Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed)

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 15, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:

“Parental notification

23. (1) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 10 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 24 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

(2) In respect of a pregnant minor, a copy of the certification referred to in section 11(2) shall be served on a parent of the minor—

(a) before the termination of pregnancy is carried out, or

(b) where it is not practicable to do so before the termination of pregnancy is carried out, as soon as may be but, in any event, not later than 2 days after the making of that certification.

(3) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 12 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 48 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

(4) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 13 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 72 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

(5) Service of any certification required to be served under this section shall be carried out in such manner as may be prescribed and shall be recorded in any notification required to be forwarded to the Minister under section 21.

(6) The High Court, upon application made to it by any interested party, and if satisfied that it is in the best interests of the minor concerned, may make an order dispensing with any requirement for service provided for under this section.

(7) An application under subsection (6) shall be made on notice to the parent or parents of the minor concerned, unless the High Court is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it may justly proceed to hear and determine the application without notice to the parent or parents of the minor concerned.

(8) In this section—

“minor” means a woman who has not attained the age of 16 years;

“parent” includes-

(a) a guardian appointed under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964,

(b) any other natural or legal person acting in loco parentis in respect of the pregnant minor under any statutory power or order of a court and,

(c) in the case of a minor who has been adopted under the Adoption Acts, 1952 to 2010, or, where the child has been adopted outside the State and that adoption is recognised by the State by virtue of any statute or rule of law for the time being in force, the adopter or, where relevant, the surviving adopter.”.

There was a little bit of confusion on Committee Stage about this amendment and we spent a long time debating the pros and cons of parental notification. Obviously people from my side of the debate were of the belief that, for a girl under the age of 16 who was facing a crisis pregnancy - a pregnancy at that age would be a crisis pregnancy - any parent in the country would like to know about the potential decision that girl was going to make so as to offer her support, love, care and advice if possible. People here would be shocked, horrified and hurt if their child had an abortion under the age of 16 without their knowledge.

We had the debate for about an hour and most people on the pro-choice side argued that we should not have parental notification at all. It later transpired, because a question was asked by Deputy Donnelly of the Minister, that parental notification existed within the law anyway when it came to health and medical procedures. I think at that stage the Minister said parental notification was necessary which made the first half of the debate defunct to a certain extent. It is important that we nail it down a little bit. If there is confusion at ministerial level and among the Opposition about an issue like this, maybe there is a need to put parental notification in the legislation itself.

This amendment simply requires parental notification for an abortion performed on a minor in non-emergency cases. It makes an exception where it is in the minor's best interests to dispense with such notification, because there was obviously a fear that, in some circumstances, parental notification would make the situation worse for the child, especially if there was abuse within the family.

The age of consent for surgical, medical and dental treatments in this State is generally 16. However, sometimes procedures can be performed below that age without parental consent. I think this is where the confusion lies. Consequently, it is important to include specific provisions for notification as this amendment does. It is important also to separate out that this is not consent. We are not looking to build consent into this. These amendments are so mild, in reality. They are just looking to build in notification in the Bill.

Again, we discussed it on Committee Stage. I know a lot of people in the Chamber do not want comparative analysis with other European countries because, obviously, other European countries seem to have racist tendencies when it comes to these types of things, but there is a comparative analysis with other countries. Consent is required in many other European countries and the age of consent for this parental consent is 18. It shows how far our country has gone that simply the request for parental notification at the age of under 16 is a challenge for some within a debate here.

The amendment recognises that parents should be involved in matters which have potentially far reaching consequences for their children. Abortions have medical, emotional and psychological consequences that can be very serious and lasting, particularly when the patient is at such a young age.

I think this is a reasonable effort to codify in primary legislation to ensure the confusion that arose on Committee Stage does not arise anywhere else in society in future. I ask the Minister to consider accepting one of these amendments.

