally, I understand how a woman who knows her baby is in pain would feel the humane action is to relieve that pain. It is wrong for us to make any kind of value judgment against women in those positions, and I argue that they should have a choice. The right choice in any case is only for the mother, her partner and her family, and it is not my place to make it.

Comments were made about the rape issue.

I said yesterday that as an adopted person, any abortion is a tragedy. Equally, I can fully accept that there are some women who just do not feel that they can go through with a pregnancy that has been conceived as a result of rape. Equally, I do not think it is right to judge them. I said yesterday that if a girl came to me for support who was in similar circumstances to the 14 year old rape victim who was at the centre of the X case, I would try to do everything I could to help her. I would bring her for counselling, I would talk it through with her and I would speak to her as an adopted person about the gift of bringing a child into the world and giving it to another family. Equally, I would understand if she could not do that. I do not think it is right to make a choice for somebody in those circumstances. I do not think it is right to expect them to relive their pain through a pregnancy. It just confounds the abuse that has already been inflicted upon them.

To respond to the comments on rape, it is not a black and white issue or an easy situation, but women who find themselves in those circumstances should have a choice. Ultimately, when we have a referendum on that issue - I accept it cannot be covered in this Bill - I think that most Irish people would feel the same.

I thank the Minister for his answers. I know that it is a profound issue and is very difficult. When I interrupted Senator Healy Eames, I only did so on the grounds that if we talk about happiness for one group and unhappiness for another group, we just need to provide examples. I was not trying to browbeat at all.

According to the European Court of Human Rights, the foetus was viable in the X case, whereas in the D case there might be an issue as to the extent to which the State was required to guarantee the life of the foetus which suffered from a fatal foetal abnormality. It is very confusing law that we justify the viability of the X case and justify abortion on the grounds of suicide, yet we are not allowed to abort the non-viable foetus.

I take Senator Bacik's point about the eighth amendment and that we are not constitutionally settled on this yet, on the grounds of the capability of being born alive, as opposed to incompatibility with life. I wonder then if we are arguing on the grounds of contradiction when talking about incompatibility with life in fatal foetal abnormality. It is as if we do not understand what fatal means and what incompatible means. We seem to be arguing on the grounds of legalising for hope. Senators have spoken about it not being the right time. There is always a fear in that kind of argument. In the de Barra case, that wonderful woman got pregnant in 2001 and brought her case in 2005 and 2006. It is now 2013. I understand the point about the constitutionality of the eighth amendment. However, I would still question what we consider to be viable and non-viable and how we legislate for either.

I am very pleased that Senator O'Donnell was not browbeating the patient. I did not for one moment suggest that she would have been doing so. It is just that this is such an emotive issue and I know that opinions are very strongly held on all sides. There have been occasions when I felt like screaming and I am trying very hard to restrain myself, because I think everybody's opinion on all sides of this debate should be respected. There is a general view on all sides of the House that that respect is being encouraged.

I am encouraged on the one hand by the Minister's response, because I was awaiting to hear what he had to say. On the other hand, I have enormous compassion and sympathy for the cases that have been outlined by those who are supporting the amendment. I take the point about the choice that has to be made. However, I have met those courageous women from One Day More. They are equally as courageous as those who decided that they did not wish to have a continuation of their pregnancy. I was absolutely flabbergasted listening to them outlining their particular situations, where they knew from 21 weeks or 22 weeks that the child they were carrying was not going to live for very long, if at all. The House has already heard the outcome of those particular cases from Senator Healy Eames. Those women and their partners are extremely courageous people. Equally, I have enormous compassion for those who could not, psychologically and otherwise, continue with a pregnancy with the same knowledge.

The only problem for me is if I take it that all human life is sacred. Medical science is a very inexact science. As was pointed out in one particular instance, the doctors had given up on the pregnancy of one of those mothers we met, yet the child lived and is still alive. That raises a fundamental question of ethics also, on which I think the Minister himself touched. What is the time limit on viability? Is it five seconds, five minutes, five weeks? It is an inexact science, so on the basis that I support the sanctity of life and of the unborn, I would have difficulty with the amendment, but I have great sympathy and understanding of the amendment. It complicates the issues for me, because it is not simple and it is not straightforward. I have spoken to people about fatal foetal abnormalities. One half is going with me on this, and the other half is not. It is a dilemma and I wish I could resolve it for myself.

I do not necessarily agree, in the concept of choice, that a woman is exclusively responsible for her own body. That is my view. That is my belief. I said this yesterday on Second Stage; the man has been totally air-brushed out of that argument in this respect, as if he never existed. Yet as we know, abortions have taken place because of pressure from the father on the vulnerable mother-to-be in her crisis pregnancy. We will never know the reasons 4,000 Irish women go abroad or what their individual cases are. Nobody has ever been able to monitor them and nobody has analysed it. We can only go on anecdotal evidence as to why, but we cannot quantify every one of those 4,000 as having the same issue, motivation or intention. Ultimately, they end up in the same way.

I understand where the Minister is coming from in this regard. I wish that the issue could be resolved. It looks like it may ultimately require a constitutional challenge on this. I do not think there is much more that we can do about it. I wish that we could. The Minister has not offered any particular succour in this respect, because he is constitutionally restrained in this Bill. However, it is an issue that will not go away. I commend Senators O'Donnell and Mac Conghail for tabling the amendment.

I would like to make a final point about rape and incest. I will continue to say it every time this issue comes up. Who speaks for the unborn? Who speaks for the innocent victim? I absolutely agree with all of the descriptions that have been stated here about rape and incest. They are the most horrific crimes and are the ultimate invasion of a woman's dignity. I do not think I can ever get it into my head what is going on in the head of a woman who has to face that particular reality. At the end of the day, what I believe she is carrying is life. Others believe that what is in her belly is a zygote, or that it is not an entity until it is delivered into the world. There are many who think that. I do not think that. There is a heartbeat at 30 days and there are brainwaves at 40 days. The unborn feels, thinks and reacts to what is going on in a woman's body. Therefore it is life to me. In the context of rape or incest, what that mother is carrying is an innocent life.

If one agrees with aborting and terminating the pregnancy, it means that life is extinguished. Instead of having one life unquestionably traumatised - one will not know how the rape victim will end up - another life will be sacrificed. I do not believe that is acceptable because the individual in the stomach of the woman is an innocent life. I do not see why it should be the person who should suffer.

Before we proceed, I welcome Elaine Murphy, the playwright of the Abbey Theatre production, Shush, and the play's cast to the Visitors Gallery.

I have listened with great interest and with great respect to the contributions so far on Senators MacConghail’s and O’Donnell’s amendments. There are so many threads to this issue but I am happy overall that the tone of this debate is one of respect. I hope we can keep that going over the coming days. I certainly will do my best.

We ought to because this is an issue quite unlike any other. Members are radically divided on this issue. We have to be honest but this is an issue across the world that tragically causes people to end up hating one another. That is never how it should be among human beings. Our duty is to love one another. It is understandable how it can get extremely difficult for people. Accordingly, we need to be very tolerant with one another. I may believe that someone else’s view on this compromises an innocent child’s right to life. I also realise that others may sincerely believe that my views compromise somebody else’s right to autonomy or even dignity or their freedom or sense of self.

