The people have spoken emphatically. In a clear and decisive manner, the people, through the referendum, have voted for change - for new laws which will end the cruel inflexibility of the eighth amendment. The people have given the Oireachtas the mandate and the obligation to legislate for a new approach, one that trusts women and their doctors.
Civic society was powerful in this referendum. Led by women, the Together for Yes campaign ensured that the voices of women remained central to the debate and they provided an immense service to democracy. The Oireachtas committee, made up of all parties in this House, deserves particular credit for its fact-based, impartial approach to the issue and the comprehensive nature of its evidence gathering and analysis. It now comes back to the Oireachtas to respond promptly, proactively and positively to the decision of the people.
I would appreciate if the Taoiseach could outline the timescale for the introduction of the legislation and its passage through the Oireachtas. Could he indicate whether the Government is agreeable to having Second and Committee Stages debated and dealt with before the summer recess, even if that means lengthening the period for which the House sits to facilitate that?
The Select Committee on Health can progress Committee Stage through the summer after the Second Stage debate because, after all, the essentials of the Bill were well known. They were debated at length during the referendum campaign. It was very transparent and no one can argue otherwise.
In addition, many women will require this new legal framework urgently. Some nine women a day travel to the United Kingdom and three a day take an abortion pill. We also have the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities to deal with. There is an urgency to this matter for women in crisis pregnancies. We no longer want women travelling to the United Kingdom on those lonely, isolated journeys. We no longer want women taking the abortion pill in isolation without medical supervision or care. Have the Government and Taoiseach considered, in the context of the new legal framework that will emerge, allowing women in Northern Ireland to avail of the services that will be enabled in the Republic as a result of the passage of the legislation? Has giving them access to our GP services and hospitals been considered? We already have established links with the health services in Northern Ireland in respect of other areas.
In terms of consultation with the medical profession, will the Taoiseach outline whether any discussions have taken place with representatives of the Irish College of General Practitioners, ICGP, and other groups on this issue recently? Have any preparations been undertaken in advance to prepare for a new legal framework? Did the Department of Health engage in any scenario planning in the context of the referendum to ensure that it can now progress the various strands and areas that require attention as a result of the people's decision?