I move amendment No. 45:
In page 15, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:
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;
(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.