Death of Former Member. - An Bille um an Dóú Leasú Déag ar an mBunreacht, 1992: An Dara Céim (Atógáil). Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1992: Second Stage (Resumed).

Atairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara Uair."
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Atógadh an díospóireacht ar leasú a 1:
Go scriosfar an focal "anois" agus go gcuirfear na focail seo a leanas i ndeireadh na tairisceana, eadhon, "an 15 Eanáir, 1993, nó ar cibé dáta is luaithe ná sin a chinnfidh an Seanad, tar éis don Seanad i dtosach plé a dhéanamh, go dtí Céim an Choiste agus an Chéim sin san áireamh, ar reachtaíocht atá ceaptha chun léiriú breise a dhéanamh ar an gcaoi a gcuirfear forálacha an Bhille seo i ngníomh go praiticiúil".
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete "now" and add at the end of the motion the words "on 15 January, 1993 or on such earlier date as may be determined by the Seanad, after the Seanad has first discussed, up to and including Committee Stage, legislation designed to elaborate on the practical implementation of the provisions of this Bill".
—(Senator Manning.)

There is a lesson for us all in the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights this morning. There is also a lesson in the extraordinarily cavalier attitude taken by the Government to this judgment this morning. The truth of what has just happened on the Order of Business is that the Seanad is now debating this issue in a vacuum and it is not for the first time. It is also symptomatic and typical of the Government's attitude to this issue because the European Court's finding this morning is just the latest in a long line of pieces of evidence that when it comes to abortion the Dáil and the Seanad are virtually the last bodies that are consulted. We have an appalling record of passing on decisions of this sort to other bodies. The last thing we want to do is to handle it ourselves in the legislature. The problem in 1983 was passed on to the Supreme Court and it took some years for the Supreme Court to come up with a decision which necessitated three referenda.

This morning the European Court has found that we are in breach of human rights. The problem has been consistently passed on to referendum rather than being legislated for. The problem is exported to the United Kingdom in practice and to a large extent it is being left to individual doctors to interpret the Constitution. Today we have simply confirmed, by our decision that really it does not matter too much what we say in here. We want to get it out of this House as quickly as possible and into somebody else's hands and it does not matter into whose hands as long as we do not handle it for too long.

The problem that the Supreme Court tackled before will be nothing compared with the problems that will be created by this legislation if it is passed by the people on 3 December. The year 1983 provoked three referenda. I think it was Senator Manning who said yesterday, quite rightly, that this was a time bomb because the ambiguity in this referendum — in the phrase which distinguishes between the health and the life — is a maze, a paradise for lawyers in the future. There is absolutely no way that where the danger to health ends and the danger to life begins can possibly be the same in the eyes of two people. Undoubtedly, what we will have, because of this dog's dinner of ambiguity, is a series of court cases which will end up in the Supreme Court and we will have the Supreme Court making hotch potch random law as a result of this particular wording. It is absolutely guaranteed that this wording will lead to more and more law cases, different interpretations from different judges and different interpretations from different Supreme Courts as the personnel change. You only have to look at the judgment in the X case to see that there was a split Supreme Court on that and the balance of the Supreme Court will presumably from time to time change the interpretation dramatically. As long as the Legislature does not have to deal with it, we are perfectly happy. The Government missed an extraordinary opportunity, despite the great tragedy that was thrown up by the X case, of removing this whole area from the Constitution. They missed an extraordinary and unique opportunity of saying that the interpretation of the courts is so complicated, so varied and so subjective that we are now going to take the whole abortion issue out of the Constitution. That opportunity was presented to them. They could have also said that they were going to legislate to ensure that abortion was not legalised in this country. But, no, they decided that they would put it back into the Constitution in a different form which was guaranteed to complicate everybody's lives in the future.

The reasons it would have been better to do it by legislation are twofold. First, the Government must face up to their responsibilities in this area. It is the Government's primary responsibility to take this bull by the horns and act upon it, not to shove it off to the European Court of Human Rights or to the Supreme Court or to the United Kingdom or to the people or to the doctors or anybody else. The second reason it would have been much more appropriate is that it is far easier to change legislation than it is to change the Constitution. What is so extraordinary about the decision of the present Government is that they did not learn the lessons of the X case and of the 1983 amendment. If there was any lesson to be learned from that it was that there is no formula of words which will achieve the common objective which they were apparently seeking. One of the reasons for that is that we are not absolutely certain what that common objective is. If there is no formula of words that can go into the Constitution the worst thing we can do is to put in a formula of words which means different things to different people, and deliberately does so, but can be interpreted by politicians in a way which benefits them for short term political reasons in order to get it through the Houses of the Oireachtas. That is unfortunately what happened in this case. We do not know about the judgment this morning so I am not sure about the dissemination of information issue——

It would have been better if it had been explained to us before we got up to speak and if we had had time to discuss it and adjourn the House. That would have been the responsible attitude. We do not know that so I am not in a position to answer the Minister or debate it, nor was anybody who spoke yesterday, nor will many people who have to speak afterwards today. Apparently the Government, regardless of what was decided yesterday, are being apallingly hypocritical because they are saying quite straightforwardly that you can have the information on how to acquire an abortion. They are saying in the second amendment that you have the right to travel. The reason for that amendment is very simple. It is not to give people the right to travel to do their Christmas shopping in Harrods; it is to give them the right to travel to have an abortion. The Government are deliberately facilitating people to go to England to have an abortion. It is quite straightforward and that is why it is there. They are facilitating people in getting information on it and facilitating them in travelling to have an abortion. Yet they are saying it is the most wicked possible thing and that the right to life is sacrosanct.

This is the most blatant piece of hypocrisy which, I suspect, has ever been put not just in legislation but in the Constitution of this or any other state. The mind boggles when one hears various politicians championing the sanctity of human life and at the same time saying we must allow them to go over to England and take those human lives. It simply does not add up and if it is passed this piece of hypocrisy will, unfortunately, be enshrined in the Constitution.

D'éist mé go cúramach lena raibh le rá ag an Seanadóir Ross agus roinnt de na Seanadóirí roimhe agus sílim go bhfuil go leor ceisteanna ardaithe, ní amháin faoin Bhille é féin sa díospóireacht seo ach faoi ábhair i bhfád níos leithne ná sin.

Senator Ross asked what does the outside world think about us. When I was elected a Member of the Legislature my concern had to be to do what I felt was for the common good within this jurisdiction; and whether the outside world agree with what we believe to be for the common good or do not agree is, as far as I am concerned, fundamentally a problem for the outside world.

The other thing I would have to say is that in the debate here one would get the impression that the law as it is practised in the United Kindgom, and not as it is on the Statute Book, is the norm throughout Europe or even throughout the world and that this issue is not one of contention throughout the western world. Of course, that is just not a fact. We know, for example, that there was a huge difference between the law in East Germany and the law in West Germany and that this was one of the most contentious issues that arose during the reunification of Germany. Abortion has only recently been legislated for in both Belgium and Spain. In Belgium, for example, abortion is only legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion is a big issue in the current presidential election in America. Therefore, the idea that we are unique in having difficulties or having debate and difference of opinion on the abortion issue and that all the world outside has a common view on it is just not borne out by the facts.

Another view constantly bandied about on this issue is that this is a women's issue and that men, particularly if they are on one side of the argument, do not have a valid input to it. That fundamentally ignores two facts. From the legislative point of view it ignores the fact that legislators, however they are elected, are elected to represent both men and women and therefore whether it is a male or female speaking they are representing both sexes — in other words, they are representing those people who elected them. There is in that statement an implication that men would view with indifference something that would happen to women or that men would view with indifference, if we take it on to a personal level, something that might happen to their own wives and to their own daughters. That is very offensive to me because I believe the bond between family in that sense is as strong a bond as exists. I know of very few married men who would not give anything to protect the lives of their wives and the lives of their children. To represent it otherwise is dishonest and something that I find very offensive.

The third argument that has been raised is whether we should have a reference to the protection of life in the Constitution. To my way of thinking we have something precious in our Constitution, something in our democracy that a lot of other democracies would give a lot to have, and that is that in the ultimate, under God, all authority derives from the people. The concept of a Constitution under which fundamental decisions are made by the people and the Legislation cannot go over the heads of the people is something that I, as a democrat, hold dear. Even if, as has often happened the people voting in referenda want something I do not like, I accept their right to choose, I accept their right to decide.

The argument that this should be legislated for has two fundamental flaws. The first flaw is that it is already in the Constitution and therefore to legislate for it you would either have to take the constitutional position as it is and legislate accordingly — I think most people would agree that the interpretation of the Supreme Court certainly was not the intention of the people in 1983 — or you would have to take it out of the Constitution in total, legislate for it and say: "Even if the people do not like it so be it. We know better than they know". To me that is gratuitous to the people and I do not think it is the will of the majority of the people in this country. They want to have a say in the matter, they are entitled to their say and it is a fundamental democratic right that we give them that say.

Speaking of the Constitution, it is important that we would also question the modus operandi employed in the Supreme Court regarding constitutional issues. We are all familiar with statute law and we all know the complexities of it. We all know that at the beginning of every Bill you get all sorts of things defined in legal terms — in other words, we can define a house as something that consists of X, Y and Z. If our Constitutional law were to be written in that way it would mean that it would be unintelligible to ordinary people and they would have to have a reference book defining each and every word in it. Since the concept of a Bunreacht is a basic law of the people it is important always to recognise that by definition it cannot be written in legal jargon, that it must be written in ordinary language. Therefore when it comes to be interpreted it is important that the Supreme Court would never lose sight of that fact and that they would not interpret it in the exact same way as if they were dealing with statute law where everything is defined in legal terms. In my view, to do otherwise, makes it impossible for the people to have laid down in ordinary simple terms the guiding principles by which this democracy is ruled. I will be coming later to the question of the 1861 Act and legislation in respect of the particular amendments proposed here. But it is important that we set down in the Constitution the fundamental principles by which we as a people wish to be governed.

The fundamental problem that arises in this whole abortion issue revolves around the definition of human life — when does it begin, what is it and should it be protected? I have taken the consistent view that human life should always be protected by the State, as far as it is practicable. For that reason capital punishment is not acceptable to me because I have always believed that the State has not got the right to engage in what I would consider legal murder, that is, taking the life of a human, no matter how despicable the crime committed by that person. I am also basically anti-war. I do not believe in any general concept of a just war because I believe in the principle of the preservation of life.

The thorny question then arises as to when does life begin. To me this is the kernel of the issue we are debating here. If one believes that it begins after 25 or 26 weeks it is perfectly logical to be in favour of abortion, and more logical still in that circumstance to favour abortion on demand, because you do not believe that you are taking a human life. But if you believe that human life begins at the moment of conception then it is rational to say that — with the obvious caveat that in saving one life you do not kill some body else — that life should as far as practicable be preserved. There are comparisons made between an embyro, a foetus, the unborn at various stages of development and their capacity. I think that is to travel on a very slippery slope.

If one accepts capacity and rights dependent on capacity the logical consequence for born life could be tremendous. Are we to say that somebody who is effectively a vegetable or a mentally defective or the very old or very young have a diminished right to life because of lack of capacity? That is not a good fundamental principle to work on. As far as I am concerned if we believe life begins at conception the thrust must be to preserve life as far as possible without interfering with the right to life of the mother. That is the balance we have to strike and that is the kernel of the problem.

It has been pointed out that spontaneous abortions occur naturally. That is a fact but we also know in nature that we are all going to die. One cannot use that certainty to justify the taking of life. If we were to do that life would become very cheap.

I want to direct my attention to the substantive issue. The form of words the Government have come up with poses problems for many people not because of its fundamental thrust but because people are uncertain as to what interpretation might be made of it in the future. Nobody would deny that in a case where it is impossible to save both the life of the mother and that of the child that it is essential to save the life of the mother. The thrust of this amendment which has been out again and again in the speeches of the Ministers for Justice and Health is acceptable to most people. The Minister for Health said in the Dáil that the amendment aims to protect the right to life of the unborn child subject only to ensuring that a doctor may carry out whatever treatment is necessary to resolve the life threatening medical condition of the mother. To me that is the kernel of the matter.