I recall Breda O’Brien writing several years ago about having been involved in a wonderful initiative called 5,000 Too Many. She, along with Professor Patricia Casey and others who would style themselves pro-choice, organised a conference with a view to working on what we can agree. What they agreed on was how to reduce the number of abortions. I would like more things like that happening in our country.

There is a time for all of us to be sincere about what we believe. That just does not refer to what we can objectively prove but also what we can intuit. It is intuition that causes me to say that I understand deeply and agree with what Senators Bradford and Healy Eames said about their perception of the relative outcomes for families, not just women, who made a different decision relating to a child who was terminally ill and unborn. It is intuition that causes me to agree to have a deep sense that there is a truth about being patient even in moments of pain.

Nobody here has a monopoly of compassion or courage. Will the Minister extend his respect for courage not just to the group, Termination of Pregnancy for Medical Reasons, but also to the One Day More group? I know other Senators generously paid tribute to that group. They too are wise people who have suffered. They have loved and lost. I was honoured, with Senators Darragh O’Brien and Mary Ann O’Brien and Deputies Regina Doherty and Arthur Spring, to co-host a presentation by the families of One Day More. These are people who continued to love a child with a severe disability diagnosed in pregnancy. In some cases, the child was terminally ill and died very shortly after birth. In other cases, it was a severe disability that had caused doctors to give the most negative prognosis and to be very dubious about the duty of care to such children. Nonetheless, patience and love won out and happier outcomes were experienced. Those people turned many of our heads that day. A quarter of the entire Oireachtas, some 60 Members, gathered to hear them.

In debating this very difficult issue, I do feel a deep debt of gratitude not just to the woman who brought me into the world but to the former Minister of State, Deputy Lucinda Creighton, and Senators Mary Ann O’Brien and Healy Eames. I am not suggesting they are better than anyone else but, by articulating their deep concern about the preciousness of all human life, they give permission to people like me and other men who face censure, cruel comments and ridicule for daring to say that abortion is always unjust. We can take it but we must face it. Those women, by their witness to their deeply held values, did not just express themselves but have given permission to me to express myself. As a man, I am not objectively any less qualified to speak about these issues. Anyone who has suffered pain, who has had to contemplate the human condition, who may someday close the eyes of a loved one, who may get a diagnosis of cancer can do so - it is only those who are capable of suffering pain that can really empathise with others. That is why I want to preface my remarks that none of us here has a monopoly of compassion and courage.

On the rather dry legal argument that my friend, Senator O’Donnell, brought up about Mr. Hogan’s case, on behalf of the State, the European Court of Human Rights, he argued that remedies had not been exhausted in the Irish courts and that the Irish courts were unlikely to interpret with remorseless logic - a phrase which I found quite terrible - the provisions of Article 40.3.3°.

On a point of order, I have already gone through this. Was the Senator listening?

I was and I am sorry if I did not recall that the Senator had said it.

What is Senator O’Donnell’s point of order?

I have already gone through this, yet Senator Mullen is speaking about it as though I had not and putting my name to his thoughts.

I apologise for that.

The record will show who said what.

We will have to wait for the "Blacks".

I apologise for that, but I did not hear the Senator use the phrase “remorseless logic”.

We are trying to listen to Senator Mullen.

Senator O’Donnell has spoken and the Official Report will show what she said.

I do not think there is any need to fight about this. The point was that it is not a legal precedent. Senator Norris used the phrase “legal precedent” when it is not.

I have difficulties with the term “incompatible with life”. I have myself used the term “fatal foetal abnormality” in preference to it. There is a key point that some seem to be arguing that the term “unborn” might not include a child who cannot survive once born. There is no real basis for thinking that. The question of the child’s future survival after birth does not take from the fact that he or she is an unborn child now. The protection of the Constitution applies to the child as he or she is in the womb. It is not contingent on his or her future prospects. That is a true and fair reading of the eight amendment. In fact, it is the whole point of the eight amendment. One’s dignity, right to respect, protection and vindication, as far as is practicable, exists in the now. It applies to one as one is in the now. It would be like saying - please forgive me as no analogy is perfect - that a born person with a terminal illness does not have the right to the same legal protection because they are not going to live very long.

Some people kindly referred to the One Day More families. This is an important point because people use phrases such as "it is a matter of the person's choice". Senator Averil Power generously paid tribute to them, as well as to Termination for Medical Reasons. Their view, as expressed to us, was that loving their child to his or her natural end had been the right thing to do and had brought them a lot of healing; therefore, it is true that it was good for them, as their choice. They thought and said and still say that our society needs to give a full welcome to children in this situation, that they need to be welcomed socially and also given legal protection. They said - this was critical - that they had no quarrel with people who thought differently because they understood they had suffered as they had done and understood their situation. They believe waiting with the child until the natural end is ultimately better for everybody involved and see it as the respect due to the child, whatever his or her disability or illness. They worry that leaving it up to individual family decisions, while that may appeal strongly to those of us who lean strongly on the side of autonomy, will cause more hurt than healing. They also went on to say they feared that it would change the situation for everybody. I am paraphrasing. These are my words, not theirs, but the meaning is true to theirs. They say attitudes in the country will change if the decision becomes a matter of individual choice. They fear that there will be greater social pressure to end a pregnancy. As one of them put it to me, parents may be made to feel strange by continuing. That is true, when one thinks about how attitudes to euthanasia and other things switch when the law switches. That is a very valid point. That is all I have to say about One Day More.

That is why I have been quite critical of the media because approximately eight times in the past year there was a focus, understandably, on what was called fatal foetal abnormality. Interestingly, it was the focus twice during the debate on this legislation, even though it is not actually dealt with in the legislation. I noticed once on "Prime Time" that the balance was to contrast those who had gone for a termination, on the one hand, with those who had not, on the other, but those in the second category would not quibble with those who had had a termination. That was not a true balance because there are people who believe that not only would it not work for them but that it would be wrong in principle and, ultimately, counter-productive for society. We need to open up that debate.

I say all of this with thanks to my colleagues for tabling the amendments. These are issues about which we need to talk. I am so glad that Senator Darragh O'Brien brought up the commitment given to have a debate in this House on perinatal hospices and other related facilities. I hope that will happen.

On the amendments and the troubling subjects of rape and incest, while others mentioned their personal experience of talking to people and so on, my views were formed during my student days. I was president of the student union in my college at the time of the X case and one day a very good friend of mine came into my office and informed me that he had been adopted. He did not know the circumstances of his conception. He said, "I am glad to be here and believe I have a right to life, regardless of the circumstances of my conception." That may be a controversial view in the eyes of some, but it is not an unreasonable one to hold.