The first thing I have to say with regard to consent is that I hope we live in an Ireland where we have moved on from the sort of under-the-cover darkness and horror that existed when younger people got pregnant in the past. They had to cover it up as if it was a shame to be pregnant. They had to hide it. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will recall awful cases in which youngsters gave birth on their own in the cold and rain after hiding their pregnancies, which resulted in the death not only of the baby but also of the mother. Young people had to be ashamed of being pregnant, but there is no shame in being pregnant no matter what age the person is. The point I would like to drive home is that when a young person is pregnant - she may be a minor, but the point I am making applies regardless of what age she is - we all want to see her having the support of her parent or guardian. How can a parent or guardian be supportive if he or she is kept unaware of the situation for one reason or another?

I believe there is an age of consent. If a person under that age is pregnant, questions must be asked about the consequences. What was the situation that arose up to that point? Was there mistreatment of that young person? What were the circumstances? I believe it is vital in all of this for the parent or guardian to be in a position to give support, encouragement, help and advice, and to be kind and nice to that young person. That is what parents are for. Obviously, we do not want to see young people being pregnant at too young an age. It is not good when they are only youngsters themselves. If a young person finds herself pregnant, it is not a bad thing for her to find herself in that situation. In such circumstances, I would want her to have the full support of everybody, including her parents or guardians. That is what parents are for. That is what the State is for. We are all supposed to be here to help, encourage, give advice and be kind and nice at a troublesome time in a young person's life. I would like to think that is the reason I have put my name to this amendment. I just think it is right. It is proper to make it a requirement for parents or guardians to be notified so they can assist in every way possible. That is all I want to say on it.

The age of consent for medical treatment in Ireland is 16 in virtually all situations. I believe this age of consent should apply to the most serious situation - the provision of termination of pregnancy. We cannot allow a child under the age of 16 to have a termination of pregnancy without the knowledge or consent of her parents. We would not allow this to happen in the case of any other serious procedure, so we cannot allow it in this case. Parents have a right to know about a serious situation like crisis pregnancy that arises for one of their children. Such circumstances have potentially far-reaching consequences for children from a medical and emotional point of view. We cannot allow a child to face into a crisis pregnancy alone and without the knowledge and support of her parents.

Twenty-one European countries have a requirement for parental notification in cases involving women under the age of 18. Forty states of the United States have a similar law. These are jurisdictions with liberal abortion regimes. If these countries and states deem that parental notification is necessary, it must be for a good reason. The amendment before the House recognises that parents should be involved in decisions that have far-reaching consequences for their children and ensures the doctors involved respect the Constitution. This position is supported by international best practice. This is not about consent; it is about notification. There is a major difference. For this reason, I support the amendment.

I will not spend too long on this matter because it was dealt with comprehensively on Committee Stage. The proposers of this amendment have failed to mention that many girls - children under the age of 16 - are not supported by their parents. In many cases, it was being raped by their fathers that caused them to become pregnant. Essentially, this amendment would open the way for the rapist to have a veto over the right of a girl to have an abortion. We went through this in detail on Committee Stage. Unfortunately, these situations are not unusual. They are very common. Actually, they are more common than they should be. Such cases are frequently in the news. Not every parent is supportive. That is the point.

I want to make a general point about this debate. The main objective of these amendments, which are being proposed by Deputies who are anti-choice or anti-abortion, is to stop people from having abortions and, if they decide to go ahead and have an abortion, to make it as difficult for them as they possibly can. They are using words like "consent", "support" and "information", but I have to report to the Dáil that as this evening's debate was starting, the START group of doctors was holding a training and education event in Limerick and had to change to a secret venue due to harassment by anti-choicers who were ringing the local hospital to make threats about what would happen if the training and education event went ahead. Doctors are entitled to discuss how they will provide this service. Those who want to provide it are allowed to meet in groups to discuss the matter.

Some people who lost out in the nationwide debate that took place over a long period of time are not willing to accept that. They are continuing on with their old methods of harassment, abuse and intimidation. The meeting went ahead tonight, albeit in a secret location due to the actions of people who do not stand for support, consent and information. I am reminded of the Taliban attacking women's education. Such horrific methods are being used in this country even though the population expressed resounding support for the right of people to have this information. This is not accepted by the people who are coming up here and spending nights on end with this kind of drivel. I think their methods have been borne out by the information I got from doctors in Limerick earlier today. Those doctors who want to recognise a woman's right to make this decision, and who recognise the huge mandate given by the people of this country, are entitled to meet without being harassed by the usual suspects and will not be prevented from doing so. I really think that is important. I do not know if Deputies realise how dangerous it is for people not to have information and for doctors not be able to get training.