We want to ensure the right to life of the child but we cannot ensure that without also ensuring the right to life of the mother. The question, therefore, has to be asked whether this amendment protects the right to life of the child and, at the same time, protects the mother.

I would like to direct my attention towards the situation of the unborn and I would be interested in the Minister's reply on this issue. The first part of Article 40.3.3º is being left in which "the State acknowledges that the right to life the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its law to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right." As far as I am concerned people are saying to the medical people that where practicable at all times they must defend the right to life of the unborn. In a case, for example, of cancer of the womb, — ectopic pregnancies have been mentioned — or a similar life-threatening situation if it is impossible to save the life of the mother and also that of the child we must save the life of the mother. That is what the Government is trying to do.

A woman who is 25, or even 24½ weeks pregnant may require a termination of pregnancy — I notice that throughout his speech the Minister for Justice alluded to termination of pregnancy; there is a difference between terminating a pregnancy and terminating a life. I presume that under the first part of Article 40.3.3º the doctor terminating a pregnancy would be obliged to ensure also as far as practicable the survival of the child. Having removed the child from the womb the obligation would be there to try to resuscitate the child, place it in an incubator and so on. That is my reading of the whole thrust of Article 40.3.3º if one puts the two parts together. That particular issue is causing grave concern to some pro-life people. They feel that this amendment implies no second obligation to the child. It is hard at times to second guess what the Supreme Court might judge but in my opinion the thrust of what is intended is that at all times one would try to save the child while ensuring the life of the mother. A document entitled "Are We Voting for Direct Abortion"? issued by the pro-life people says:

If you really accept that the unborn child is also a human, how could you possibly vote for a proposal the he or she may lawfully be killed at any stage before birth to reduce a risk to his or her mother's life?

I do not think — and I stand to be corrected on this — that that is the intention, to use that rather risky word nor do I think that that is what is stated. We have instead a clear statement that in a situation where the mother might die and in that case the foetus will die also the obvious and logical thing to do is to ensure the life of the mother. On the other hand, if the stage has been reached where the foetus is viable if medical intervention takes place, there is an obligation in my view of Article 40.3.3º to ensure the survival of the foetus as far as is practicable.

In a letter to the Irish Press on 27 October 1992 this was well expressed by eminent people. It said:

It is difficult to see how any operation the sole purpose of which is to save the life of the mother could be regarded as the direct killing of the foetus if the unavoidable and inevitable consequence of the effort to save the mother's life leads to the death of the foetus. But the means employed must not go beyond what is strictly necessary.

That is what the amendment wording intends to allow and, in my view, it is what the law allows.

There has been criticism from the Opposition benches of the qualifying clause regarding the health of the mother but there has been a deafening silence as to what they propose we should do instead. Do they want a law, as in the United Kingdom, where danger to health is given as a reason for terminating pregnancy? If they do they should say so.

If they do they should look at the law as it stands in Britain where abortion on demand is legally not available. There have to be health reasons before a termination is granted there. There are basically six reasons under which abortion is legal in Britain and none of them say a person can have one on demand. Whether we like it or not, 90 per cent of cases give the health of the mother as the reason. That is indisputable and in the case of people going to Britain for abortion the percentage rises to 95 per cent. If that is what they want let them come out and say it. Let them be upfront with the Irish people.

A large section of Irish society believe that the Opposition parties differ in their views and are trying to come one way and go the other way on this thorny issue. The statistic regarding risk to life as the reason for people entering Britain for abortion stands at about .02 per cent; the overwhelming reason given is the health of the mother. Therefore it is indisputable that without differentiation between a threat to health and a threat to life the way lies open, as experienced in every other country for abortion on demand. If people want abortion on demand they should have the courage to say so. I would admire them for being upfront even though I might disagree fundamentally with them on that issue.

I consider that the issue at stake here is a question of civil liberties, that is, the protection of the right to life. An issue that has been raised and which causes a certain amount of concern is the delayed effect of risk to life. I would like clarification of this. How will this be defined? I accept that it is difficult to define minor aspects in a constitutional amendment, and that will lead me later to speak on legality and the law regarding this. That is causing concern because there is a perception abroad that an effort will be made to challenge the intention of this amendment in the court some time in the future.

We have to guard vigilantly and constantly against an undermining of the clearly stated intention of the Irish people in these issues by people with a different agenda. We have to be upfront about this. If everybody was to accept the amendment proposed in good faith until they can get it changed by due process of law and constitutional amendment, then I cannot see how it would cause difficulty for those concerned to vindicate the rights of both mothers and the unborn.

We should state here today, as the Minister for Health and all independent analysis has stated, that maternal death is lower here in medical practice than in countries with legalised abortion. We have not and do not put women's lives at risk under current medical practice by reputable obstetricians and gynaecologists. I would not countenance a medical practice which did so. In the vast majority of cases there is no conflict between the protection of the mother's life and that of the unborn.

We have spent too much time debating the one in a million case where a doctor might in the case of somebody suffering from a brain tumour or whatever, have to take a hard decision and get on with treatment; we should be dealing with the fundamental issue involved here. Do we want abortion available here as in other countries or not? Medical practice here stands on its own record; the statistics bear it out. That is the way we would want it and if we are concerned about the lives of mothers it is important to ensure that the high standard of care, commitment and resources that we have traditionally provided in this sector be continued.

The question of legislation comes up and I am in two minds on it. One half of me says that all legislation which predates the Constitution, certainly all legislation we depend on that goes back to the last century, probably should be updated in view of the vast changes which have taken place in the world in the last 130 years. If we are talking about legislation we are considering the adoption of legislation to replace and update the 1861 Act. We commonly update legislation in this House dealing with larceny and other matters. There is a case for replacing the 1861 Act, not supplementing it, with a more up-to-date Act and legislation specifically geared around the constitutional amendment. If it is proven to my satisfaction that present legislation is adequate to the purpose, and at the end of the day it is on that we depend, I will accept that with the caveat that if unscrupulous people try to extend the frontier by misreading or misunderstanding this amendment then the Oireachtas will legislate to stop people deviating from existing ethical practices. That would ensure that the intention of the people would be cemented in legislation if there is an effort to go outside the intention I have outlined.

I would like to deal briefly with the European judgment given today and also with the question of the Protocol. I am glad the Government have clearly stated that in the event of this amendment being accepted they will seek to have it cemented into European law. That promise was given and I accepted it in the spring when the Maastricht Referendum was going through. I am now delighted the Government have given an undertaking to implement that decision and to follow it through to its logical conclusion. There the question of the Protocol should be left.

The European judgment was given by the European Court of Human Rights and not by the European Court; therefore it has moral but no legal force. The most fundamental point here is that the judgment was based on Article 40.3.3º as it was. An amendment has been introduced to amend that and what is proposed goes in the direction of the judgment handed down in the last 24 hours.

People have said that there is a hypocritical attitude to travel in this amendment, that certain deeds are all wrong at home and all right outside this territory.


There are many things one might do legally throughout the world that are not legal within this jurisdiction. I have often cited the case of people who, for example, fought on both sides of the Civil War. We could not have been supporting both sides at the one time. I do not believe in war. We were not at war then but at no stage in our history did we try to stop people leaving this country or question them as to why they were leaving.

To me the fundamental issue at stake here is that we can only legislate for this jurisdiction and to try to impose the long arm of our law in Saudi Arabia or central Africa where practices exist outside our concept of law or morality would be extremely foolish. Therefore, we must presume, whether true or not, that those who leave the country are free to do so and that we cannot legislate within these Houses except for this State. That concept is recognised worldwide. It would not be rational to do otherwise.

Finally, on that issue, if it seems strange to have differing situation in this sovereign State and in other sovereign states, I do not hear many people talk about the inconsistency within the United Kingdom where abortion is totally illegal in Northern Ireland and legal in England. We do not hear people cry out for consistency in the North with a restriction on travel and questioning of people travelling from Belfast to London.

Ba mhaith liom an Bille seo a mholadh. Is údar mór imní dúinn uile é ach is dóigh liom go bhfuil an rud is fearr is féidir á dhéanamh ag an Rialtas leis an mBille seo.

Is it not absurd that we should be debating the introduction of three more referenda whose sole objective is to clear up the mess made by the referendum of 1983? The people who got us into this mess in 1983 now confidently tell us how they will sort it out. We know that they are sucking us deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

The pro-life campaign as it calls itself, first mooted the idea of a referendum to insert Article 40.3.3º into the Constitution because they were worried that European law might force us to introduce abortion in Ireland against the will of the Irish people. They assured us absolutely, resisting all contradiction, that what they were proposing would give protection to the unborn. We know now how wrong they were. Others disagreed; eminent constitutional lawyers put the other side of the story and predicted precisely what subsequently happened when the Supreme Court gave its decision. If one looks back over the debates, correspondence, newspapers and speeches given then, opponents of the amendment clearly warned that if the ambiguous wording of that amendment was included in our Constitution we would end up with a situation exactly the opposite of what was required. But there was absolute certainty among the pro-lifers and sadly Fianna Fáil allowed themselves to be bullied or cajoled into accepting that wording.

What I find so unbelievable is that we never learn from our mistakes. Surely the debacle of the 1983 Referendum clearly proves the stupidity of trying to resolve this difficult, complex issue by putting a sentence into the Constitution.

I agree with others who say that this is not the purpose of the Constitution. The Constitution contains the broad aspirations for our nation and people and it is through legislation that we enact them. Legislation gives effect to the Constitution. The Consitution is too blunt a vehicle to accommodate an issue of such legal and medical complexity. The idea of trying to balance the rights of a pregnant woman and the rights of the unborn, whether one calls it an embryo, a foetus, an unborn or a child, as the previous speaker did, in one sentence is ludicrous. This attempt will end up as the last one did, in the Supreme Court.

The combination of the 1983 Referendum, the subsequent Supreme Court decision in the X case and the three new referenda will suck us further into this maze. We will never get out of it. I am alarmed that these amendments may exacerbate the situation.

I disagree with those who blame the Supreme Court for our problems. People are very happy to accept Supreme Court decisions when they find them convenient. I was brought up to believe that the decisions of an independently appointed Judiciary must be accepted. We cannot blame them for interpreting the 1983 Amendment as others predicted they might. It is outrageous for Members of both these Houses to blame the Supreme Court as though it was their fault. Clearly it was our fault for allowing this ambiguity to creep in. This is the only major point I wish to make; I do not think it has been said so far.

We had and we probably still have, an ideal opportunity to resolve this issue under the Maastricht Treaty. The Danes have requested changes in that Treaty that will satisfy them. I see no reason why Ireland cannot or could not have done the same given the chaos that followed the Supreme Court decision. Why at that stage did Ireland not seek a Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty guaranteeing that the European Court could not force Irish people to introduce abortion against their will. In that situation we could have scrubbed Article 40.3.3º out of the Constitution and allayed the worry that Europe might force us to accept abortion. It would have allowed us to start afresh with legislation to give effect to what was required.

The whole situation is now a total shambles. There is absolute confusion among lawyers, the medical profession and even among politicians, as is clear if you listen to the debates here. People in this House genuinely believe that what is contained in these referenda represents something quite different. If there is so much confusion among the learned members of this venerable House, what is it like outside?

I have some sympathy for the position of the Government, given the very difficult situation they are in. What they are trying to do is extremely difficult, but they have only themselves to blame. They should not have put themselves into this position. If these three provisions are inserted into the Constitution I dread to think what the outcome will be. There will be more Supreme Court cases and out of it we will never get. We will be back here time and time again looking to see how we can correct the deficiencies or the muddle we have put in the Constitution.

I am not in major disagreement with the Government regarding the balance which they are trying to introduce, a balance between on the one hand the extreme pro-lifers, as they like to call themselves, and on the other hand people who are extremely pro-choice. The Government are also in this position because they chose to do this by referendum; they did not have the courage to do it by legislation. They want to put the onus onto the people. They are not always so anxious on other occasions to give people an opportunity to have their say. The Government have to put forward something which is likely to get by. I accept that. They have to put forward something that is middle-of-the-road.