I concede that I have found this issue extremely challenging. I said yesterday that I had had a deep sense of commitment to a pro-life ethos from natural conception to natural death. In fact, I debated the issue in 1983 in New Ross with then Senator Michael D. Higgins, now our Uachtarán. We need to inform ourselves. I attended the National Women's Council meeting which heard from those ladies who had gone through the terrible situation of having pregnancies with fatal foetal abnormalities and travelled to England for abortions. Some things did not impress me, but some did hit me hard. I was not impressed by the fact that several people - perhaps they were from the National Women's Council, not the women themselves - said this was the first step toward achieving a more liberal abortion regime in Ireland, to changing our laws.

The second point that did not impress me - I said this on the day, I am not just saying it now - was that several of the women had said their biggest regret was that they had to travel to England for a termination. There was one particular young couple who I could see were really hurting as a consequence of losing their baby. I empathised with them because, unfortunately, I think on our third child, we had had a miscarriage. I saw clearly the impact it had had on our household and the trauma and upset it had caused, particularly to my wife. Therefore, I could empathise with that couple who in their predicament had been faced with the question of what to do. I did not have any particular answer to guide them. I did not see it as my place to judge anybody in that appalling situation, one in which none of us would wish to be. It is distressing for anybody but probably more so for a couple on their first child.

Subsequently, I went to listen to One Day More. The people involved in both groups who told their stories were very courageous. It is very difficult to share one's personal experiences in public, but they did so and spoke about the reaction when they had heard the news which must have been devastating for everybody. They also spoke about carrying the baby to the end of gestation and being in a position, perhaps in some instances for only minutes or hours, to be able to hold the baby. They spoke about how that had helped them in the grieving process. I was taken by this.

Subsequently representatives of Women Hurt came in. It is a pity that everybody does not open himself or herself to the experience of hearing both sides in these debates. That is imperative. I know many people have but not everybody has. If we are making legislation - I have strong views on the issue - there is an obligation on me to expose myself to the counter arguments and viewpoints and I have tried to do so to the best of my ability. One particular mother in Women Hurt told her story. She had brought her disabled daughter, aged 12 years, with her. That presents a challenge to us all. That mother was advised that she should have an abortion because of the fatal foetal abnormality diagnosed at the time, but she decided not to have one. I respect the fact that others - women and fathers - make different decisions in these situations. However, when I looked at that 12 year old, I had to ask myself whether her life had a value. Do I or does the Minister or anybody else have the right to introduce legislation to legalises the killing of that life before it gets to see the light of day? The answer is no.

I support those who have talked about perinatal hospices. I would like to think there are people in the Department who are not just advocating their own ideology but are, in fact, trying to ensure the services are available for those who need them.

It is clear from the Joint Committee on Health and Children hearings that the biggest threat to a woman's life, as enunciated by every medical person, obstetrician, gynaecologist, and psychiatrist who appeared before the committee, was the lack and dearth of services. The lack of resources was the single biggest threat. That is on the record of those committees for all to see. I do not deny that I find the arguments made by Senators who have a different perspective from me extremely challenging. I acknowledge and concede that.

On the issue of rape, I have listened to what people have had to say and it is very difficult. Rape is a heinous crime. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, of which I am a member, examines human rights issues. Right across conflict areas, rape is systematically used as part of the war campaign. It is obnoxious to any decent human being. I attended meetings recently in respect of the International Criminal Court. We should ensure that people in those situations are brought to justice regardless of the regimes they serve. The laws in Ireland and the administration of justice in this area constantly need to be updated in order that those who commit that crime are held to account.

I applaud, in particular, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames. She has shown tremendous courage not only in recent weeks but in recent months and in the past year. I agreed with much of what Senator Averil Power had to say on this issue. When people give of their home and their love to take in and adopt others, that is probably the greatest expression of Christian charity that I can identify. It is fantastic. Many of those parents would say, those children are a blessing to them. Equally, they bring great blessings to those children.

As challenged as I am on the issue, we had Women Hurt attend our parliamentary party meeting. A significant number of the members of the parliamentary party attended that briefing. There were three women with whom we debated and discussed the issue, all of whom had abortions and all spoke of their experience and all appealed to us not to introduce legislation. They mentioned the trauma and torment they have suffered as a consequence, some of which I alluded to yesterday, based on an English doctor's booklet which he published. They appealed for supports for women who find themselves in a terrible predicament, which an unwanted pregnancy can be. At the end, when we were just about to leave, some of our members raised the issue of rape. One young woman then said:

My mother was raped, I am the product of that rape. Are you saying to me that my life is not as valuable as yours or that of anybody else?

I attended the pro-life vigil outside the Houses in December or January when a reasonable crowd attended. I was introduced to a man of senior years whose mother had been raped and he was the product of that rape. He was with his son and grandson. None of those three people would be alive today if we are to go the route advocated by some people on rape. They are very difficult situations and there are no easy answers. While I recognise this is a time of scarce fiscal resources I appeal to the Minister to put in place the necessary supports to help women through these very difficult experiences that arise in order to get them and their unborn child to a happier place. Ireland in the 21st century should surely be able to achieve this.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White. I wish to make a couple of responses to the Minister, Deputy James Reilly's, response to our argument. I fully accept the constitutional barrier to introducing the amendments on incest and rape and welcome Senator Averil Power's support for one of our amendments. Clearly, there is no monopoly on courage. As a man, I find it deeply upsetting to even discuss the right to intervene in the bodily integrity of a woman. The idea, as a man, that I should be legislating for the right of a woman to decide and choose her own sense of bodily integrity, whether that is her own sexuality or her right to live, is deeply uncomfortable. However, as a Senator, I have to make that call.

Our amendments are about the right to choose. They are about a choice. We are not saying that every couple and every woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality needs to, or should, go to full term but that there should be a choice. We have examples of that. The Minister, Deputy James Reilly, mentioned figures and questioned those figures. We are not proposing these amendments based on figures but on actual facts. The Termination for Medical Reasons group has clear, upsetting and barbaric examples. The group would like to have a termination of a fatal foetal abnormality available in Ireland where it could then offer closure but where the State would offer compassion. There is no compassion evident in this process particularly as they travel abroad.

I wish to clarify again what the Minister was talking about in terms of a viable pregnancy or a life of a person once he or she is born. We are talking about cases of "fatal foetal", not cases where a person survives. If there was even a scintilla of evidence of that, I would be against it. I am talking about a particular case of fatal foetal abnormality. I heard the responses of Senators Susan O'Keeffe and Ivana Bacik. Although Senator Bacik mentioned it, she is politically in favour of the clause "fatal foetal abnormality", as I think the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, may be but I do not want to put words in his mouth. Senator Bacik mentioned that it was less constitutionally robust while the Minister, Deputy James Reilly, said if our amendment was inserted in the Bill it would be open to constitutional challenge.

I argue that the definition of "unborn" in the Bill could also be open to constitutional challenge. In fact a lot of the details could be open to constitutional challenge. He has mildly threatened that if a clause on fatal foetal abnormalities was included in the Bill it would prevent it from being constitutional. As Senator Averil Power said there are a number of people who are probably preparing to take cases against the Bill, once it is enacted. It is not that it is not constitutional. One has only to look at the Government case put forward in the D case. It is not constitutionally settled - that is the difference. That is the reason we are seeking to include this clause.