I want to say something about what happened on Sunday. I have spoken to many doctors about this. We keep hearing from the anti-choice Deputies about all of the doctors to whom they speak. We speak to doctors too. The feeling among the doctors to whom I have spoken is that many doctors will provide this service. We need to send out a message of encouragement to many women in this country who are worried right now-----

-----on the basis of what they have heard being said in this Chamber in recent nights.

We need to assure them that many doctors are willing and able to provide this service from January. Obviously, the media cannot resist a row. It reported the events of the weekend in that vein. There are enough people who are committed to providing this service. It will happen. The Minister needs to move might and main to ensure that the training of doctors takes place because they are entitled to it. The Minister also needs to move might and main to ensure there is accessibility to ultrasound facilities in areas where it is needed.

Many doctors have a genuine fear that an ultrasound service might not be available to somebody who requires it. Of course it is not and should not be required in every situation.

Affidea, which is a private X-ray company, is located in certain areas but would not have the reach that would be required. The Minister needs to move very quickly over the next few weeks to ensure it happens. I ask the Minister to give a commitment that there will be heavy advertising of the 24-hour helpline. It is very clear that some people do not want people to have information and do not want women and pregnant people to have access to these services despite the vote in favour. It is very important for people in isolated areas or very vulnerable people. This is what is so annoying. The people who will suffer will be very vulnerable women and girls who are the people the Deputies allegedly care about. It is very likely it will be very young people, possibly in direct provision, who are possibly afraid and who have possibly been sexually abused or raped. Technically anyone under 16 has been raped. It is absolutely vital the Minister sees that those issues are dealt with. There are 120 or more doctors in the START group alone. There are loads of other average GPs who will provide this because they deal with it every day. It is not an alien concept. They are dealing with women who are pregnant and in crisis and they want to be able to help them not shift them away. As long as the pathways are put in place, the service will go ahead in January and it is vital it does. It is vital it is made known to women, girls and pregnant people who are out there. Despite the best efforts of the so-called caring Deputies to delay this by tabling time-wasting amendments they know will not get any support, they will not succeed.

What part of the amendment was Deputy Coppinger speaking to? Who is wasting time now?


The Deputy will have an opportunity.

It is not wasting time when Deputy Coppinger speaks.


The Deputy will have an opportunity to reply. He might not like what is being said but he has to listen.

I did not like what the Deputy said either.


We are making the point-----

The Deputy can make his point when he gets an opportunity. We will have an orderly debate through the Chair.

We spent some considerable time on this issue in the committee. I do not agree there was confusion. There was debate. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae spoke earlier and I compliment him on what he said because I know he spoke out of genuine concern for young women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies. We have lots of examples. He is quite right about it.

However, what we were and are concerned about is quite common, as Deputy Coppinger said. We were not able to find out exactly what the benefit would be of informing the parent or guardian if the parent or guardian was culpable. There is no use saying it does not happen. It has been in the courts on numerous occasions. It happens on quite a regular basis. It happens quite regularly in the UK, the United States and all over the globe. There is a history of young girls and children in absolutely appalling situations and the perpetrators being in their own households. In some cases it is only found out years afterwards.

We were trying to determine how best to handle that kind of situation so as not to give an advantage to the perpetrator in the event the perpetrator was in the household. In certain circumstances it might give the perpetrator an advantage to escape from the country, to walk away and not be seen again. Our feeling at the time was that in ordinary family circumstances, the support of the parent is regular, necessary and laudable but it does not happen in all cases. How to deal with those particular situations was the issue we raised on Committee Stage. It is still a valid issue and one on which I look forward to hearing more from the Minister. Where a young woman in such circumstances was the victim of abuse within the family, it might put her at much more serious risk if the perpetrator was tipped off beforehand. It was at that stage we decided the GP has a significant and important role to play because he or she will be the first port of call. The GP would presumably have some knowledge of the family and some local knowledge and would be in a position to advise the girl or woman in a particular way and would be able to intervene in a very useful way. That is why we spent so much time discussing the relationship between the patient and the GP in order to be absolutely certain we did not leave a weakness in the legislation that would be capitalised on by people of unsavoury character.