I am Catholic, a practising Catholic. I have no ambition or intention of trying to impose my personal views on anybody else in our community or in our society. What we have to do here is to look at this from the point of what is good or bad for society. We can and should encourage people to be responsible in all walks of life, including their attitudes towards sex and sexual problems. It is not simply up to the mothers or the women to be involved, as Senator Ó Cuív said. First of all there are two people involved, the father and the mother. Then at a certain stage a third being is brought into the picture, initially as the embryo, subsequently as the foetus, the unborn, or as the child. A women is obviously more directly affected by the pregnancy but I do not believe that it is her exclusive right to decide whether the unborn should or should not be entitled to the protection of the State. It is the State's obligation to try to strike a balance between the rights of the mother and the rights of the unborn.

My argument is less with what the Government are introducing than with the method by which they are trying to introduce this. Different Ministers have said different things. We saw the Minister for Health, the Minister for Justice and the Taoiseach on television in the early stages saying completely contradictory things; and quite frankly the speech which the Minister for Justice gave here is adding fuel to that confusion. On a number of occasions in this speech he says that pregnancy may be lawfully terminated. He says the intervention affecting the life of the unborn is justified where necessary to save the life of the mother. Quite clearly, there is no other word for that, that is abortion. Yet, he goes on to say there is no warrant whatsoever for any suggestion that the amendment will open the doors to abortion. The Minister is trying, on the one side, to curry favour with the pro-lifers and, on the other side, to curry favour with those who are pro-choice. That is despicable. It is adding to the confusion which is already rampant.

The Government should have the courage of their convictions and stop endeavouring to mislead people. There are other contradictions. I urge Members to go through this speech and to substitute the word "unborn" where the Minister uses the word "foetus", and there the Minister uses the word "unborn" to substitute "foetus". It is quite interesting to see the effect it has on the speech. I did it last night.

I was going to speak briefly on the question of the phrase "the life as distinct from the health". I had the feeling I grasped what was involved there, but having read the Minister's speech I find I am in total and absolute confusion. Here again he is only confusing the issue for people. I greatly resent it. I believe it is going to create a disastrous situation in the end. There will not be legislation to give effect to this very delicate situation. Doctors have to make urgent decisions. Eventually doctors will have to interpret what is in the Constitution We will probably end up with doctors in theatres trying to operate with the Constitution in one hand and a scalpel in the other. That is the way we are heading. It will be of no help to them to say that politicians were confused or the public was confused. They will be the ones who will bear the brunt of it.

Under the amended Constitution, will there be a limit on the stage in pregnancy beyond which termination will be totally prohibited? That is something that is fundamentally important, but there is no indication on it in the Minister's speech. The Minister does not refer to it. What will be the position with regard to the morning-after pill? That is considered by some people to be an abortifacient. If that is the case, will we find cases being taken by SPUC or pro-life groups against doctors who, perhaps in the case of rape or incest, are giving people these? It is a minefield. There is nothing in what we have here to clear it up. The public are entitled to truth and clarity, not to confusion and double thinking. I beg the Minister, even at this late stage, to pull back from pushing us further and further into this confusion.

I would like to thank Senator Hederman for giving me some of her time. I will try to develop some of the points because I find myself in some agreement, although not totally, with her in particular in regard to the Minister's speech, which was a masterpiece of equivocation and evasion. As such, it made me feel morally queasy. It reminded me of Bacon's essay On Simulation and Dissimulation. The Minister has obviously taken lessons from that source.

I agree with Senator Hederman, the Constitution is not the place for this. This has been made perfectly clear by every denomination apart from the Roman Catholic Church. I do not want to put this into a sectarian perspective; you do not have to do that. I note, however, the sectarian nature of this move on the part of the Government, opposed by every single religious nomination apart from the Roman Catholic Church. There is a very practical rather than a religious reason for it. We have a Constitution, the Constitution of 1937, of which we can be proud. It is a living texture, it is capable of expansion and development. The Supreme Court has the capacity to develop from it the unenumerated rights that are presumed to lie dormant within that Constitution. In other words, it is living. By sewing provisions into it in this crude way, as was already done with divorce — also against the appeals of the non-Roman Catholic Churches — what they are doing is sewing into a living organism nothing other than dead or static tissue. That can only be destructive. That is, in my opinion, an unanswerable argument against the kind of clumsy manoeuvre the Government are involved in. For this reason I am opposing the entire mess the Government are proposing.

Mention was made by Senator Hederman of the pro-life lobby. I have spoken at length about this and my objection to the colonising of language by this particular group. They are pro-life; am I supposed to be pro-death? The whole language has been corrupted by this debate. What is the "unborn"? I am not certain that, legally, this will stand up, because "unborn" is just an adjective. You require a noun to qualify it. This indicates the kind of moral fudge into which we are rapidly sinking.

Senator Murphy spoke yesterday about the intervention of the hierarchy. As far as I am concerned the Roman Catholic hierarchy have every right and entitlement to make their position known. I am much more worried by the intrusion of Pope John Paul II some weeks ago. I would like to ask if any representation was made to the Papal Nuncio about this intervention when the Pope called for a referendum. I would like to know what his standing on that was. Was he speaking as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church or as Head of State, with an accredited representative in this country, who certainly should have been asked to explain the intervention of the head of one State into the affairs of another? That is a direct and blatant political act. I hope the Minister will be able to——

The Senator, more than anyone else, would expect that people would have the right——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Norris, without interruption.

I am talking about direct political intervention. I am not talking about the Pope's perfect right to express a moral position.

I would also like to refer to the source of this difficulty, the so-called X case which I drew to the attention of the House very early on. I wonder if we remember the X case? I wonder if we remember the tide of compassionate energy that came over this country when people, on all sides, understood and confronted the situation. I wonder if we realise fully that the operation of this legal instrument will deny a young girl in a situation in which that unfortunate young woman found herself, the remedy which the Supreme Court discovered she was entitled to. Are we satisfied, that we are going back to a situation which would once more place this young woman's life in peril, as the Supreme Court found, as a result of the threat to her life by suicide? One of the principal intentions of this legal machinery is to close off that avenue. The Minister is extraordinarily cavalier about it in what he says. He is apparently prepared to contemplate, because of its statistical unlikelihood, the prospect of Irish citizens committing suicide. He says it is marginal.

I am not pro-abortion. I am certainly pro-choice; I know nobody who is pro-abortion. Since the debate revolves round abortion, I would like to mention some facts, particularly with regard to what is called the "unborn". There is a very interesting, very fine, very courageous article in The Irish Times of Monday, 19 October, by a professor of embryology and neuro-anatomy in Galway, Professor Turlough Fitzgerald, and he raises some interesting questions. He says:

It is the pre-embryonic period that is the most hazardous. At least half of all conceptuses are lost within two weeks of fertilisation. This very high rate of spontaneous loss of new life is the result of less than perfect interaction within the cell cluster that develops while the conceptus is being wafted along the oviduct (Fallopian tube) during the first week.

Because the aberrant conceptus is shed along with the next menstrual flow, the mother is usually unaware that anything has gone amiss. Those readers who are not already familiar with this fact may be shocked to learn that nature is quite cavalier in dealing with malformed conceptuses.

That is an interesting context in which to put this debate. However, he also goes on to point out that during the development of the foetus certain signs of apparently intelligent sensate life are present but raises a query which I think the Minister needs to address. He says:

Synoptic contacts are already present in sufficient numbers by the seventh week to cause movement in response to direct stimulation.

This is the source of all these horror films, videos and photographs that are consistently waved at us by the pro-life lobby. Professor Fitzgerald goes on to say:

Unfortunately, this simple fact has been interpreted to signify that an embryo can feel pain.

Horrifying tales are being told to the young about the agonies of embryos undergoing physical or chemical destruction during induced abortions.

The embryos are certainly dying, but it is incorrect to assert that a state of consciousness exists before the cortex is properly formed. The necessary and anatomical substrate for pain perception is unlikely to have been laid down before the 16th week at the earliest.

Finally, given the primacy of the cerebral cortex for the establishment of the human personality, what should our opinion be of foetuses that are born without a cerebral cortex? These foetuses are anencephalic— without a brain — because the head end of the neural tube fails to close during the fourth week. It is easily detected by the 16th week. The condition occurs once in every 1,000 births and it is incompatible with survival.

The Minister says he is concerned about a situation which may occur once in a million nor once in ten million cases. Here we have a problem which occurs in one of every thousand cases and it is not covered by this Bill. Professor Fitzgerald continues:

Will someone please explain why any mother should be obliged to carry an anencephalic foetus to full term?

I would be most grateful if the Minister would explain that to me. It sounds perilously like male indifference to a form of unwanted female torture produced by an accident of nature.

I have already made my feelings on abortion clear many times in this House. I would now like to raise the question of the role of the Attorney General, and I do so without any imputation against the present holder of that office. This case raises a question about the role of the Attorney General in the operation of this State, especially when it was this office that precipitated this country into the present chaos. The Attorney General is not elected. According to the Constitution, Article 30.1, he is "the adviser of the Government in matters of law and legal opinion, and shall exercise and perform all such powers, functions and duties as are conferred or imposed on him by this Constitution or by law." He is the adviser of the Government. I would be very curious to know did he advise the Government of the proposed course of action in referring the original case. The Attorney General is appointed directly by the Taoiseach, one man can appoint or dismiss him for his own private reasons; the Taoiseach does not even have to explain to the Cabinet.

He is nominated by the Taoiseach and appointed by the President.

He is nominated by the Taoiseach and he can be dismissed by the President.

He is appointed by the President.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Norris.

He can be dismissed by the President and he has powers overriding those of High Court Judges. He can, in fact, appeal a decision over their heads if he so wishes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would ask the Senator to address his remarks through the Chair.

I am directing my remarks through the Chair.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Norris, without interruption.

My eye was attracted by an interruption in the far corner.

Under the criminal procedure Act the Attorney General may, without prejudice to the verdict in favour of the accused, refer the question of law to the Supreme Court for determination. It is an interesting example of the authority of the Attorney General over a judge but in order to remove a judge you must have a substantial majority of the Dáil.

I would like to make a final comment in relation to the Attorney General. I refer to The Irish Judiciary by Paul C. Bartholomew published in 1971. He said there is no formal connection between the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General, the latter is really the Taoiseach's man in the sense that, while he is an independent constitutional officer, he is appointed by the Taoiseach and may be required to resign by the Taoiseach——

An Leas-Chathoirleach

I must ask the Senator to address his remarks to the Bill; we are not talking about the Attorney General or his office but about the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution.

I am raising a query about this and I am entitled to do so.

Who is this man Bartholomew?

I would like to pass to the subject matter of the Minister's speech. It is disingenous in the extreme. He says the effect of the amendment is to afford full protection to the lives of pregnant women. That is rubbish. The effect of this Bill is to permit abortion in certain limited circumstances, but the Minister seems to fight shy of this.

I would like to look at the attitude taken by the Minister when he talks about consensus being possible and attempted, not very effectively, I think. It was a nice piece of political footwork. He goes on to say there are some who support, in effect, abortion on demand and there was no possibility of consensus with them. Who is the Minister talking about, his political opponents? The distinction between the life of a woman and the health of a woman, on the other hand, is a morally repugnant one. What kind of health is envisaged? Is there no consideration for the quality of life?

Suicide, or the possibility of suicide, is ruled out. The Minister suggests, however, that no one should reasonably demand of the Government that no account should be taken of the possibility, however remote, that termination of pregnancy may be necessary to save lives in the case of a life-threatening condition. Why not, in the case of a risk of suicide, already determined by the Supreme Court to be a real and substantial risk to the life of the young girl in the X case? Again, we are evading the reality as determined by the Supreme Court. Despite that, the Minister said if there were to be only one case in one million or even in ten or more million, we would have to take account of it. What about the threat of suicide? Can he quantify that? Does he expect Irish women to queue up to commit suicide in front of him in order to disprove him on this issue?

Arising from the Supreme Court decision in the X case, the Government have decided to hold a referendum on 3 December. Three separate questions or proposals will be put to the people in that referendum. The Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution Bill proposes that Article 40 be amended by the addition of the following text to subsection 3º of section 3:

It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to a real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self-destruction.