As I stated to the Minister, Deputy Reilly, it concerns me more as well on the political front because in a way, we are legislating. We must listen to the medical advice on all sides and the legal advice on all sides. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom. However, we also must have political courage also. I note the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, in his letter in the newspaper, has shown empathy and compassion for those women but to deny this amendment on the basis of a possible constitutional challenge does not reassure me that there are other elements within the Bill that will not be challenged constitutionally. That is my final point on that issue.

A number of speakers have spoken already, including Senator Healy Eames.

I wish to respond to the Minister.

I thank the Cathaoirleach.

This debate is deeply sensitive and I treat it with the greatest of respect. I want to clarify. I was a little disappointed with Senator Power, who inferred that I made a value judgment. I made no value judgment, and would not make a value judgment, between the two sets of women on how they decided to deal with their diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. One group of women absolutely needed to know that they could terminate the life here; they had to travel to England. The other group chose to give birth to their babies. What I said was that having heard women from both groups - this was news to me because, as I stated, I found it the hardest one of all - the group that came across happier to me were the ones who gave birth. They cried with joy because they had reference points with their family. They had minutes together with their child. They had hours, and some had years, despite the diagnosis. That did not come across to me from the other group.

On a point of order, how can these assumptions be made? These women are not here for us to ascertain their emotional level, whether they are happy or sad. Senator Healy Eames cannot be putting this across as evidence of happiness and unhappiness, depending on which way one's choice was.

That is not a point of order.

These women are not here in evidence and Senator Healy Eames cannot interpret this and call it fact. That is my point.

If the Senator wishes to come back into the debate, she can make that point.

As I stated, I treat this with the deepest respect. I am making no value judgment here.

I am not suggesting the Senator is. I am suggesting-----

If the Senator wishes to contribute, she can come back in.

In fairness, the women were here and we met them. I know they are not before us now. I am telling the House how they came across to me. I am merely explaining. One woman spoke about the joy that her child would just be able to feel the wind in her hair.

The Senator is being repetitive.

She made those points previously, even on Second Stage.

I am merely saying that some day in the future we may be making a decision with regard to what we will legislate for in this respect. As legislators, we are fortunate to have the experience of having met some of these women. I would not make any of my points today only for that experience.

It is unhelpful to state that I am making a value judgment. I thank Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell for accepting my clarification earlier. That is all I really want to say there.

The one provision these women who gave birth looked for was hospice care. That is what they said would have made their lives that bit easier. They had no regrets whatsoever that they chose to give birth to their children. Indeed, one little one was six years of age and still alive.

While we all are here, we have the right to say what we want on this issue. I have another experience of where I met a woman now living in County Clare. She was pregnant with twins in the United Kingdom. She was told they were next to Siamese twins and that she would be recommended to have a termination. She chose to come back to Ireland-----

The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.

On a point of order, we are discussing fatal foetal abnormalities. I am aware these are wider issues, but we are straying beyond the scope of the amendments.

Senator Healy Eames is making a Second Stage speech.

Fatal foetal abnormalities.

I am not making a Second Stage speech.

The Senator is.

In all cases of which I speak, they were given the diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. In the latter case, those little children are now six-year-old twins, as she stated, running around in a playground in County Clare. With respect, all cases were given the diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. Today is not the day that we will make a decision on this for the reasons that we are told - it is not constitutional. I take Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell's point, that perhaps some of these matters have been kicked to touch previously but, until it is before us for a decision, some of us need that time.

I listened to all of the contributions from the Senators and acknowledge and thank those who put forward the amendments. By putting forward an amendment, whether one agrees or disagrees with it, they give us all an opportunity to discuss this particular element, the question of fatal foetal abnormalities and, of course, the issue of rape and incest.

This is a most sensitive area, particularly for any member of a family who discovers that a child may be born with a disability. It affects many of us. Recently, within my wider family, I experienced that where the advice given by one of the Dublin hospitals was that the parents, who were young and were expecting their first child, should seriously consider travelling to England to have an abortion even though the baby, who was subsequently born with Down's syndrome, was at a very late stage. Thankfully, they decided that they did not want to have the abortion and the baby is doing well.

Often I meet people who have Down's syndrome. I am glad to say that I have a number of friends who have Down's syndrome and who are contributing well to society.

On a point of order, we are speaking on this amendment about fatal foetal abnormalities.

I call Senator Ó Domhnaill.

On a point of order, Members interrupting are not helping the flow of this debate. It is coming from Senators with a particular perspective against Senators who have a different perspective. It is wrong.

That is not a point of order.

The Cathaoirleach should allow no more such pseudo-points of order.

I have not spoken to date on these amendments and want to make a contribution. It is a sensitive issue. While I oppose all of the amendments which have been tabled, I want to make a contribution given that they have been tabled to the debate.

I have looked at this area. I have looked at various reports and at various studies that have been carried out by universities, both within Europe and in the United States. For example, on the issue has been raised about women who are travelling to England to have abortions as a result of unborn children being diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities, there was a study carried out by the British Department of Health over a ten-year period in 20 hospitals in the United Kingdom between 1995 and 2004.

It showed that 3,189 abortions were carried out on unborn children who had disabilities or fatal foetal abnormalities. Of that number, 102 or, one in 30, of those children were born alive and left to die on sterilised trays in operating theatres. It is important to point out that fact.

We know that almost 200,000 abortions are carried out in the UK every year and I obtained the figures from the British Department of Health. Around 1%, or 2,000 of them, are applicable in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or unborn children with disabilities and around 33% relate to Down's syndrome. The point I made about Down's syndrome is valid. Around 700 unborn children are aborted in England because they would have had the syndrome had they been born. I know many people with Down's syndrome who play an active part in citizenship in this country and represent us at the Special Olympics. Senators from all sides of the House have been great proponents of the Special Olympics and it is important to acknowledge those facts during the debate.

Another study conducted in the United Stated by the pro-choice organisation, Planned Parenthood, found that 6% of all abortions performed there are due to the discovery of fatal foetal abnormalities or children with disabilities. It would be wrong to say that the matter is wide-ranging and affects many children, and I do not insinuate that has been said. We are talking about a small number of cases so we must be careful to frame legislation using best medical practice.

I draw the attention of the Minister of State and the House to a report entitled Maternal and Neonatal Health Better in Abortion Averse Ireland than Great Britain that was carried out for the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons. I shall quote some of the article but will not go into great detail. I have copies of the report if the Minister of State or any Members wish to read the research. The article reads:

Comparing national health data over a period of 40 years that showed better maternal and neonatal outcomes in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal or highly restricted, than in Great Britain, where abortion has been legal since 1968, according to an article published in this summer's issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Researchers Byron C. Calhoun, M.D., of West Virginia University-Charleston, John M. Thorp, M.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Patrick Carroll, M.A., of Britain's Pension and Population Research Institute (PAPRI) examined maternal mortality, stillbirth rates, and preterm births.

Irish women can travel overseas to Great Britain or the continent to obtain abortions, but Irish abortion rates continue to be low. The authors calculate total abortion rates,TARs, analogous to total fertility rates,TFRs, of 0.13 for the Republic and 0.09 for Northern Ireland in 2011, compared with 0.52 for England and Wales, 0.36 for Scotland, and 0.6 for Sweden. About one third of English women are likely to experience an abortion, compared with less than one tenth of Irish women, they state.