Amendment No. 45 is concerned with parental notification. As my colleagues and I have repeatedly stated, the amendment introduces an additional requirement for the lawful termination of pregnancy under sections 10, 12 and 13 where it involves a pregnant minor, under the age of 16 years. In such cases, it would be necessary for a parent of a minor to be provided with a copy of certification made under those sections before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

I will not be lectured here about being anti-choice. We are not one bit anti-choice. We are pro-life and proud of it. I will not accept Deputy Coppinger's words about our alleged care for young people. We care as much as anybody else. That is why we have a debate on this issue in as sensitive a manner as we can. It was said we do not care. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will not take seven minutes to speak on the amendment. We have been accused of filibustering. The records will show we did not, do not and will not. We are moving amendments that we tabled with good intentions. We speak to them with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and Acting Chairmen. It is our right. Do we want it to be totally anti-democratic? We are supposed to be anti-choice. What about the anti-democratic Deputies who want to silence us? They want to silence the more than 730,000 people-----

The Deputies want to silence doctors.

-----and the many thousands who have stated in polls since that they have concerns. We moved to repeal the eighth amendment but not for this draconian, drastic and savage legislation. It is ironic. I did not attend the lighting of the Christmas tree this year for the first year ever. In three weeks' time we will celebrate the birth of our Lord and here we are tonight passing this Bill. It is ironic. I am sure the irony is not lost on many people. We will not be accused of that.

There are 21 countries in Europe and up to 40 states in the US that have age limits on parental notification. It is quoted as best international practice but when it suits some people we cannot even mention it but we will mention it. As has also been pointed out, provision is made for the High Court to dispense with the parental notification requirement if it is satisfied it is in the minor's best interest to do so. Deputy Healy-Rae mentioned Cavan and Longford and the awful cases we had. There have been horrific cases. We have all been horrified by them. We want to support young girls and teenagers. We are all for proper sex education and proper education across the board. It is not to go off on a tangent. I am a parent and so are many of my colleagues. We like to have our young girls and daughters educated properly and educated to protect themselves and for the people around them to be respectful.

We have to be respectful ourselves. This amendment does not make any change to existing laws governing the giving of consent on or on behalf of minors for surgical or medical treatment. Even those receiving vaccines in schools were asked to sign consent. It is not something new or draconian that we have drawn up.

We are responsible and we have been responsible. We are not anti-choice or anti-care. The word "allegedly" was put on the record of the House when someone said we allegedly care. That is a total misuse. It is misconstruing the amendment. It represents misuse of language and it is objectionable language. It is an effort to silence us but we will not be silenced. We have a democratic right for the time being and we are mandated to represent people here in Dáil Éireann. It is a great privilege – is mór an pribhléid í. We are proud of it and we will do our humble best and get advice where we do not have the experience or the full knowledge – we are not prophets. We will get the help. Of course we get help with amendments. No one here has a monopoly on compassion.

It ill-behoves the Taoiseach, as Deputy Healy-Rae said, to have said today in the House that we are filibustering. I hope he withdraws it when he looks at the record. When history recalls the record of who spoke, for how long and who spoke in a respectful manner during the debate, it will show something different. All we ask for is respect and to be respectably allowed to put our amendments, speak to them and have votes on them.

The amendment states that under section 10 notification before a termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 10 when a copy of the certification report under that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 24 hours before a termination of pregnancy is carried out. A person cannot get a termination under the section. The provision does not exist. Section 10 provides for definitions. That is one fundamental flaw in the measure. There is no reference to section 11 and, therefore, there is no need for notification to a parent under section 11. That section relates to a risk of the life or health of a pregnant minor.