The Thirteenth Amendment of Constitution Bill proposes the addition of a second paragraph to subsection 3º of section 3:

This subsection should not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill proposes the addition of a further paragraph:

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

I welcome the fact that this referendum is being held. I also welcome the fact that, in addition to holding a referendum on the travel and information issues, the Government have also decided to deal with the substantive issue of abortion by means of referendum. It is very important that everybody should be quite clear about what exactly is being proposed but obviously this is not the case. Misinformation, regrettably, seems to be the order of the day.

For instance, in The Irish Times of last Saturday, there was an article by a prominent lawyer who would like to represent himself as an expert in these matters. The article was headlined: “The lesson of 1983, constitutional words are no mere gesture”. In this article the author stated that the substantive issue amendment is fundamentally flawed and he went on:

It casts doubt on the freedom to travel sought to be conferred by the first proposed amendment. That amendment merely provides that the 1983 text shall not limit freedom to travel, it does not protect the freedom to travel from interference on the basis of the new anti-abortion provision.

These statements in that newspaper are patent nonsense. It is clear this gentleman simply does not know, and has not bothered to check out, what exactly is being proposed. He is obviously under the impression that the proposal is to include three new subsections in section 3 of Article 40. This is not the case.

He is not the only one who believes this is the situation. In the Sunday Tribune last Sunday two whole pages were devoted to what is described as its abortion focus. In the centre of page A.13 the paper purported to give the text of the proposed amendment. The present wording of Article 40.3.3º was quoted and it was then stated: “The Government proposes to add the following subsections to Article 40, section 3”, after which three new subsections, Nos. 4, 5 and 6 were presented. Is it any wonder the general public are confused when a prominent lawyer and a reputable national newspaper both present a scenario that is blatantly inaccurate?

It is very important that everybody should be aware of what exactly is being proposed. The position is that the people are being asked to vote on three proposals. If these three proposals are carried, the result will be that subsection 40.3.3º will no longer be a single sentence subsection. Instead, it will be a subsection comprised of three paragraphs. There will be two sentences in the first paragraph and one sentence each in the second and third paragraphs. The first sentence of the expanded subsection will be the existing pro-life wording, which was enshrined in the Constitution in 1983 and the new amended subsection 40.3.3º will read as follows:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn 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. It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to a real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self destruction.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between this State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

I am quite happy with the proposed wording in relation to each of the three matters being dealt with in this referendum. I am also confident that the proposed wording in relation to the substantive issue will be seen by the majority of reasonable people as a balanced response to the Supreme Court decision in the X case. I am satisfied the overwhelming majority of the Irish people do not want to see abortion on demand introduced into this country and they perceive the Supreme Court judgment in the X case as having opened the door for that, by deciding that the threat or risk of suicide is sufficient grounds on which to permit abortion.

The Government have recognised that there is widespread demand that whatever steps are necessary should be taken to allow the people an opportunity to reverse the Supreme Court decision in this regard. I am pleased the Government have responded to that demand by deciding to put a proposal to the people in relation to the substantive issue of abortion. In drafting the wording for such a proposal the Government were faced with the task of coming up with a formula of words which would protect the life of the unborn by prohibiting abortion on grounds that would in due course, inevitably lead to abortion on demand and at the same time ensuring that an expectant mother faced with a life threatening medical condition could receive whatever treatment might be necessary to save her life.

Most of the argument and public debate which has followed on the publication of the Government's wording has concentrated on three aspects of the proposed text. First, there are those who disagree with the inclusion of the phrase "as distinct from the health" in the proposal. I am satisfied, having listened to all the arguments, that these five words are necessary in order to avoid a situation arising where abortion would inevitably be permitted to deal with health problems which had no implications for the life of the mother. In other words, the non-inclusion of those five words would result in a relatively short time in the free availability of abortion, as happened in Britain. I do not accept that the words in question are insulting to women, that they are seen by the majority of women as such or that they will ever result in a situation where any woman would be denied whatever treatment she might require during the course of a pregnancy. I will refer the house to a letter, which has also been referred to by Senator Ó Cuív, which appeared in last Tuesday's Irish Press. This letter is signed by three very eminent people and the headline is “Substantive Law of Abortion proposal should be accepted”. I will quote one paragraph from this letter which concurs with what I have said. It states:

To those who object to the distinction between the "life" and "health" of the mother, we would ask them to consider the experience under the English Abortion Act 1967 where over three million abortions have been performed on the grounds of protecting the "health" of the mother. It is the single most abortion permissive ground in English law and can properly be seen as little more than thinly veiled abortion on demand.

Second, there are those who argue that suicide should not be excluded as grounds for the termination of pregnancy. Again, I believe that if the threat or risk of suicide were not excluded the door would be open to abortion on demand. The people who argue otherwise are not being realistic, or their aim is to bring about a liberal abortion regime here. That is something the majority of people do not want to see.

Third, on the other side there are those who say that the wording is unacceptable because it acknowledges the possibility of life threatening medical situations in which it might be necessary to terminate the pregnancy in order to save the life of the mother. These people are quite adamant that no such situation could ever arise and they quote what they describe as "expert medical opinion" in support of this contention. In the briefing document which I, and I am sure every other Member of this House received from the pro-life campaign it is stated quite categorically that there are no medical circumstances in which what they describe as direct termination of the pregnancy may be necessary to save the life of the mother. Yet in The Irish Times of last Saturday there was a letter signed by 13 eminent consultants attached to various major hospitals throughout the country in which they state:

Although the situation seldom arises, we believe that sometimes the continuation of pregnancy poses a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother.

They then go on to quote from the report on confidential inquiries into maternal deaths in the United Kingdom for the years 1985-87. In their final paragraph they state:

From the above it is clear that continuation of pregnancy can pose a real danger to a small number of women. Whatever else results from the current controversy, Irish women must be protected from such dangers.

I could not in conscience reject this opinion from these people in favour of the position as outlined by the pro-life campaign. That is why I support the provision in the proposed amendment to cover this situation. However, if the pro-life campaign's contention is correct and that what they describe as direct termination is never necessary to save the life of the mother, then clearly they have nothing to worry about because the wording in the proposal specifically states that such termination cannot lawfully be brought about unless it is necessary — and I stress the word "necessary"— to save the life of the mother. I do not see what is provided for in this type of situation as abortion.

I voted for the pro-life amendment to the Constitution in 1983. I did so for the same reason as the majority of the voters who went to the polls in that referendum, namely, that I was against abortion. I was against abortion then and I am against abortion now. As far as I am concerned when the primary motivation for and the primary purpose of the medical intervention or procedure which brings about the death of the foetus is to deal with a serious and substantial risk or threat to the life of the mother, then, in my view, that is not abortion. I am not impressed with the hair splitting in regard to the difference between direct and indirect abortion.

I see the right to life as a basic and fundamental human right. It is a fundamental right of the unborn, just as it is a fundamental right of the mother. When a difficulty arises in a pregnancy both lives must be seen as equally precious and everything possible must be done to save both lives. However, I recognise that in certain cases this will not be possible and it may only be possible to save one life. Thankfully, such cases are relatively rare, but in those rare cases everything necessary must be done to save the life of the mother. I believe that that is the position at present as far as medical practice here is concerned and I want it to continue to be the position. That is why it is vitally important to ensure that whatever we write into the Constitution will not prevent necessary action from being taken to save a woman's life. I am satisfied that the wording proposed in relation to the substantive issue meets the criteria which I have outlined and at the same time will not open the door to abortion.

As far as the travel and information issues are concerned I believe there is widespread support for what is proposed in relation to each of these matters. No reasonable person would want a situation to exist where there would be any doubt about any person's right to travel and the constitutional amendment which is proposed to deal with the travel issue will ensure freedom to travel to all states, not just to the other member states of the European Community.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill provides for the freedom to make available and to receive information in relation to abortion. I welcome the fact that the types of information and counselling which may be provided will be controlled by legislation and, again, I feel that this safeguard will meet with the approval of most reasonable people.

I am pleased with the way in which these very sensitive issues are being dealt with by the Government and I am confident that all three proposals will receive the support of the substantial majority of the people.

It is with regret that I find this issue back before the House nine years after we had the 1983 referendum and, more particularly, at a time when we have so many other issues that should be occupying our time such as unemployment, crimes, interest rates, mortgage problems and so on. The reason we have it before us now is that the pro-life people and Fianna Fáil, who claim the amendment to be their own, refused to listen to the advice of the Attorney General and of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 1983 who both advised that the wording was ambiguous. That is why we have it back with us at this time.

It is a very serious and emotive issue. Let me say at the outset that I am as anti-abortion as anybody in his House. However, we must be reasonable and balanced in our approach to this problem. Following the debacle of the 1983 Amendment and the Supreme Court judgment, the Oireachtas is now faced with doing three things. First, it must rectify the problems caused by the ambiguous wording which legalised abortion in certain circumstances and denied the right of women to travel and to information. Second, we must ensure that we prevent general abortion taking place in Ireland. I do not know anybody who wants that to be the case and, third, we must achieve all that without endangering the life of the mother.

Adding a few words in the form of an amendment to our Constitution is not an appropriate way to deal with such complex medical, social and moral problems, as the experience in 1983 has shown. Personally, I would prefer if legislation was introduced within the context of the Supreme Court finding in the X case, but the problem regarding that would be that abortion would be available to suicidal mothers.

I have every sympathy with people who are genuinely suicidal. Having thought about the issue as far as abortion for suicidal mothers is concerned, I came to the conclusion that it would be a dangerous one to accept for two reasons. First, the figures show that the incidence of suicide among pregnant women is significantly lower than among non-pregnant women, something like one-sixth. Second, if abortion were available to those who were suicidal there would inevitably be some abuse where people would claim to be suicidal and there is no known means of telling accurately whether a person is genuinely suicidal or not. Psychiatrists cannot agree on it. It is not an accurate science. One cannot measure it objectively, as one could a person's temperature, the level of infection and so on. Consequently, if we accept that abortion should not be available, then we must have this referendum. This is where the problems arise again.

Having listened to the Minister for Health and particularly, the Minister for Justice, I am astounded at the certainty and infallibility of that man. He would make the Pope look like a waffling teenager. Given the fact that he behaved the same way in 1983, as did many of his colleagues, I do not think we can take too much notice of this acting. The matter is too serious for that. The Government would be well advised to avoid repeating the mistake of 1983. To a considerable extent the problem at that time was that the people did not know what they were voting for. They were told by the pro-life people that they were voting against abortion and they were told by Fianna Fáil that they were voting against abortion. They were told by the Attorney General and Fine Gael that the wording could introduce abortion; but, of course the air of hysteria that abounded at the time caused the Government to be defeated by a coalition of Fianna Fáil on the one hand and on the other the intimidation of some Government backbenchers by the pro-life fundamentalists and indeed by some overzealous clerics in the Catholic Church. We are now running the risk of repeating that error and Fianna Fáil could well find itself as the party that legalised abortion not once but twice in a decade. That would be regrettable for the whole community.

In matters like this the wording of an amendment means what the Supreme Court says it means. If the present ambiguous wording is passed in the referenda and subsequently challenged in the Supreme Court we will find ourselves back here again trying to resolve the mess we created. This time the people should know exactly what they are voting on. In that regard we should do a number of things. First, we should postpone the referenda. I cannot see the urgency in having them on 3 December other than to fall into line with the Fianna Fáil political agenda. There is no need to rush it; better wait and get it right this time. Second, the legislation to give effect to the new amendments should go before the Oireachtas before we put it to the people. This would enable the people to know more accurately what they are voting for or against. The Taoiseach has rejected the legislation. He called for consensus, but his idea of consensus is "Be reasonable, lads, do it my way". He took absolutely no notice of the views of other parties and he is going ahead with his own wording. As he and some of his Ministers have said "We did not find any wording as good from the other parties, let alone better".

The Taoiseach also said that if we do not get a yes vote in the referendum we will legislate within the context of the Supreme Court finding. I find that comment rather contradictory. In other words, he is threatening the people by saying that if they do not vote yes for a little abortion he will legislate for more abortion. That is an insult to the people of Ireland, especially the women.

The ambiguity created by this wording will be a medical nightmare. I will quote from an article by Dr. Fiona Bradley, spokeswoman for Doctors for Freedom of Information, who stated:

Mr. Reynolds has stated that clarifying legislation will not be undertaken by his Government. Given what happened after the 1983 amendment, this does not provide much comfort to doctors, who will find themselves interpreting the Constitution as part of their work.

