Go gceadófar go dtabharfar isteach Bille dá ngairtear Acht chun an Bunreacht a leasú.
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.
I will make a few brief points in seeking leave to introduce the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Personal Autonomy and Bodily Integrity) Bill 2014. The purpose of this Bill is to provide for a referendum to delete Article 40.3.3o, the controversial eighth amendment to the Constitution, which equated the life of a woman with that of a foetus. Its purpose is to delete that provision and replace it with a simple sentence declaring and acknowledging the rights of all citizens to personal autonomy and bodily integrity.
The basis for this Bill originated in the incredibly successful and well-attended conference organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment in September 2014 in the city. Hundreds of delegates attended, including medical practitioners, legal people, young women and men, campaigners for women's rights over decades and for human rights, as well as civil society organisations. There were discussions at the conference about what needed to be done to take forward important issues of women's health and bodily integrity. The conference welcomed the fact that Fine Gael backbenchers had recognised the need to repeal the eighth amendment. The delegates recognised that a number of Labour Party Ministers had also stated that a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment was necessary. However, the conference rejected the suggestion that this should be left to the next Government.
The reason the conference did so was very much in the context of the tragic Y case that occurred over the course of the summer, which was another verification of how our laws mean that it is poor people and those of vulnerable immigrant status who pay the price for this amendment. The delegates decided we could not wait for the next Government and we should take on board and avail of the facility afforded by the Government's agreement to hold other referendums next year. Consequently, the Technical Group decided to use its Private Members' time to discuss this issue on 16 and 17 December. Members do so while being very much cognisant that the Constitution as it stands actually enshrines hypocrisy. I wish to use the words of the former Minister for Justice and Equality, who put it more eloquently than did I when he was the Minister for Justice and Equality and when Members last discussed this issue in the House. He stated:
It can truly be said that the right of pregnant women to have their health protected is, under our constitutional framework, a qualified right [as is their right to bodily integrity]. This will remain the position. This is a republic in which we proclaim the equality of all our citizens but the reality is that some citizens are more equal than others.
He also stated that "In the absence of constitutional change, there will continue to be a British solution to [an] Irish problem". I simply do not accept this is valid. It endangers women, it undermines human rights in our society and because of the interests of all our citizens, it cannot wait until the next Government takes office. Members must discuss this issue now and will discuss it on 16 and 17 December. Hopefully, the Government will be persuaded by these arguments in order that this proposal can be put to the people next year. It actually will tally with the opinions of the people, which repeatedly have been in favour of the need to deal with this constitutional block to women's health and bodily integrity rights.