Since 1968, maternal mortality has declined much more steeply in Ireland than in Great Britain. In the last decade, the article reports maternal mortality of three per 100,000 in the Republic of Ireland compared with six per 100,000 in England and Wales.

A history of prior induced abortion is-----

The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.

The crux of the matter is, women who have an abortion, even for a possible fatal foetal abnormality, face a health risk in future pregnancies. There is a proven increased risk of "stillbirths, premature births, low birth-weight of future children, cerebral palsy and maternal deaths." I urge all Senators to read the report.

I am not a medical expert, nor do I claim to be. Before voting on an amendment it is important for Members to educate themselves about best medical practice for all of these issues. According to the research that I quoted, the best medical practice clearly shows, apart from the moral issues, that this series of amendments do not make medical sense.

I have met many women and families on both sides of the argument and I have met the groups that were referred to earlier. Questions have been asked such as when is a life less of a life, is it after birth at five seconds or five days, etc. It is important to realise when human life exists. I believe, and where I come from, human life exists from conception to natural death. Therefore, I cannot support an amendment where human life would be destroyed in the womb simply because the unborn child is disabled. It sends a very wrong message about the protection and rights of children who are disabled. It would also impose a culture or perception-----

On a point of order, the amendment has nothing to do with disability.

That is not a point of order.

It concerns fatal foetal abnormality.

Senator Ó Domhnaill has moved away from debating the amendment. I ask him to stick to the amendment.

The amendment has nothing to do with disability or the whole issue of disability.

Please allow me to finish.

The Senator does not understand the words "fatal" and "incompatible".

Senator O'Donnell, my namesake, has been very disruptive in the Chamber today.

The Senator has been equally good at responding.

Senator Ó Domhnaill please, on the amendments.

I had assumed that because Senator O'Donnell had tabled an amendment she would be interested in hearing my opinion.

I am if the Senator would stick to the amendment on fatal foetal abnormality which has nothing to do with disability.

Senator O'Domhnaill to continue, without interruption, please.

Go raibh maith agat. This is not the first time today that people have been interrupted.

Please speak on the amendment.

By supporting the amendment one would support a culture or perception of normality on reproductive decisions. That would be wrong. There is no way that I can support the amendments but I acknowledge the absolute right of Senators to table amendments. I also acknowledge the Minister for Health who was here and agree with the vast majority of his comments on these amendments.

My points shall be brief. I understand that we are discussing fatal foetal abnormality. It means a medical condition suffered by a foetus such that it is incompatible with life outside the womb. I am horrified by what I have heard from Senator Ó Domhnaill. He has suggested every parent who has a disabled child is subject to the amendment. That is low, below the belt, uncalled for and demeans the Chamber.

On a point of order, the amendment states, whether one agrees with it - I assume by that speech by Senator Moran she supports the amendments-----

What is the Senator's point of order?

What is the Senator's point of order or question?

Any child who is born with a disability has a right to live. That is my point.

For goodness sake.

On a point of order, nobody disagrees with the Senator and everybody has a right.

If the Senator does not agree with that principle, she should agree with mine.

Absolutely - everybody with a disability. That is not what this amendment is about.

(Interruptions).

Senator Hayden to continue, without interruption, please. We are also dealing with rape and incest in these amendments.

Yes, I am dealing with the amendments that have been tabled on fatal foetal abnormality----

Is the Senator going to contradict me?

Yes. The amendment also deals with being "incompatible with life outside the womb."

I am certain such a thing is a medical decision, as are many of the medical decisions to be taken under this legislation. I would very much like to be in a position to support this amendment, and I said so on Second Stage. I also trust the legal opinion of Senator Ivana Bacik, who is one of the most eminent lawyers in this country and who said that to do so would potentially put this legislation at risk in terms of its constitutionality. I very much hope we will come back to this issue. I would like to vote for this amendment - the Senators have my absolute assurances.

I have confidence in the medical profession. It is quite clear from all the evidence we heard from the various groups that it is not about feeling the wind on one's skin, appreciating the sun on one's open eyes or whatever. We are all fully aware of what fatal foetal abnormality is. I would say to Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill that it is not about disability and it is incredibly low to suggest there is any connection between these two issues, especially when we will have debate in Private Members' time on the Special Olympics. I am absolutely convinced there is no connection and I think the Senator is misleading-----

Of course there is.

There is not. The Senator is misleading-----

The Senator is depriving future Special Olympics athletes of being born.

I will not go any further with this.

Senator Hayden to continue, without interruption.

Incapable of life outside the womb.

The Senator makes the decision that they are incapable-----

The Senator makes the decision that they are incapable of life outside the womb by voting for it.

If the Leas-Chathaoirleach does not mind, I will carry on with my point.

Senator Hayden to continue, without interruption. It does not serve the purpose of a proper debate if there are constant interruptions and if Members ignore the Chair. It is most unfortunate.

Absolutely. I would very much like to support this amendment but, unfortunately, I am not able to do so. It is a very well thought-out amendment and it is something to which we will have to return.

With regard to the amendment on rape and incest, I am very much of the view that this country has moved on. It is a pity that many of the representations we have received have come from a particular group of people. I know this point has been made by other Senators but I would very much like to know how they are funded, how they managed to run the campaign they ran and from where their money is coming. We spent hours in this Chamber making it impossible for somebody in political life to receive a donation of more than €100 without having to go through every hoop known to man, yet other organisations can spend millions of euro on campaigns.

I would like to repeat a statistic I gave on Second Stage. More than 120,000 Irish women have had abortions since the 1983 constitutional amendment. If one takes that statistic and looks around this Chamber - I am not looking at the women or at the men - at least one in ten people in this Chamber has had an abortion, has a partner who has had one or has a daughter who has had one. That is the bottom line. It is time we moved on. Why do we not stick to what is in front of us, namely, this legislation?

Why does the Senator not stick to it?

Senator Hayden has not stuck to it.

Why does Senator Ó Domhnaill not stick to it?

Senator Hayden is the one who is all over the place.

Senator Hayden, address the debate through the Chair.

The Senator is in a corner defending her position.

I will finish my point. I would very much like to address the rape and the incest issue. Has Senator Ó Domhnaill met a victim of incest? I have met one, as I am sure many other Senators have. I genuinely wish we were addressing this issue. I accept that we are not and that is why I will not be able to support the amendment put forward by my colleagues, which I know is very well meant and comes from a well researched position. I hope that in the lifetime of the Government we will be able to address it but I doubt we will be. However, as far as I am concerned, I am here to address one thing, namely, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill and any amendment consistent with it. That is the bottom line.

We have been on this amendment for almost three hours. I do not want people personalising things, nor do I want repetition.