When the Government announced the wording for the part of the referendum dealing with the "substantive issue" there was considerable confusion as to its meaning. Already we have seen individual members of Government disagreeing. Many politicians are happy to hand over the workings of the amendment to doctors, so that they can avoid difficult decisions themselves.

We have also seen considerable disagreement in the medical profession. Some doctors maintain that there are absolutely no medical grounds for abortion. Others believe that there is a small number of women for whom abortion is necessary as part of their treatment.

Later in the article she states:

If the Government referendum is passed, and clarifying legislation is not enacted, doctors will continue to be confused and unclear. The Medical Council will provide guidelines, but these will not have been tested in the courts. Doctors who find themselves working in legal grey areas will retreat to protect themselves, [given the nature of litigation.]

Secondly, given the inability of doctors to agree on whether abortion constitutes necessary medical treatment, and the previous involvement of anti-abortion groups in legal action, it seems inevitable that the interpretation of the proposed amendment would occur in courts. Dr. Cormac MacNamara, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, has stated that this is his view.

The Government has said that if the referendum on the "substantive issue" is defeated, it will legislate for the Supreme Court judgment in the X case. As a doctor, I will be voting against the Government wording on the "substantive issue", as I believe it will leave doctors exposed to litigation and unclear about what to do in difficult situations.

Members of the Government cannot agree on what the wording means, doctors cannot agree what it means and, inevitably, it will be left to the doctors to interpret the Constitution as Senator Norris said, with the Constitution in one hand and the scalpel in the other.

The difficulty I have with the wording has to do with the inclusion of the health issue in the amendment. When does a threat to the health of a woman not become a threat to life? That has not been explained. Is not shortening a mother's lifespan due to ill-health in itself a threat to life? In the words of one senior counsel, and I quote:

It is utterly ludicrous and heartless to put these two concepts in opposition to each other. It suggests, in an extreme case, that an abortion is permissible to avoid the death of the mother, but not to prevent her being rendered grossly handicapped.

Such a grossly handicapped woman may well be the mother of a large family with young children to look after. As legislators how can we be so heartless that we can totally disregard the health of a mother and the welfare of her young children by making it illegal to do what doctors could, and did prior to 1983 to help the mother in the way they thought most appropriate? In other words, the drift of all the pro-life people in the past has been that we cannot trust the doctors and we cannot trust the legislators; therefore, we have to write it into the Constitution. I am satisfied that prior to 1983 our medical profession dealt with these matters in an ethical fashion in the best interests of their patients. Once we write it into the Constitution that they cannot do certain things for the health of the mother, we are there and then endangering the health of the mother because doctors will be afraid of litigation.

Fifty per cent of our population are women. They have suffered too much for too long at the hands of men and this is the ultimate insult. Our legislators in Government, predominantly men, are in effect telling women that their health and quality of their lives is of no significance. No farmer worth his salt would treat his breeding stock in the cavalier manner we are displaying in this amendment. Likewise, no husband or father that I know including I believe Members of the Oireachtas, would accept such a choice if it were at his own doorstep for his wife or daughter. They will not have to make that choice because if it happens to people who can afford it they will solve the problem elsewhere. However, if it happens to the poor who cannot afford to travel to get treatment, that is too bad. We seem to be legislating for someone else or as if it will never happen.

We are back to the 1983 position when the pro-life people said it would never happen, people would never be injuncted and stopped from travelling, but it did happen and it will happen again. Lives will be affected, and probably ruined, as a result of the constrictions we are putting on the medical profession and because of this I cannot support the amendment on the substantive issue. I strongly urge women, in particular, to vote against amending the Constitution in a manner which treats the health and quality of life of a pregnant women and mothers as of no significance.

I support the amendments on the right to travel and the right to information. Here I refer to the finding of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg this morning, where, again, the Government were found wanting and the taxpayer must pick up the bill. Admittedly, we are not legally bound to accept the findings of the Court of Human Rights; there is only moral pressure on us to do so. However, by paying the costs, as they did in a previous case, the Government are admitting some responsibility in the issue. Again, they will have to pay a substantial bill for mistakes made.

For a country which professes itself to be anti-abortion — and I believe we are — we seem to be displaying an inordinate amount of hypocrisy at a time when we have the highest abortion rate in the European Community. Our abortion rate is now roughly double that in Holland, where they have very liberal abortion legislation. What kind of society are we that we can say abortion is killing a baby and is wrong if carried out in Ireland, but is acceptable if it is carried out somewhere else? That is the ultimate hypocrisy.

Why are we not doing something about preventing many of these unwanted pregnancies? Why are we not doing something about sex education for our young people? Why are we not doing more about supporting unfortunate women and young girls faced with unwanted pregnancies? These are the issues we should be tackling if we really want to reduce or eliminate abortion, not writing something into the Constitution and then letting things go to pot. The figures in regard to the number of Irish women who travel to Britain to have abortions is probably much higher in reality. Those figures are based on addresses given in Ireland but I am confident that many women who go to Britain give addresses of friends there for fear of the matter being traced back home.

Amending the Constitution will do nothing to reduce or eliminate this appalling human tragedy which is all the more appalling when there are so many childless couples in Ireland today who cannot get children to adopt. The State and the Catholic Church must face up to this and study how other countries, such as Holland, manage to keep abortion figures low despite their very liberal abortion laws. We must be more honest about the situation and face up to the fact that this problem exists and will continue to exist unless we take action to reduce it. If we fail to tackle this problem now we will prove to the world at large that we are just hypocrites on this issue.

There are other factors about the referendum and the lack of the legislation that are of concern. We have no idea, for instance, from the Minister's speech, or elsewhere at what stage of pregnancy termination of the foetus can be allowed to protect the life of the mother. That is a matter of concern to me. There has been no mention of the victims of rape or incest. How inhuman can we become as a people? We are supposed to be Christians. I do not believe the Catholic Church would push our legislation to the point where people who are victims of rape could not have a pregnancy terminated. We must be more compassionate and give more help to the weak. However, the reality in our society is that the strong can look after themselves because they have the money to do so and we legislate to punish the poor. I wish to share my time, with Senator McDonald.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is that agreed? Agreed.

As a survivor of the 1983 campaign, the first thing that comes to mind is that curses are like chickens, they come home to roost. In 1983 the Fianna Fáil Party, for their own short term political reasons insisted on inserting Article 40.3.3º in the Constitution despite the clear warning from the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Noonan, and the then Attorney General, Peter Sutherland, that the wording was open to several unintended interpretations. The then Attorney General is on record as stating that one of those interpretations might open the way for the legislation on the termination of pregnancy in cases where such termination had not hitherto been lawful and that another interpretation could prevent the life of a mother being saved in instances where, under previous law, it was protected.

The matter of abortion has been badly handled. The Government have created doubt and confusion which will contribute to much unnecessary worry for expectant mothers in the future.

Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 1.30 p.m.

I welcome the Minister to the House and call on Senator McDonald, who has nine minutes left.

I believe all social and moral questions such as this should be handled in as unpolitical a fashion as possible. The easiest way to do that would be for all the parties to declare a free vote. Individual Members of the Oireachtas would have the option of deciding for themselves according to the dictates of their own consciences. It would take the political thrust out of it and avoid a certain amount of political shenanigans that might very well arise in questions of this type.

It is ironic that nine years after the Fianna Fáil Party pushed through the amendment in 1983 — from the Opposition benches, I might add — this year their own Attorney General and Minister for Justice should take steps which resulted in the introduction and possibility of abortion in this country. I do not consider that using the general terms of our Constitution is the best method to deal with serious moral and social issues of this type. In my experience what we require is detailed legislation. We require legislation to guarantee, protect and save the lives of mothers and as far as possible to protect the wellbeing of the unborn.

Personally, I am totally opposed to abortion on demand. I strongly hold the view that this country is the safest place in the world for mothers to have their babies. I recognise that there are dedicated obstetricians and gynaecologists who render valient and tremendous service in the hospitals and maternity homes in every part of this country. I have every confidence in the professional integrity of all these men and women. I would very much regret if there was anything included in our Constitution which would create doubts among them or make those professional people vulnerable, whether from an insurance point of view or otherwise. It is important that we should as far as possible strive to protect and conserve in this country the tremendously high standards of medical ethics and practice. We must protect the high regard that Irish people traditionally have had for life and the quality of life.

The Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution states that it shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother where there is an illness or disorder of the mother giving rise to real and substantial risk to her life, not being a risk of self-destruction. The only thing I would like to say about suicide is that it is the one area where there are hidden statistics. Right across the midlands this year there has been a frighteningly high incidence of suicide. I doubt very much, taking the experience of my own county, that a high percentage of those cases are recorded as suicide. We have a social issue that cannot be tackled because it is not even recorded as such. I would hope that we would be able to deal with the problems and to face up to the issues as far as possible.

I would concur with the Thirteenth Amendment — the freedom to travel. That question was fully debated in relation to Maastricht. It is just not practical in this day and age to have any restrictions on travel. I doubt if anybody would object to that amendment to the Constitution, which underlines the freedom Europeans have and which most people in the free world have.

There is a subsection in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution which reads:

...shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another State.

I hold the view that there should be freedom of information. I would also like to see more enlightened education. I do not think this on its own, as an amendment to the Constitution, is sufficient. We require legislation to control and monitor this service. All the counselling available should certainly be non-directive. In addition to advice, sufficient material benefit ought to be provided to enable pregnant women to accept and act on the advice they receive from responsible sources. It is not sufficient to give advice to people who are in difficulties. We must provide, through legislation some material benefit or social welfare benefit to ensure that they can follow through on the decision they make. Hopefully, that decision would be one which would protect the life of the unborn.

In conclusion, at the risk of repeating myself I wish to say that I abominate the whole idea of abortion. I would never support the repeal of any legislation which forbids it. I deplore it. I would be happy to do anything useful that I could do to prevent people from resorting to abortion. In my experience from talking to people over the last number of weeks since this discussion arose, very few people in the country — and no one whom I have met — have said that they are in favour of abortion. We want to allay the fears of the population so that the mothers of this country will be able to have their babies in safety and security with top class professional service, as we have always had. I regret that the whole question is reduced to something less than a political slagging match. On the streets people seem to go overboard, by means fair or foul, to have their way-out views accepted, whether they be far left or far right.

This is an important debate. Each of us approaches this from different points of view and from a different philosophical basis and, perhaps, even from different moral principles. At the beginning I would like to say where I stand. I want to do so by quoting from the homily of Pope John Paul II at the Mass for the People of God in Limerick on 1 October 1979. He said:

And so I say to all: Have an absolute and holy respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of its conception. Abortion is one of the abominable crimes. To attack unborn life at any moment from its conception is to undermine the whole moral order which is the true guardian of the wellbeing of man. The defence of the absolute inviolability of unborn life is part of the defence of human rights and human dignity. May Ireland never weaken in her witness before Europe and before the whole world to the dignity and sacredness of all human life from conception until death.

These are the words that inspire me and guide me in this debate generally. I am not talking about the debate in the House but the debate in the wider community to which everybody is in some form or another contributing.

I am saddened by the fact that we have again to speak about abortion in this House. We are faced with this discussion. If it were not for the most peculiar of decisions by the Supreme Court — and I am being as charitable as possible — in the so-called X case we would not be here discussing this and trying to stop abortion becoming available in Ireland. That decision in one fell swoop not only negated the democratically expressed wishes of the people in the 1983 referendum but also gave us at the same time one of the most liberal abortion regimes anywhere in the world. Thanks be to God, we now have a chance to reverse this decision — perhaps not as tightly as I would like but nevertheless to reverse it with regard to the suicidal claim, which I think should be reversed. The problem for me as for most other people is: how do you protect the life of the unborn while at the same time protecting the life of the mother of the unborn? How can one defend an absolute philosophical position while at the same time reaching in a compassionate and caring manner to the mother who does not want to give birth to the child in her womb?