The amendment states that under section 12, a doctor would have to notify the parents of the minor at least 48 hours before the termination of the pregnancy is carried out. Section 12 relates to the risk to the life or health of a pregnant minor in an emergency. That is where she is on the verge of dying. The proposers are saying no one can carry out a termination.

There is a drafting error.

If there is a drafting error, then the Deputy should withdraw the amendment, stop wasting everyone's time and let us move on to the next one. Let us not call a vote on an amendment that is fundamentally flawed. If the Deputy knows that it is fundamentally flawed, he should withdraw it and stop filibustering – Deputy McGrath has said they are not doing that – and let us move on to the next one. If the Deputies refuse to do that, then I will continue speaking uninterrupted, if Deputy Tóibín does not mind.

The amendment relates to where there is a risk to the life of a minor in an emergency. When she is on the verge of dying, a doctor cannot carry out a termination unless he or she informs her parents 48 hours before the procedure takes place.

Section 13 relates to fatal foetal abnormalities. The time limit is 72 hours in that case. There is no reference to any timeframe in section 14. In cases of early pregnancy, there is no requirement for parental notification.

The amendment is flawed. We are wasting people's time here. We will spend another 20 minutes discussing an amendment that is flawed. Then, the Deputies will call a vote on it. If they are serious about not filibustering, then they should withdraw the amendment now before the next speaker even gets to his feet. Let us move on to the next amendment and we will try to get this legislation passed. This is ridiculous.

I will use my contribution to follow from what Deputy O'Brien has said. To be helpful, Deputy Tóibín has admitted that there are errors in the amendment. Before I get to the substance of why the amendment is not necessary, I wish to point out that the amendment simply would not work because the Deputy has referred to the wrong sections. The Deputy has referred to section 10, which is the definitions section. Section 11 relates to risk to life and health, section 12 to emergency situation, and section 13 to fatal foetal abnormalities. The Deputy has not referred to the early pregnancy section, which is section 14.

Even if the Deputy believes passionately in this - I passionately oppose it – he could not pass the amendment in any event. If people are to be credible in saying that they are trying to put forward their amendments, they should do the decent thing and withdraw this amendment. They should not allow us to waste time on an amendment that could not be passed because of the drafting error.

The broad issue of consent is important. The question of consent is already dealt with by the Medical Council, the regulator of our medical profession. Consent is also dealt with in the HSE guide to consent for young people, a copy of which I have before me. Consent is not something unique to this part of our health service. Our health service has to deal with issues relating to consent. The rules of consent will be the exact same in this case as they would be in respect of any other service.

The point Deputy Coppinger made is important. Sadly, there are times when a parent can be a perpetrator. There are times when a young girl needs to see a medical professional. She may not be coming from a happy family background. Often she may be coming from the perspective of having been the victim of abuse, including familial abuse. Our medical profession, the regulator and the HSE know full well how to deal with the issues of consent without us needing to put it in legislation. This amendment is genuinely technically flawed and should be withdrawn. We should move on to the next amendment.

Deputy Michael Collins is next.

Would the Deputy like to withdraw the amendment?

Is he going to withdraw it?

It genuinely does not work.

Can I speak? I gave Deputies the opportunity to speak.

This amendment is yet another one in respect of which it feels as though it should not be needed. It should go without saying that the parents of any pregnant minor would be, at the least, informed that their daughter was requesting an abortion. Those of us who are parents would be upset if our young teenage daughter came home with a tattoo, let alone if we found out that she had an abortion without our knowledge. Can anyone imagine the heartbreak a person would feel if he found out that his daughter had gone through something so traumatic on her own? What if she went through it with no support from him and he was given no opportunity to help her see that she had other options? What if he could have supported her and her baby - his grandchild? It could be the first grandchild had his or her life ended out of the fear and panic of a teenager too embarrassed to tell her parents.

Unfortunately, this is the experience of other countries like our neighbours in the UK. It is routine there for young women and girls to have abortions without their parents' knowledge. Common sense tells us that if we do not legislate for parental notification requirements, we will face the same experience.