I have a specific question for the Minister of State which arises from some confusion in the debate. The issue here for me is that some families that received a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality decided to bring their babies to term and the babies lived outside the womb for some time, despite the diagnosis. Some lived for minutes, some for hours, some for months and some for years, despite the diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. How can we decide? It is a judgment - a decision by a doctor. The woman who is pregnant gets this diagnosis. How can we decide which woman's baby will not live outside the womb and which one will live? That is the question I would like the Minister of State to answer.

I do not propose to say very much more at this point because I know there has been a very good and wide-ranging discussion on these amendments and I thank the Senators who tabled them. They are very well motivated in what they have done.

As Senator Fiach Mac Conghail mentioned something I said, I should respond briefly to his comments on this issue which were directed towards me.

It is always to help the debate, of course.

The Minister of State should be aware that there are young children in the House.

The first point is in regard to constitutionality. This is a human business. Politicians, members of Government, judges and doctors are all human beings. There is very little absolute certainty in any of this. There are very few things we can say with absolute certainty. Unless we have an opportunity in our laws to ask the court in advance whether it is of the view that something is consistent with the Constitution, we must do the very best we can, as a Government and as an Oireachtas, to ensure the legislation we enact is consistent with the Constitution. We cannot be absolutely certain until, or unless, it is challenged or otherwise comes before the court and the court makes that final decision.

The Senator said in support of his argument that perhaps we should take a more radical approach and that there might be other aspects of the Bill which are unconstitutional. Given that fact, he asked whether we should go a little further on this. Every effort has been made in respect of every syllable of this Bill to ensure as best we can in the Department of Health, in the Government and in the context of the advice of the Attorney General and outside, that everything in it is consistent with the Constitution. There is no use in thinking the Government's approach is to take a chance with something or to say this might or might not pass muster. That has not been our approach. Nobody can be absolutely certain, but our very best efforts have been employed to ensure every single word, line and syllable is consistent with the Constitution.

That takes me on to the more substantive point Senator Mac Conghail made in regard to the D case. The Government made certain submissions to the court in Strasbourg in the context of the D case. Sometimes lawyers make these distinctions and people think it is just more legal talk, but it is important to remember that in the D case there was a discussion about whether the applicant had exhausted all of her domestic remedies. The submission the Government made in support of its argument was that she had not exercised all her domestic remedies and that there was an arguable case that she might succeed - it was at least tenable or possible. If one reads through the submission, one sees it is replete with words such as "arguable" and "possible". The Government cannot come to the Oireachtas and say it thinks there is a real possibility that this may or may not be constitutional.

We must provide legislation which comes as close to certainty as possible, while accepting that absolute certainty is impossible. Doing the very best we can, the preponderance of the legal advice, including that of the Attorney General, is that there would be a question mark over the constitutional soundness of the legislation if we were to adopt the course advocated, notwithstanding that many of us have enormous sympathy with its substance. We must fall back on the position that obtains. It is a conservative argument. The law is often conservative. We must rely on what we believe to be the current legal position in accordance with the best advice we have.

Senators have approached the definition issue very carefully and responsibly. The definition often used is "incompatibility with life outside the womb". Senator Fidelma Healy Eames raised the issue also. The Attorney General has advised, correctly, if I might state my view, that if there is a possibility of survival outside the womb, Article 40.3.3o is engaged. The Senator used the word "scintilla" and I understood him to mean the scintilla of a possibility. That is the issue. The advice on which I must rely is that the protection of Article 40.3.3o will be engaged for the unborn. Can it ever be said there is no possibility of survival outside the womb? If the life of the unborn has come to an end before birth, Article 40.3.3o would not be engaged. In that case, it would not be unborn for the purposes of Article 40.3.3o. It would no longer be "beo gan breith", alive without having been born. "Beo gan breith" is the Irish for "unborn". It would not have the protection. If there is the possibility that the foetus can survive independently for however short a time, that is awfully difficult and one of the most troubling aspects of the legislation for everyone. I must provide our advice for the Seanad. It is compelling advice. For these reasons, it is not possible for the Government to accept the amendments.

This is a most difficult area for all of us. There is no huge difference between our concerns, though we may have different perspectives as to how it might be resolved. The interruptions of Senator Fidelma Healy Eames while she was making her point were unhelpful. I found there was no real difference in the sense of loss of the parents who came to the Oireachtas with the National Women's Council and who were promoting abortion and the One Day More people who came to tell their stories. I was struck that some of the One Day More people had photographs which had been taken in the short period during which the baby had lived. The family got around. The fact that they had these photographs did not alleviate their problem, but it helped them in the bereavement process. That came across as a significant factor which was not there with the other group.

I accept fully that the proposers of the amendments do not in any way have an intention that it should lead to the abortion of people with disabilities. I do not question this. During the health committee hearings I received a telephone call from an Irish woman, who is a doctor in London. She told me she was really concerned about what she was hearing from the health committee hearings. She told me of her personal experience with her first child who had Down's syndrome. She was advised on at least three occasions during her pregnancy, on one or two of which she was urged, to have an abortion and not to have the baby. She told me her problem living in London was that she could not access the necessary services and supports for her baby with Down's syndrome because the critical mass was not there. Of babies diagnosed with Down's syndrome, 90% are aborted in England. The intention in England when the legislation was introduced in 1967 was never to have people with disabilities included. We have seen it go to the stage now that unborn babies identified with cleft palates have been aborted. It is an appalling vista and we do not want to go there. For that reason, the legislation must be thoroughly scrutinised.

Senator Aideen Hayden referred to the figure of 150,000, which has been thrown around the room many times by people with a perspective on it. While we do not know why many or all of them have travelled to England for an abortion, we know that 20% of them have gone for more than one abortion, which statistic comes from our own Department of Health. Anecdotally, I have been told by a doctor of a woman who went this year for her sixth abortion.

The Seanad should not be polluted by this kind of anecdotal rubbish. It is a disgrace.

Will the Senator, please, resume his seat and respect the Chair?

There is freedom of information-----

The Senator is talking about a woman having six abortions with no supporting evidence when he is the one who is always talking about evidence-based legislation. He has produced no evidence for his statement. He is a disgrace.

The Senator has indicated that he wants to speak next. If he wants to make a point, make it with decorum.

I have told the House that this information is on the public record. The other information on the record was set out at the health committee hearings. A freedom of information request was made to the Department of Health in the United Kingdom relating to the figures for recent years. The response showed that no Irish woman was recorded as having had an abortion in Britain during that period for a life-saving reason. There are things we know and, sadly, other things we do not know.

That is not true. On a point of information, I asked a specific question at the hearings of the joint committee as to whether there was information relating to Irish women who had travelled to the United Kingdom who might have done so because they had suffered from serious risks to their health. The response from the eminent medical professionals who were there was that they did not know. Secondly-----

No. I am not letting the Senator in again.

That was not my point.

I resent this tit-for-tat approach and reject it. We have now spent three hours on the amendment. At this rate, given that there are 86 amendments, it will take 22 12-hour days to cover the Bill. Be reasonable. Everybody wants to come back in and repeat. I listened to an hour and a half of this before I took a break. Many of the points were made - very well - and rebutted before being made again and rebutted again. I reject the idea that if one Senator says something, another must object. We are going around in circles. There are seven more speakers and at some stage I must put the question.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach has made the point I wanted to make. I left the House at 1 p.m. having moved the amendments in my name. I am astonished that the debate is still going on at 3.20 p.m. While some contributions are reasoned and valuable, much of the stuff being recorded is tendentious, a circular argument based on anecdotes from Members who always demand evidence-based material.