I believe there are very few women who go to obtain an abortion without giving the matter a great deal of thought. There are very few women who willingly destroy the life in their wombs without agonising over the decision. It behoves us to be compassionate in our attitude to women who have had an abortion for whatever reason. We must try to understand their motivtion and what led them to that decision. We must try to understand the lack of support, the pain and the loneliness. But we must never ever excuse the direct taking of human life.

In the last couple of weeks, like most people here, I have spoken to doctors, lawyers and theologians. I get two completely conflicting messages at times. I have listened in vain for guidance from the elders of my Church. Where do I look for advice? I look to the Minister and the Government. I accept that the Government are sincere in their desire not to provide for abortion in this country. I am particularly impressed by the Minister for Justice. I know him personally and I am confident of his sincerity in this matter.

I have a number of questions on various aspects of these referenda. In relation to the freedom to travel, does that mean that a father has absolutely no right whatsoever to stop his wife, the mother of his child, leaving the country to have an abortion, no matter what month it is if she declares she is going to do it. It is just a question I pose. Maybe the father should not have any rights; I do not know. There is another question I would like an answer to. If, say, a young girl becomes pregnant by her boyfriend and the parents of that boyfriend decide to pay for an abortion, can the parents of that minor prohibit her from going? I would like to have an answer to that.

I also have some grave reservations about inserting into our Constitution the whole concept of termination. It is a very cold, clear clinical word. I do not like it. I am assured that it is necessary and I have to take these assurances. In Article 40.3.3º we write about protecting the life of the unborn and then a few sentences later we are going to say when we may terminate this life.

No one I know objects to the indirect abortion that occurs when a mother avails of treatment for a life-threatening illness, the indirect effect of which is the death of the foetus. I wonder will this change? I hope it will not. Some of the pro-life people have said that this amendment, if passed, would lead to widespread abortion. I look at what the Minister said in his speech:

There is no warrant whatsoever for any suggestion that the amendment will open the door to abortion. It is most emphatically not an abortion amendment. Far from making the law concerning abortion more permissive, as some people are wrongly suggesting, the amendment will have exactly the opposite effect. It will prohibit abortion in circumstances where it is now permitted without disturbing existing medical practice and without putting mothers' lives at risk.

Those are two important features, "without disturbing existing medical practice and without putting mothers' lives at risk". The Minister continued:

We are not prepared to take any chances where the life of the mother is at stake and we want to ensure the maximum possible protection of the right to life of the unborn child consistent with that.

With regard to current medical practice, I quote from a letter which I think has been used already by some other speakers. One of the people who signed it is a lady I know well and for whom I have great respect, Patricia Treacy. She is Professor of Psychiatry at UCD and in the Mater Hospital. Let me quote the words of Justice Hederman in the X case when he said:

It is difficult to see how any operation, the sole purpose of which is to save the life of the mother, could be regarded as a direct killing of the foetus if the unavoidable and inevitable consequences of the efforts to save the mother's life leads to the death of the foetus, but the means employed must not go beyond what is strictly necessary.

The signatories of this letter say: "This is what we see the proposed wording permitting, no more and no less." If it is no more and no less than that then I could support it, but I have a question here. Heart disease normally constitutes a real and substantial risk to life. In surveys of all live births, in two Dublin hospitals mothers in 803 cases out of 264,414 live births had heart disease and of these four died. In none of these cases would an induced abortion have affected the outcome. If this Bill passes — and I would like the Minister to answer this — would those 803 babies have been aborted if this current proposal comes into law?

I would like to know if the 1986 Act remains in place. It probably does and I hope it does. Senator Ó Cuív mentioned that there might be loopholes in this legislation and that some doctors might abuse it. There are unscrupulous doctors, just as there are unscrupulous politicians. Will legislation be enacted to make sure that they do not misuse the legislation? I know, as well as you do, that no matter what we put into the Constitution these days it will be challenged by the courts.

I would like to put a point to the Minister and I hope it is not out of place to do so here. In recent times there has been a tendency for the courts to legislate, there has been a tendency for the blurring of roles between the Legislature, the Judiciary and, indeed, the Presidency. This needs to be clarified and the Minister for Justice is the man to do it. I know that whatever we put in will be challenged. This fight is not over by any means. People have continually said that the 1983 Act did not do anything. Of course, it did. It kept abortion away for nine years.

In the domestic jurisdiction.

Yes. This may keep it away for another nine years or maybe five, or even one year, but if it protects one life then it is better than nothing.

Listening to some of the pro-choice people in recent times, I wonder if they really know what they are saying. They seem to disregard the foetus, that it means nothing. I am not talking about people in the House, but I have heard people saying that a foetus amounts to nothing and that we can really discard it or destroy it. I can imagine some of these people, if they happened to be around when the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary that she had conceived of the Holy Ghost, they would probably tell her to have an abortion because of the great psychological trauma of giving birth to the saviour.

I hope we are doing the right thing. Many people criticised the 1983 wording. It seemed perfect enough at the time until the Supreme Court got hold of it. This wording is probably all right now, also. I hope the Supreme Court does not get a hold of it too quickly.

About a week.

Maybe. Perhaps you will be taking the action this time. I do not know.


The Government have done their best. No wording is perfect. No wording will go unchallenged, but the intention is the correct one. The intention is a sincere one, to protect life rather than destroy it. I hope we are doing the right thing, and I pray to God we are.

The question of the right to travel in the proposed referendum is the least controversial and is accepted as a basic right. I do not think anyone questions that. There may be a fringe group of people involved in attempting to thwart the right to travel, but I am not aware of it having any measurable kind of support. If we are honest and logical about this, I see no option but to provide the right to travel. We have to accept that the implication of this for anyone with more than a couple of hundred pounds in their pocket is, in fact, abortion on demand. That, in essence, is what exists for many people in this country at the moment.

We think, by putting a set of words into our Constitution and by making grandiose speeches in the Houses of the Oireachtas and in various fora, that in some way we can escape the horrible reality that approximately 5,000 young women leave this country every year for abortions. That is the backdrop to this debate and it is something that we cannot avoid. While I would not for one moment suggest we can do anything about the right to travel we must accept that that is the consequence of it. That is what has been happening. Except for a very small group of people, we have abortion on demand in this country because of that and this raises fundamental questions.

One question it raises is the whole issue of the support system we have for unmarried mothers. It also raises questions about the approach we have to sex education in our schools, our approach to unmarried mothers, our approach to family planning in general and to the whole issue of sexuality. We cannot escape the fundamental truth that when we allow the right to travel, as we must, we allow access to abortion for an increasing number of people.

The tragic reality is that in the midst of all the talk over the past ten years about abortion people have made very lonely trips to England. They have had abortions without counselling or back-up services, and often without any human contact on the way over and back. They have been involved in a very tragic, cruel odyssey of their own. For that reason we have to look critically at our performance in relation to support systems for unmarried mothers. We must accept that all evidence at the moment shows that now many young women do not wish to have their children adopted. That brings further into sharp focus how we support unmarried mothers and single parent families.

The amendment on the right to information raises fundamental questions. This brings into focus very sharply the objection of my party to the method being used in the handling of this referendum. Even this morning we were very disturbed that the Leader of the House did not find it possible to delay today's debate until there was an in-depth analysis of the implications of the European Court judgment in relation to the Well Woman Centre and the others who have sought a change on the information issue. The information section brings into focus the Fine Gael position very sharply because it is not clear, from the Minister's remarks in the House yesterday, what kind of information he proposes to make available, who will provide the information, if the information will be directional or non-directional, if the information will be limited, in what form the information will be available, if the information will be a counselling service. The thrust of the Minister's argument yesterday was that his personal aspiration would be that the information would be in a counselling form.

With this referendum we should have had a legislative programme that would make it clear to the two Houses of the Oireachtas and to the voter what is meant by information in this case. I do not think that has been made clear, and that is regrettable. I am asking again for specific legislative proposals on information because there is grave doubt here. The right to travel is straightforward, unlike the information issued and we have not had a clear position from the Government on this. I do not think that the Minister's speech yesterday makes the situation any more clear than it has been already.

That takes us to the substantive issue. Before we go into detail, we must ask the following questions: how much effort has been made to arrive at consensus, and how did this issue arise in the first place? We must cast our minds back to the very unfortunate events of the early eighties when it was agreed to hold what was clearly, in retrospect, an unnecessary referendum. It is sad that that occasion was used by a number of people in an unfortunate way — they used it for short term political gain and were not prepared to listen to the warnings of people like Deputy Michael Noonan, the then Attroney General, Peter Sutherland and others who made clear that that wording would ultimately, prove defective.

That is the background to these Bills. The tragedy makes it doubly unfortunate that, on this occasion, more effort was not made to arrive at a consensus. I am not convinced the Government made an adequate attempt to arrive at consensus on this issue. The consultative process should have taken weeks and there should have been an exchange of papers between the negotiating parties. It would have been in the best interests of the country if we had arrived at consensus and that would have reflected well on the main player. The country would have been grateful.

People ask me why there is not consensus on this issue and why we do not get this issue clearly and quickly dealt with and have a legislative programme in place. People are concerned that we might be missing the real agenda, unemployment. There is not a tangible legislative programme being brought before either House to deal with the jobs crisis. Many people feel cynical that the Oireachtas has spent too much time debating abortion when we have this very serious problem. People are acutely aware that tragically, abortions continue apace, because they are available in places as close as Liverpool. An adequate attempt to arrive at consensus was not made and it will ultimately make the people much more cynical.

Recent empirical findings by IMS and others would indicate that people are very cynical about politics at the moment. The failure to go through a proper process of exchanging position papers, of discussion, of arriving at a consensus between the main parties on this, will not heighten people's respect for the political process. My party leader made a very genuine attempt to arrive at consensus and it is unfortunate that this has not been achieved. It is unfortunate that a legislative programme showing what is meant by information, is not available.

When we look at the substantive issue we have to accept that a large and very distinguished body of obstetricians wrote recently to The Irish Times indicating their worry and concern with the failure to include the health of the mother as a ground for termination of pregnancy. These obstetricians were concerned about cardiac disease and a number of other areas which they specified. I want the Minister to respond specifically to those concerns which were raised recently by leading medical personnel.

The substantive issue without a legislative programme makes for a high level of confusion. There has to be a difficulty with the wording when it has aroused the opposition of extremes. That, underlines the confusion. My party are not convinced that the wording was given sufficient analysis or scrutiny. We think that alongside the wording there was a need for legislation, also that the wording would need to be submitted to the courts for decision, that it would need to be put in legislative form and referred back by the President to avoid going back to the courts and to the drawing board within a short period. Because of the level of disputation that surrounds the wording of the substantive issue at the moment, it is reasonable to contend that we will be back in the courts, and we will be back here, discussing it within a relatively short period, that is very serious.

Looking at the wording it is not clear to me — and it is not clear to most people — what exactly are the circumstances that would make the termination of a pregnancy legitimate. That is a very serious matter. Many medical people will feel inhibited and will feel that they would need to have a team of lawyers working with them.

It is clear now, in retrospect, that the 1861 legislation was perfectly adequate and that the hysteria which broke out in the early 1980s here was most unfortunate. It obviously had its origins in America where social conditions are very different. The matter of abortion was safe in the hands of an Irish Legislature because there was no wish then in either House of the Oireachtas to permit abortion and there is no wish now. While the events of the early 1980s were unfortunate, much could have been done to rectify matters and to arrive at a consensus on this occasion. However, that opportunity was lost.

In no circumstances does any woman, or indeed any couple, take a decision lightly or in any sense consider termination of pregnancy a desirable option. That point should not be lost in the midst of this debate. One would get the impression listening to some radio reports on the matter recently that it was almost a fun and games business or that it was attractive for a minority of women to go for a termination of pregnancy. It is the last conceivable option any woman would consider.

If we had a proper counselling service, a proper support system, most women would opt not to have an abortion. There is no way we can escape the fact that in essence we have abortion on demand because it has been available outside this country. That is the situation in reality.

The kind of reasons that have driven women out of this country have been loneliness, isolation, a feeling that there was no back-up service for them while, in fact, in many cases help would probably have been available had they sought it. The feeling that they were on their own, that society was against them, that it was socially unacceptable, and a whole range of other things, drove them into a tragic cul-de-sac and ultimately led to their lonely journey to Liverpool or Holyhead. It is important that that point be made on behalf of women.