In the UK, the British Medical Association makes it clear in the 2018 version of the guide, The Law and Ethics of Abortion, that the patient must be given the appropriate consent for abortion from the age of 16 years. Individuals should be assumed to have the capacity unless proven otherwise. The guidelines also state that those under 16 can consent if they are deemed competent and that patients - adults and children – have the right to confidentiality. This cannot be overridden except in exceptional circumstances.

We do not yet have clear guidelines for consent to abortion in Ireland. However, the Irish general guidelines for consent for medical treatment also allow some exceptions to parental consent for minors under 16. It is not unreasonable to assume that some young girls aged 16 and under would have abortions without the consent of their parents. This shocks most people. To clarify this, I refer to information provided on the HSE website regarding consent to medical treatment. This includes information that persons over the age of 16 can give for consent for surgical medical and dental procedures. The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act 1997 is relevant. It is clear that a person's 16 or 17 year old daughter could have an abortion without that person's knowledge. However, the position in respect of girls under the ages of 16 years is less clear. Initially, it seems as though children under the age of 16 will require parental consent for medical treatment. Part 2 of the national consent policy of 2017 deals with consent to treatment for children and minors. Section 2.2 on page 50 states that in the case of children under the age of 16, a parent or legal guardian can consent to the treatment of the child. It appears to suggest that there is no Irish law allowing children under the age of 16 years to consent to medical treatment.

However, there is a much more worrying statement on page 54. This policy acknowledges that in health and social care practices, it is usual to involve parents and legal guardians and to seek their consent when providing a service or treatment to a minor under the age of 16. However, the minor may seek to make a decision on her own without parental involvement or consent. In such circumstances, it is best practice to encourage and advise the minor to communicate with and involve her parent, parents or legal guardian. It is only in exceptional circumstances that, having regard to the need to take account of an objective assessment of both the rights and the best interests of the person under 16, health and social care interventions would be provided for those under 16 without the knowledge or consent of parents or legal guardians. It is clear that in some circumstances young girls under the age of 16 may be allowed to make the decision to have an abortion without parental consent if they are deemed mature enough. This is of significant concern to many parents throughout Ireland, and I am sure it is of significant concern to many of us as we consider these amendments.

This becomes even more concerning when the chances of suffering negative physical and mental health consequences after an abortion can be even higher for a teenage girl. The 2017 UK statistics are more concerning again. The UK Government publishes comprehensive data on abortions, and table 4B of the abortion statistics for England and Wales in 2017 shows that 7,343 girls under 18 had an abortion. More than 1,000 of them were under 16. The statistics show that 21 girls under 16 had their second abortion, and two girls, aged 16 and 17, had their seventh abortions. Do we want multiple abortions for our young women? The statistics quoted do not include Irish women. However, in 2017, 64 Irish women had abortions in England or Wales. Do Members believe that if abortion becomes legal for minors without parental consent that these figures will not increase dramatically?

That is not the law.

If my fellow Deputies are concerned with the possibility that a young girl under the age of 16 could have an abortion without the knowledge or support of her parents or guardians, then I implore them to support the amendment. The amendment is about parental notification. Deputy Coppinger spent her seven minutes talking about doctors and issues that happened over the weekend. We do not want to waste time. We want to speak on the amendments, and when we are finished-----

I notice the Deputy did not speak about------

I am entitled to speak. I did not stop the Minister or laugh at anything he said. That is the second time he has laughed at something I have said.

I am not laughing at the Deputy; I am laughing at his hypocrisy.

Does the Minister have an issue with what I am saying?

I have an issue with what the Deputy has said. It is entirely-----

The Minister will have his time to speak, and I will not laugh at him when he is speaking.

The Deputy is wrong.


Deputy Michael Collins, without interruption.

The interruptions are constant.

I am being interrupted by the Minister. He was laughing last week when I was speaking about disabilities.

I apologise to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

We are speaking about an amendment, and I stuck to that. I spoke to the amendment and nothing else.

Deputy O'Brien was correct.