It looks to me as if we have an attempt to force a guillotine. This is political sleight of hand and they will then try to force the imposition of a guillotine through unreasonably lengthy contributions before crying foul. I would like to know if I can put my amendment to a vote.

I do not want to cut across the Senator, having been fair to everyone. The amendment before us is amendment No. 2 in the names of Senators Fiach Mac Conghail and Marie-Louise O'Donnell. As Senator David Norris's amendment will be taken later, he cannot put his amendment to a vote until later.

I urge my colleagues to call a vote within a reasonable amount of time.

I would like to press the amendment now.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 42.

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Mac Conghail, Fiach.
  • Norris, David.
  • O'Brien, Mary Ann.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • Power, Averil.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Keeffe, Susan.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Whelan, John.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Fiach Mac Conghail and Marie-Louise O'Donnell; Níl, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden.
Amendment declared lost.

It is important to recognise that the two women in Fianna Fáil supported the amendment and every single man-----

Will the Senator, please, resume his seat?

It was divided between the men who voted against their amendment, which could save people in rape-----

Will the Senator, please, resume his seat?

I congratulate the two Fianna Fáil women.

The Senator is completely out of order.

As there is a typographical error in amendment No. 3, we will not move it until Report Stage.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 4, 37 and 38 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 6, line 8, after “treatment” to insert the following:

“but excludes any procedure undertaken or drug administered with the direct intention of killing the unborn”.

If the Title means what it says - the Minister of State, Deputy White, assured us this morning that the Title conveys that the Bill is about the protection of women who are pregnant and the protection of the unborn - then obviously he should have no difficulty accepting the amendment for the clarity it brings to the Title. The amendment will mean that the definition of "medical procedure" in the interpretation section will now read as follows: " "medical procedure" includes the prescribing, by a medical practitioner, of any drug or medical treatment, but excludes any procedure undertaken or drug administered with the direct intention of killing the unborn.”

Our current ethos and law in this country have been about protecting the lives of women and do not allow the intentional killing of the unborn. If that Bill reflects that ethos, as the Minister of State said, he will have no difficulty in acknowledging and accepting the amendment. For that reason, in the expectation that that is the case and that what he told us this morning was true, I am not going to prolong the discussion on this amendment, and I am happy to leave it to the Minister of State to confirm that he will accept it.

I just cannot accept this amendment. If we apply this amendment-----

Nobody is asking the Senator to accept it. It is the Minister of State's job to accept it.

This amendment means that doctors will be restricted from inducing any delivery, even where the mother's life is at risk. If we applied Senator Walsh's interpretation to the likes of the Savita case, then it means the doctors would have to stand idly by in such a situation. I would ask Senator Walsh to look at the wording of what he is saying. It means no procedure of any description.

If a delivery is induced for someone under 24 weeks pregnant, the foetus is going to die. Adopting the wording proposed in the amendment would restrict every medical practitioner in every hospital from inducing any delivery even when the life of the mother is at risk. I am surprised at the way this amendment is worded. It is wrong and I do not believe we can accept it.

I have heard both sides but there is a distinction. Of course, we support every intervention where the mother’s life can be saved, even if that means the unintentional taking of the life of the unborn. Senator Walsh’s amendment states, “but excludes any procedure undertaken or drug administered with the direct intention of killing the unborn”. That is the difference. It is about the intention. Senator Burke is not correct that this amendment would prevent a life-saving mechanism for a woman under sections 7 or 8 or in the Savita Halappanavar case. In all those cases, we would want a woman’s life to be saved. The intention of the intervention would be to save the life of the woman, even if it meant the unintentional taking of the life of the unborn. Senator Walsh is referring to the direct intention of killing the unborn. Will the Minister of State clarify that this is the intention of section 9, namely, the direct intention of killing the unborn?

Will Senator Walsh explain how this amendment fits in with section 7, risk of loss of life from physical illness, or section 8, risk of loss of life from physical illness in emergency? Section 7 states, “It shall be lawful to carry out a medical procedure in respect of a pregnant woman in accordance with this section in the course of which, or as a result of which, an unborn human life is ended”.

The main purpose of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 is to restate the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland in line with Article 40.3.3° of the Constitution while regulating access to lawful termination of pregnancy in accordance with the X case and the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v. Ireland case.

Section 22 which lays out the offence specifies, “It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life.” Amendment No. 4 is, therefore, unnecessary and I do not propose to accept it.

Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 concern the issue of viability. The Bill makes reference to a medical practitioner’s reasonable opinion which places a statutory duty on each medical practitioner required to form an opinion for the purpose of the legislation to have regard to the need to preserve unborn human life as far as practicable. This is a direct quotation from Article 40.3.3°. This imposes a clear duty on medical practitioners to make every effort to preserve the life of a foetus that may be viable. Not to do so would mean a medical practitioner would be in breach of the proposed legislation and subject to its penalties. However, we do not wish to be prescriptive about specific procedures to be followed in making the required efforts to preserve the life of the foetus. The purpose of the legislation is not to regulate obstetric procedures which do not constitute termination of pregnancy or to dictate the practice of obstetrics. Standard medical practice will provide appropriate mechanisms for assessments of both the woman and the unborn. It would not be appropriate to include this or other details of medical treatments in legislation. For those reasons, I cannot accept these amendments.

The Minister of State said he does not wish to be prescriptive. Nothing can be as prescriptive as the language of section 22 which states, “It shall be an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life.” That is a very black-and-white statement. I cannot see how anyone could have a difficulty with how Deputy Walsh’s amendment would impact on sections 7 and 8. This amendment clearly states it wants to remove the direct intention of killing the unborn.

As Senator Healy Eames said, every Member of this House, the other House and the entirety of Irish society fully supports medical intervention wherever it is necessary to save the life of the mother. If, unfortunately, as a result of that intervention, there is the unintentional effect of the child dying, it is sad but the reality of the intervention.

The direct intention to bring the life of an unborn child to an end is an entirely different area. That is where the whole philosophical aspect of the divide between abortion, termination and medical procedure is coming into play in this debate. The Minister of State’s refusal to accept this amendment is at the core of the philosophical underpinning of this legislation. Section 22 uses blunt language stating abortion is illegal. If we want to keep that as the kernel of the legislation, then I cannot see for the life of me how there could be any difficulty with the insertion of this amendment. We either support the direct intention of killing the unborn or we do not. Maybe the Minister of State does but I certainly do not. I cannot see how there would be any difficulty with the inclusion of this amendment. It would not affect sections 7 and 8 as they do not, in any way, provide for the direct intention of killing the unborn. They simply provide for whatever medical procedures are required to save the life of the mother, a provision supported by every citizen of this republic. I am concerned by the way the Minister of State utterly dismissed this amendment. How can the Minister of State be so opposed to the phrase “the direct intention of killing the unborn”? His opposition to that phrase frightens me.