One would get the impression from some of the debate on this matter that there were large sections of the medical profession seeking abortion on demand. The medical profession put a supreme value on life and it is important that should be put on the record. We have to acknowledge, too, in this debate how our gynaecologists have operated. It is a point that is often made by people who describe themselves as "pro-life". I have to say that it is very chauvinistic for anyone to take upon themselves the term "pro-life". Most people, with the exception of a very small minority of people involved in political violence, can reasonably call themselves pro-life. I do not think it is something that resides in one particular group.

The major argument about the substantive issue is that there is not sufficient clarity surrounding it. It should be dealt with in a legislative framework, and, if required, tested by the courts. There should have been a consultative process engaged in and we should have done everything on this occasion to avoid returning to the Houses of the Oireachtas with a similar discussion in the future. There is also a lack of clarity surrounding the matter of information. Travel is a straightforward issue and we must be prepared to face up to the reality that the women who are going to avail of that travel need a support system.

We must express our admiration at the way the medical profession acted during the years — this is a point being made by pro-life people in relation to what was the status quo in a range of hospitals, including Holles Street Hospital. I am aware of this because my own wife spent a large part of her working career in that hospital. I know that in that hospital, and in a number of the major hospitals in this city and in the country, doctors have acted with great propriety and have always put the welfare of women first. It is only right that that would go on record.

It is unfortunate that this matter has been rushed in the way it has. It is not being handled properly and I urge the Minister to think about the approach to it and take on board some of our concerns in this area.

I welcome the Minister to the House and I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this important matter. It is good that this evening we will have spent two full days debating the Second Stage of this Bill. Indeed, it can be said it has been a debating matter since possibly 1981.

The Irish people are pro-life, they are anti-abortion. We have a small group who would say they are pro-choice but, by and large, whether urban or rural, the Irish people are pro-life and anti-abortion. I subscribe to that and my party holds the same view. I would find it difficult to be a member of a party that did not hold that stance. I am heartened by the decision of my party to proceed in the manner we are proceeding at the moment.

The Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, has protected the unborn in this State for the past 131 years. It is worth mentioning here today that the people who framed that Act 131 years ago did not have the modern medical knowledge that is available today. They did not have the technology but they gave us legislation which stood the test of time and indeed could have stood it right through to today. That legislation prohibits unlawful abortion. Were they so farseeing — or am I reading this incorrectly? — that they in their time saw the need to deal with medical situations where the life of the mother was threatened and passed legislation which gave the opportunity to the medical profession to deal with life threatening situations? I do not think we can draw any other conclusion from that Act.

People say that that would have been fine, that it should have been left there, that we should not have bothered with the 1983 amendment and that everything would have rolled along rosy and cosy. I totally disagree with that. I believe the 1983 decision was a most important one. The debate we are having today on a further amendment to the Constitution would not be taking place, nor would the Irish people have the opportunity of deciding on it, if the 1983 referendum had not taken place. Is it not possible that some other case would have been taken to the Supreme Court claiming that the 1861 Act in some way interfered with some constitutional rights of an individual? Could we not have had a decision — perhaps not exactly what came out of the X case based on the 1983 amendment — that would have forced the Oirechtas to bring in further legislation? We would have been obliged to do so; but now because of the 1983 amendment we have an alternative. Thank God, we have a Constitution, provided for us by Eamon de Valera in 1937. We are one of the few democratic countries in Europe that has a written Constitution and it is proven now that it is a great instrument to have. In 1983 our people decided that they would take it into their own hands to set down in the Constitution the equal right to life of the unborn and of the mother. That is being challenged. That is the democratic process. A new amendment may be challenged next year, in five years' time or whenever. But the people can still have a say after that again. Had that amendment not been there, would the Irish people be given any opportunity today in a referendum?

A Constitution is very much the saviour and the protector of the individual. In the X case suicide came to the fore. What I find disturbing about the X case is that I believe it was a psychologist who gave the medical evidence. If it had been a murder case that was before the Supreme Court and if there had been a question of sanity or insanity, would a psychologist's evidence have been taken? Would it not have been a consultant psychiatrist, one of the top psychiatrists in the country, who would have to give evidence? I believe the Supreme Court decision was flawed. It is appropriate that the Irish people redress that and I am delighted that the Irish Government have decided to give them that opportunity.

People say that this matter should be dealt with by legislation rather than by an amendment. I disagree with that. It is very important that the Irish people be given the opportunity to deal with this matter. They spoke nine years ago. The Supreme Court have spoken against them. It is now time that the Irish people were allowed to speak again, and I have no doubt which way they will speak. I believe the substantive issue will get an overwhelming yes from the Irish people, because included in that amendment is protection for the unborn and also protection for the life of the mother. A fair balance is being struck. The alternative for the unborn is not a good one, because the alternative is legislation based on the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, and we all know what that is. That, as for as I am concerned, is abortion on demand.

People make the point that there should not be a distinction between the health and the life of the mother. The Bourne case in England opened the door for abortion on demand in that country. It is appropriate that the life rather than the health be included in the amendment. The Irish people have great sympathy with the thousands of young and maybe not so young girls who go across to England for abortions. None of them goes there without a lot of trauma, a lot of soul-searching and indeed, in many cases, a lot of remorse later.

The whole question of teenage pregnancy and of our approach to moral values and standards is one that should be debated openly. For too long it was inappropriate in Ireland to discuss sex and sexual matters openly and frankly in schools, from the pulpit, on television or whatever. I do not think that is the best approach. By having open and frank discussion one gets a clear, balanced and, hopefully, a right concept of what is involved, but if one has behind the scenes, hidden and censored debate then the wrong interpretations and views may emerge and wrong opinions may be formed by young people. We have a responsibility to discuss matters moral, social, sexual and religious in an open and frank manner. Many problems associated with teenage pregnancy in recent times can be attributed to our failure to engage in honest debate.

These referenda cover three matters, the most important of which returns the substantive issue of protection of the unborn to the electorate. It would be inappropriate for the Government to attempt to legislate on this matter. The Irish people will respond to what the Government have offered with a resounding yes to the substantive issue.

Travel is a civil right. I do not mean that it is all right for people to travel to England for abortions but not to have them here. I do not want to see abortion in England either but, unfortunately, I cannot prevent it there. We could be more helpful to young pregnant women and to those who might become pregnant if we encouraged frankness of discussion.

I am not clear on the information amendment. I am not sure of what is proposed in this matter other than that information will be available about services lawfully available outside this State. I am opposed to widespread advertising of abortion clinics for referrals or whatever in this State and I do not believe that that is provided for in this amendment. I hope the matter of information will be dealt with by the woman involved and her doctor.

I compliment our medical profession who have lived with the 1861 Act, and with the 1983 Amendment of the Constitution. From comments I have heard and from letters I have read in the papers, they appear to be in a position to deal adequately with the wording of the referenda. An indication was given in June by the Taoiseach that the X case would be dealt with in the autumn — it will be dealt with in December — and that commitment has been honoured.

I am glad that not alone are the information and travel issues being dealt with by referendum but the substantive issue as well. When many of us said that the Government would come forward with a referendum on the three matters, there were many who did not believe us and who said that we were making those statements to ensure a positive response to the Maastricht poll. Time has proven that the Taoiseach and Government have honoured their word and they now offer the people a framework of words for insertion into the Constitution that will protect the life of the mother and of the unborn child. Commitments given are being honoured and I hope we will have a resounding yes to the three referenda.

I also hope it will be many years before this legislation is challenged again because, Irish people are pro-life and anti-abortion. Regardless of the Supreme Court, Irish people are entitled to their opportunity to vote on this issue and I have no doubt that they will respond positively. I commend the legislation to the House and look forward to 3 December when the Irish people will express again their views on this matter.

I wish to divide my time with Senator Ó Foighil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I consider this legislation which will be put before the people in three referenda on 3 December to be deeply flawed. The Minister's contribution justifying various aspects of the right to travel, freedom of information and the substantive issue on abortion strikes me as dishonest and contradictory.

On one hand, the Minister says he is against abortion and is not introducing it; on the other hand, he makes provision in this legislation for abortion in certain life threatening situations. He rejects the termination of pregnancy, as he euphemistically puts it, in cases of suicide. The arguments used in both cases are exactly the same.

Arguing to allow for termination of a pregnancy in certain life threatening situations, he says that the Constitution must make provision for what may be a once in million or a once in ten million contingency, yet, he ignores that contingency when it is a question of a threat to the mother's health.

The Minister makes an arbitrary distinction between threats to the health and to the life of the mother. A serious threat to her health or a shortening of her life is not considered in the same terms as a threat to her life. The referendum treats women as breeding machines when it makes a fertilised ovum the moral equivalent of a woman. The legislation is most offensive to women.

There is a bizarre section on the right to travel as though women who constitute 51 per cent of the population should, unlike men, have restrictions placed on their right to travel. This is totally contrary to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and to the principles of unity we recently espoused in the Maastricht referendum.

In relation to freedom of information the European Court today has dealt with this matter and decided that freedom of information for pregnant women is a human right. That decision indicates that an obstacle or limitation in this matter is an infringement of the Convention on Human Rights. This section is now irrelevant because of that decision and I have no doubt that the right to travel, if taken to the Court of Human Rights would have been dealt with similarly. Two of these amendments are now irrelevant in terms of the European Court on Human Rights.

It is hypocritical to discuss the right of pregnant women to travel and to information. Women go abroad for abortions and in those cases we turn a blind eye. These two proposed referenda facilitate that long-standing hypocritical approach.

We should not go ahead with this constitutional amendment. We should concern ourselves with the legislation we should have enacted long before the constitutional amendment of 1983. Legislators have been neglectful in this matter and, once again, we are trying to fix this issue in a tablet of stone, as we thought had been done with the Eighth Amendment of 1983 until the Supreme Court found it was not in accordance with the intention of many of its proponents. The pro-life people wanted a constitutional blanket statement on everything to do with pregnancy. We are likely to commit the same error in this complex issue which can only be dealt with by legislation. There will be more appeals to the Supreme Court, there will be new interpretations, and we will find ourselves again in the same unhappy mess with further demands for a constitutional referendum.

We should stop taking the cowardly course and deal with the matter by legislation. In relation to the right to travel under the Thirteenth Amendment, we have the bizarre situation where under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution women were perceived by three of the five Supreme Court judges as in danger of injunctions being taken against them in regard to travelling out of the country should they be pregnant if it might be construed that they were travelling abroad for an abortion.

The right to travel has always been a fundamental right, as has freedom of expression. Unlimited capacity to travel and to information is enjoyed by 49 per cent of the population of this country, namely, men, but because of the 1983 constitutional amendment that freedom was reduced in the case of women creating the spectre of moral police at harbours and airports inquiring why women were leaving the country. That is why we are now faced with these amendments. Protocol 17 which was introduced to tidy up the situation after the Maastricht Treaty and to ensure that the European Court could not interfere with our legislation has, if anything, compounded the problem. We are in a pickle at present.

We passed the Maastricht Treaty which entitles all citizens to travel within the Community and then we put forward a Protocol in order to limit freedom of travel. That is the kind of tangle the previous constitutional amendment has got us into and that present constitutional amendments will intensify. It highlights the dangers of dealing with a complex issue by a blanket constitutional amendment of a few lines and the consequences of neglecting to produce the necessary legislative provisions. If the European Court were to have a look at this proposal, at the provision in Article 40.3.3º and the provision in Protocol 17 on the application of Article 40.3.3º, it would be likely to decide on travel as it has decided in the information case taken by the Well-woman Centre and Open Door Counselling. It would be regarded as an infringement of basic human rights. The travel amendment is bizarre and now is irrelevant

On the question of freedom of information on services legally available in another state, the decision taken by the European Court was that there is an entitlement under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom of expression and freedom to impart and disseminate information. That decision now makes the present wording of the referendum irrelevant. Why are we passing a constitutional referendum that has been declared invalid by the European Court and the provisions of which no longer pertain under Article 40.3.3º? We are simply going through the motions of something that has been clarified by the European Court. The wording of the Fourteenth Amendment indicates that the Government are going to provide for the right to freedom within conditions to be laid down by law.