This amendment seeks to ensure parental notification for abortions performed on girls under the age of 16, except where it is in her best interests to dispense with such notification. I listened attentively to Deputy Durkan, who said there are sad cases and serious, bad cases where young girls are abused by parents or guardians. It is sad when that happens. We all abhor that; it is very wrong. I am sure that we all feel for the girls in that situation. We totally and absolutely hate it when that happens. I honestly believe that there are far more good parents and guardians than there are villains and blackguards. The good parents who care for their children and who would not abuse them in any way are the people I am talking about. They adore and love their children, and it would hurt them very much - and it would not help the young girl either - if an abortion was carried out without their knowing about it. As Deputy Durkan said, we rely on the GP or healthcare official the girl attends in the first instance to do the right thing. That health worker might get to know that it would not be in the best interests of the girl to notify the parent or guardian, and I am sure that is what he or she would do at that stage. The law provides for a situation where a health care professional, a doctor or someone else finds out about something like this, and he or she is bound by the law to notify An Garda Síochána that such a thing has happened. The matter is dealt with professionally and legally after that, and there are rules and regulations that protect the vulnerable or abused girl in that regard, as I understand it.

For the benefit of loving and caring parents and guardians, it is only right that they are notified in circumstances where the girl is aged under 16. It is right that they should be notified to ensure that they could adequately deal with the young girl after an abortion. It is an emotional time, and there are psychological consequences following on from an abortion, which are sometimes so serious that they will last for a long time. This is particularly true where the patient is immature. A person who is underage in many cases is far less mentally and emotionally equipped to make so major and irrevocable a decision as the decision to have an abortion. She cannot foresee the immediate and long-term consequences. It is important to guard against a situation where a frightened child might make that decision on her own at such a young age, without her parents even knowing, when that decision can have such life altering consequences for her. We have all heard of how children can get upset when they do not have the comfort and loving care of parents at certain times. They can have mood swings and get so upset that unfortunate, desperate things happen. We should legislate for the good parents, because I honestly believe that there are far more good people than bad people in this world.

As I said at the outset, it is really sad and bad when we read about things that happen to young girls. Again this week we heard in the media about what happens to girls around the country. However, I honestly believe there are far more good parents and guardians and it is for those people that we should legislate. We are all well meaning and trying to do our best for young girls who find themselves in this unfortunate position.

Does the Deputy mean "pregnant"?

It would be remiss of us if we did not try to ensure that good, loving parents are informed as to what has happened to their little girl. After all, they brought her into the world. I am sure that most parents would want to know and would try to do their best for a young girl who finds herself in such an unfortunate situation.

Deputy Healy-Rae hit the seven-minute mark. Fair play.

I wish to speak on this amendment concerning notification. We did discuss it in detail on Committee Stage. This amendment takes into consideration that abuse could be occurring in the family unit. We have seen examples of that and we are all very aware of it. We also have seen examples of abuse that occurs outside the family unit. If we deny parents the right to be notified about their daughter, we could in effect be covering for a perpetrator outside that family unit. What do we do in those cases? Nowadays abuse is taken very seriously, rightly so. We have Tusla, and there is an onus on each and every one of us to report any suspected abuse, as well as on teachers, schools and so forth.

The majority of parents are good parents. I acknowledge there have been cases, as I have outlined, of abuse within the family unit but does that mean we should let a perpetrator get away? We are talking about a minor who might be in a vulnerable situation. As we all are aware, online grooming of minors is on the increase. There could be a case where a minor gets pregnant and feels very vulnerable. The right of those parents to know should not be denied. This is a very reasonable amendment based on common sense. As I have stated, we have taken into consideration that there are cases where parents cannot be notified. We are cognisant of that. However, we cannot let perpetrators outside of the family unit, or rather the immediate family unit, get away with abuse. We know that abuse has been covered up in the past.