The first point I noticed was the difference between Senator colm Burke’s rationale for opposing this very sensible amendment and that of the Minister. I have great respect for Senator Colm Burke. He has been a very thoughtful and well-researched contributor to debates in this House. I felt, however, his rationale for opposing Senator Walsh's amendment showed he was not at his best in his analysis.

I note the Minister resorted to the view it is simply not necessary. Senator Bradford said much of what I was going to say. In light of the offence as identified in section 22, namely, that “it is an offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life”, it simply does not make logical sense to reject Senator Walsh’s amendment.

There are very clear issues at stake. For example, across the water obstetricians, the people who are skilled in saving life, are also, sadly, the people skilled in taking life when that life is not wanted as a matter of choice. I recall reading one excerpt from a scholarly article by a very distinguished academic obstetrician in Britain in which he described the procedures for the late-term termination of pregnancy. He referred to intra-cardiac injection of potassium chloride being the optimum approach. It is the injection of a poison into the child’s heart. This is from a member of the establishment in Britain. This illustrates the radical difference in the cultures of our two countries.

That was why I opposed the nomination of that very scholar as the Chairman of the HSE inquiry into the tragic death of the late Savita.

On a point of order, is it appropriate to be making allegations about individuals who are not present in the Chamber?

That is not a point of order.

My point is very clearly this, people are deeply concerned about what this legislation may import. They are deeply concerned about an apparent double speak on the part of the Government which says there is no need to identify issues around gestational limits because what the Constitution allows, and has been interpreted to allow, is not termination of life but termination of pregnancy, therefore the constitutional right to a lawful abortion does not extend to the destruction of the unborn in post-viability situations. There are amendments before this House which will seek to bring clarity to that point by establishing that a child must be protected, post-viability. That is very connected with this because an issue that will arise is the procedure that is used to end the pregnancy. It is entirely appropriate that the direct-indirect distinction which has been at the heart of quality maternal health care in this country would not be just preserved but recognised. That is exactly what Senator Walsh's amendment seeks to do.

I wish to support Senator Walsh's amendment. It cracks to the core of this issue and touches on the medical procedure which in theory is a forced abortion. We have listened to the arguments being put forward by Senator Colm Burke and the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White. Unfortunately, it appears to be clear that for one reason or another, or the tone being set, that no amendments will be accepted in this House as was the case in the Dáil.

The Bill is quite clinical about the medical procedure because babies have a better chance of survival after 24 weeks or six months, than earlier. The longer the baby is in the womb, the stronger its chance of survival. It is possible to end a pregnancy by inducing labour or by Caesarean delivery at this stage rather than by having an abortion. Abortion is a deliberate ending of the life of the baby whereas the other two methods offer hope that the baby will actually live. The Bill makes no mention of these other procedures. It refers only to the medical procedure which is outlined to include the prescribing by a medical practitioner of any drug or medical treatment.

We are on amendment No. 4.

Yes. That is Senator Walsh’s amendment. What if the baby is healthy and aborted? What if the life is ended just because the mother is suicidal without first going for the options I have already mentioned? The American Congress recently passed a Bill introducing a ban on abortion over 20 weeks because a baby can feel pain at this stage. This means that abortion over 20 weeks is banned all over the United States of America. The Irish Bill does not make any exception for or mention of safe delivery at any time during the nine months of pregnancy or even mention of a cutting-off point. Is this deliberate, as a means of helping pro-life doctors to avoid aborting by delaying as safe as possible a delivery for an unborn baby? If any doctor, midwife or surgeon is doing his or her utmost to protect mother and child, bearing in mind that Ireland is the safest place in the world to have a baby, I know that very few would opt to carry out abortions, especially those with conscientious objections. If doctors are forced to find others to carry out the procedure, especially in an emergency, they may be left with both a deceased mother and baby if they have to move both the mother and the unborn child to another hospital because one hospital opts not to carry out the procedure. There are all sorts of issues here that appear to have been left out of this legislation. It is a clinical attempt to introduce abortion and my simple rationale-----

On a point of information, there is no provision exempting hospitals or allowing them to say they would not provide the service the Senator is talking about.

That is technically correct but there is-----

It is not in there.

If, for example, all the practitioners within the hospital were unwilling to carry out the procedure, the only rational alternative would be to bring practitioners into the hospital who would be willing to do it or to transfer the mother and unborn child to another hospital. Therefore, there are time delays involved. That is an issue. I do not see it addressed anywhere in the Bill.

For me this is very simple. People talk about being pro-choice and all of that but for me one is either pro-abortion or pro-life. There is no in-between.

I wish to speak to my amendment No. 38. The amendment states: "In page 10, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following: "(c) that medical procedure shall not involve the intentional destruction of a viable unborn,' ". The key words are "intentional" and "viable unborn". I have great difficulty with the reason for not taking this amendment in the Dáil. Why was the Government not open to accepting this amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil? The aim of this amendment is to allow medical practitioners to intervene to save a mother's life in a manner in which attempts are also made to save the baby's life. The current wording, instead of maybe, presumes that the baby's life will be ended rather than saved and in fact does not render lawful the saving of the baby's life. There is no reason for the current wording to remain other than to pave the way for situations where no attempt is made to save the baby's life at all. This is not acceptable. We are talking about a viable baby.

There is a second part to my amendment which I would like to address. It states "(d) where the unborn is sixteen weeks gestation or older, an effective anaesthetic for pain relief shall be administered to the foetus before the medical procedure is commenced." To support this, if we are to have abortions they must be done in the most pain-free way for the child. That is the very least we can do to be as humane as possible. Neo-natal surgeons in the UK use anaesthetics in surgery on unborn children as they conclude that they feel pain. Pro-choice professor, Vivette Glover, called for anaesthetics to be used during terminations on unborn children. I emphasise that the professor is pro-choice. According to an article published in The Telegraph on 2 September 2000 by Daniel Johnson:

. . . Professor Vivette Glover, [said] that a foetus aborted between 17 and 24 weeks after conception may, after all, feel pain.

. . .

Prof Glover's response should disturb us even more than her belated recognition that the "termination" of unborn babies in the womb is likely to cause unimaginable suffering. Rather than face the truth, she simply calls for anaesthetics: "I am pro-choice, but one should not muddle the two. One should think about how one is doing it in the most pain-free way."

We can credit her with that. There is a great deal of support for this argument. In 2001 a working group of the Medical Research Council in the UK suggested that doctors should consider the use of analgesia and sedation for foetuses over 24 weeks of age undergoing surgery. Professor Eve Johnstone, the chairperson of the working group, said that a foetus was aware of pain by 24 weeks, maybe as early as 20 weeks because connections from the thalamus to the cortex in the brain begin to form at about 20 weeks' gestation. We are legislating here today, this week, this month, to terminate the life of the unborn where it is deemed that a mother's life is at risk. Could we do it with dignity, if we have to do it at all? I do not believe it is dignified. Could we do it as humanely as possible and in as pain-free a way as possible? Somebody has to speak for the unborn. In this case they deserve to be pain-free.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended at 4 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.