There is much talk in this House about moving on and making our society better and safer for our young people, particularly our young girls. If we do not notify parents, perpetrators of abuse and paedophiles will get away. We cannot have that sort of system either. As legislators, we are asking for the right thing to be done. We are asking for reason and common sense to be implemented in this situation. This needs a common-sense approach. We cannot allow perpetrators or those who are involved in grooming girls online get away with a horrendous act that needs to be punished. We must make sure that no loopholes are given to that type of person.

First, this proposal regarding the amendment is completely flawed and inoperable, as has been said by other people.

The Deputies should give it further consideration and should consider withdrawing it. We are talking about children who become pregnant. This issue arose a lot during the debate on the repeal of the eighth amendment. The eighth amendment's powerlessness to assist a child of 12, 13, 14 or 15 years who became pregnant, either accidentally or through rape or incest, was most mentioned by people as the reason they voted to repeal it in the numbers they did. I know the movers of this amendment all campaigned on the issue and went from door to door as well. If they have respect for the views of the voters who voted in such significant numbers to repeal the eighth amendment, they must be aware that over and over again, those views hinged on the issue of children. A 12 year old is a child. Someone in this situation has barely passed puberty when she becomes pregnant. What parent would not want to assist that child and what child would not want that parent to be of assistance to her provided, of course, that it was not in her own home that the child was violated and raped? I suggest the Deputies reconsider.

This is designed to have a chilling effect on the child, in order that she is as confused as possible-----

-----and surrounded not just by social workers and doctors but by lawyers as well. It is also very clearly designed to have a chilling effect on doctors-----

That is not true.

-----who are trying to do their best for their child patients.

Deputy Burton knows that is not true.

I urge the movers of the amendment to reconsider its wisdom and that the terms it proposes are legally inoperable. I urge them to withdraw the amendment.

I will briefly speak to the amendment. Regardless of whether the amendment is flawed, a debate on parental notification is important. I was not present at the committee so I did not have the benefit of what other Members heard there. I would welcome clarity on the issue of medical consent. For example, if a young girl below the age of 16 needs an appendicitis operation, she needs parental consent. I assume if a young girl needs a surgical abortion, she would also need parental consent. The Minister should confirm this on the record of the House. I refer to the case of a young girl under the age of 16 who needs a medical abortion and who attends her GP, as a young girl who presents to her GP looking for the birth control pill normally has to have medical consent. It is extremely important that this is put on the record of the House. I did not quite hear all the Minister has said. There was a little bit of noise in the Chamber. In the interests of trying to be helpful, I think it is extremely important for the Minister to put that on the record of the House. There are a lot of misconceptions about parental consent among the public and in the media. I understand what parental consent is. In relation for medical matters, the requirement applies under the age of 16. I will conclude and ask the Minister to respond, if that is acceptable to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

The Deputy is correct. As I have said in the House, the normal rules of consent apply. Parental consent is required where somebody is under the age of 16. Apart from the flawed nature of the amendment, there is no need to put this in legislation. We already have provisions for medical consent. It is in the Medical Council guidelines and the HSE's policy of consent for young people with children. There are obviously exceptional circumstances and we have discussed them already. However, the rules on medical consent are exactly the same for this procedure as for any other.

Deputy Donnelly has one minute.

Here is the 60-second version. Whether it is well meaning or not, the amendment is technically flawed. It refers to pregnancies covered by section 10, which concerns notification. This means that when it refers to sections 11, 12 and 13, we have no idea those are the ones it means. The amendment would cause an awful lot of confusion. It provides for a period of two days for this, 48 hours for that and 72 hours for something else. The amendment could have sinister consequences. As has been well noted, it could lead to rapists being informed that their daughter has presented pregnant to a local GP and it allows any interested party to get involved via the High Court. Finally, as the Minister has just clarified, it is completely unnecessary. This is what I want to make absolutely clear, and the Minister might comment further when he gets a chance to wrap up. The current law, as set out in this Bill, states that if a girl who is 15 years old or younger presents to a GP seeking a termination, she must have parental consent. That is the existing law, which will continue under this Bill, and anybody who says this is not the case and anybody who says that a 14 year old girl can walk into a GP's office without consent is intentionally or unintentionally misleading the House and the public.

That is not the law.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 11.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 December 2018.