We wish the Government had put forward the proposed legislation indicating what restrictions and limitations will apply to freedom of information. They will now have to take into consideration the European Court decision and may find that they had originally conceived of access to information on more restricted grounds than are now permissible. We do not have an opportunity of seeing that so in a sense we have to vote for a pig in a poke.

In the past when we had no freedom of counselling or information terror stricken young women and girls went on sad journeys to Britain uninformed. I have no doubt that many abortions took place because of lack of information and counselling. We created confusion by not providing for information leaving young pregnant women in ignorance.

The Twelfth Amendment is a hotch potch amendment expressed by a double negative. It states: "It shall be unlawful to terminate the life of an unborn unless such termination is necessary to save the life, as distinct from the health."

Termination of pregnancy may be considered for real and substantial risk to the life of the mother but not for a risk of self-destruction. A double negative is hardly appropriate in a constitutional amendment. The words "self-destruction" are bizzare and weird science fiction type wording hardly appropriate for the Constitution. Everybody in this House is opposed to abortion but there are certain instances when difficult decisions must be taken. We have seen the difficulty of the case where a young girl was allegedly raped and where the situation would have been compounded if she had been obliged to bear the child. She suffered a criminal attack and was then almost mandated to bear that child and to live with the situation. These are hard decisions in relation to incest and life threatening factors such as suicide.

The proper approach here would be to drop the referendum entirely. Considering that the European Court of Human rights has already decided on one of the elements what is now required there is legislation. Legislation is the proper method for the substantive issue also. The wording of the Twelfth Amendment as it stands is confusing and imprecise. It employs phrases like "necessary to save the life" as distinct from the health of the mother, illness, disorder, a real and substantial risk to her life, which present difficulties of determination. We could make it less negative in the first instance by removing "as distinct from the health" and also bring it into line with the interpretation of the Supreme Court by removing "not being a risk of self-destruction".

This constitutional crisis is an argument for greater participation by women in this House. All the women who discussed the issue in both Houses argued against the wording on the grounds that, as women, they found it unsatisfactory. If we had a proportionate number of the female population in both Houses, more than 50 per cent, we would not be discussing these proposals in this manner.

Ba mhaith liom aird an Tí a dhíriú ar Alt 25.6 den Bhunreacht áit a deir sé:

I gcás téacs Gaeilge agus téacs Sacs-Bhéarla de dhlí a chur isteach ina hiris faoin alt seo agus gan an dá théacs sin a bheith de réir a chéile, is ag an téacs Gaeilge a bheidh an forlámhas.

Baineann an fo-alt thuas leis an leasú bunreachtúil os ár gcomhair inniu. Tá sé tábhachtach go dtabharfadh baill an Oireachtais agus an pobal aird speisialta ar an dtéacs Gaeilge.

Nuair atá glactha leis an leasú seo, is é an téacs Gaeilge a bhéas faoi scrúdú géar ag an gCúirt Uachtarach má bhíonn achomharc ann in aghaidh an leasaithe. Beidh an Chúirt ag iarraidh a chinntiú cén míniú atá leis an téacs Gaeilge. Muna socráitear an cheist seo sula dtéann an Bille seo tríd an Oireachtas, beidh breithimh na hArdchúirte ag iarraidh a dhéanamh amach cad a bhí i gceist ag an Aistritheoir Oifigiúil nuair a aistríodh an focal "terminate" ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge.

Creidim go mbeidh cúrsaí dlí ann amach anseo faoi na leasuithe seo nuair a chuirfear an téacs Gaeilge faoi dhianscrúdú. Is é "forceannadh" atá sa Bhille seo mar aistrúichan ar "terminate", agus níl "forceannadh" cruinn ceart nó soiléir. Beidh trioblóid ann nuair a théann sé go dtí an Chuirt Uachtarach mar beidh ar na breithimh ansin dul siar go dtí an téacs Gaeilge má tá difríocht ann idir an dá théacs.

Tá iarracht á déanamh anseo chun aistriú oifigiúil a chur ar an focal "terminate", ach níl an focal "forceannadh" in usáid go forleathan nó go teoranta i measc Gaeilgeoirí na Galltachta nó na Gaeltachta. Focal a chum an tAistritheoir Oifigiúil atá againn anseo. Ní dóigh liom go dtugann an focal "forceannadh" brí cheart soiléir don leasú seo as Gaeilge. Níl sé soiléir sa chomhthéacs scríofa ná de réir aon cheann de chanúintí Gaeilge na tíre.

Tá trí chanúint sa tír, ceann ó thuaidh i nDún na nGall, ceann thiar i gConamara agus ceann ó dheas. Dá gcuirfeá ceist amach inniu ar Raidió na Gaeltachta, cad é an chiall atá leis an fhocal "foirceannadh", tá mé lánchinnte de nach dtuigfeadh oiread is duine amháin de na héisteoirí an focal sin. Más í an aidhm cruinneas a bheith i leasú Bunreachta ní mór an fhoclaíocht bheith intuigthe ag an bpobal. Sin é an fáth go gceapaimse go bhfuil dearmad mór á dhéanamh anseo mar, am éigin amach anseo, beidh breithiúna na hArdchúirte agus na Cúirte Uachtaraí ag déanamh géarscrúdú ar an fhocal "foirceannadh". O thaobh chúrsaí dlí de ceapaim go mbeidh ábhar faidhbe ann. Níl aon deis ann inniu ná amárach rud ar bith a dhéanamh faoi seo, agus ní thabharfar aon aird ar a bhfuil ráite agam maidir leis an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an fhoclaíocht seo, go dtí go mbeidh sé faoi chaibidil san Ardchúirt.

Thug mé éisteacht le dhá lá anuas do na díospóireachtaí uilig sa Teach seo chun a thuilleadh eolais a chruinniú le cuidiú liom mo dhualgais mar ionadaí poiblí a chomhlíonadh. Bímid go léir ag foghlaim óna chéile, ní lia duine ná tuairim agus tá an-éagsúlacht sna tuairimí atá nochta ag cainteoirí faoi cheist seo an ghinmhillte. Tá tuairimí atá á nochtadh anseo chomh héagsúil sin agus chomh fada sin óna chéile nach dóigh liom go mbeimid in ann cothromaíocht ná tuiscint cheart a bhaint amach faoin gceist seo. De réir mar atá daoine ag tógáil páirte sa díospóireacht seo, tá sé soiléir go bhfuil an éiginnteacht ag dul i méad dá réir, in aghaidh na huaire. Más amhlaidh go bhfuil an bhrí a bhainimidne as an fhoclaíocht ag éirí níos doiléire agus níos dothuigthe, céard faoi ghnáthmhuintir na hÉireann a chaithfidh vótáil air seo i mí na Nollag? Cén chaoi a mbeimidne in ann a rá leis an bpobal, "glac lena bhfuilimid á mholadh daoibh" nuair nach bhfuilimid in ann comhaontú a bhaint amach faoi fhoclaíocht chuí.

Maidir liom féin, dá mbeadh cead mo chinn agam, bheadh claonadh agam le reachtaíocht, a chuirfeadh san áireamh nósmhaireacht inghlactha sheanbhunaithe na ndochtúirí. Sílim féin go mba chóir reachtaíocht a bheith ann i dtosach báire, ina mbeadh míniú soiléir ar na tosca faoina gceadófaí ginmhilleadh. Is ionadh liom nár chuir an Rialtas foclaíocht i gcomhthéacs reachtaíochta faoinár mbráid, sa dóigh is go bhféadfaimis agus an pobal an cheist go léir a phlé. Ansin, nuair a bheadh an reachtaíocht ann agus an scéal pléite ag an bpobal, d'fhéadfaí reifreann a chur ar siúl. Níl mé ag cur in aghaidh reifrinn — bíodh reifreann ann — ach d'fhéadfadh an reachtaíocht bheith ina soiléiriú agus ina réamhullmhúchán do reifreann.

I mo thuairimse, ceadófar ginmhilleadh faoi na coinníollacha nach bhfuil tacaíocht reachtaíochta an Rialtais ag dul leo. Má bhreathnaímid mórthimpeall orainn, ar na tíortha éagsúla agus a bhfuil tarlaithe iontu ó thaobh dhlithe ginmhillte de, ní bheidh aon chosaint air, dar liomsa.

I would like to remind the Senator that he has only a minute left.

Gabh mo leithscéal, shíl mé go raibh cúig nóiméad eile agam. Ar chaoi ar bith, más mar sin atá an scéal, níl dóthain ama againn chun an cheist a phlé. Ba mhaith liom a rá, áfach, nach bhfuil aon bhaint agam leis an eagraíocht Ar Son na Beatha, ach tá mé in aghaidh an ghinmhillte. Tá muintir na hÉireann in aghaidh an ghinmhillte, agus an Eaglais freisin. Ní fhéadfaimis sin a shéanadh. Mar gheall air sin, caithfimid uilig aird a thabhairt ar a bhfuil le rá ag an Eaglais lena mbainimid, is cuma cén Eaglais atá i gceist mar, i ndeireadh báire, is ceist mhoráltachta agus choinsiasa é. Beidh mise in aghaidh na leasuithe 12, 13, 14, mar atá siad scríofa, go dtí go dtuigfidh mé go baileach iad, agus go dtí go dtabharfar futhu trí reachtaíocht.

Níl mé ag iarraidh tromaíocht a dhéanamh ar dhaoine. Tá a thuairim féin ag chuile dhuine, agus is maith liom an chaoi ar láimhseáileadh an díospóireacht sa Teach seo ó thosaigh sé, agus an aird a tugadh do chainteoirí. Léiríonn sé sin an tábhacht a bhaineann leis ach, mar sin, i ndeireadh thiar, tá súil agam nach n-éireoidh leis an mBille seo nuair a chuirfear mar reifreann os comhair an phobail é.

Little did we think ten years ago that we would be here in this Chamber debating this very important and serious matter for the second time in that decade. It is unfortunate that it has happened like this. There are many things I could say regarding the decisions which have brought this matter to a head at this time. I do not think the Irish nation ever expected to be asked to decide for a second time in ten years whether or not they wanted abortion in this country. I feel very sad, and it is most unfortunate that in the legislation before us today they are not being offered that choice. With regard to the three referenda on which they are being asked to vote on 3 December, most people's minds will be clear on two of them; but on the third, which is referred to as the substantive matter, very many people are puzzled. Indeed, the vast majority of people to whom I have spoken about this matter since it was published agree that they do not have the choice between abortion or no abortion.

I am very surprised that this Govenment have left the situation like that. The nation is surprised and many are shocked to think that an Irish Government would take that choice from the Irish people, because leaving aside travel and information, no matter how they vote on this major issue they will be voting for abortions to take place in Ireland. It is a very sad day for most of us in this House to think we are putting through this legislation. There seems to be no give from the Government despite appeals from Opposition parties, individuals and organisations throughout the country. Many have suggested this is for political reasons. If that is the case we have reached a very serious low in Irish politics.

When the people voted in 1983 on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, as has been said here today, they thought it was a tablet of stone. They voted on that amendment with the full intention of ensuring that we should not have abortion in this country. However, the court have made a ruling. I do not know why they ruled the way they did; I am not going to go into that here today. But we have come from that situation to the situation we find ourselves in now. The Irish people voted overwhelmingly to reject abortion in 1983 and I believe that is how they still feel today, despite the bombarding that has gone on in the media — the press, radio and television — in the meantime.

We were one of the few areas in the world where abortion did not take place. When I hear that sentence I square my shoulders and hold my head high, because I believe that if we can keep it like that future generations will thank us. I believe if we bring in abortion in this referendum, future generations will curse us.

In 1983 I listened to and took part in that debate, as most of us here did. I listened to firm promises being made that when the referendum would be passed and the Constitution amended there would be a step up for family services in all areas. I was a supporter of the Government that gave those undertakings, but I am extremely disappointed in what I have seen in those last eight or nine years. There has been little or no family support, although it is something which we greatly need in this country. I am bitterly disappointed but I have not heard many contributions here seeking the family support that was promised to the people at the time of the 1983 referendum. It appears now that we do not even bother about it; we are not even going to make those promises on this occasion. People are being asked to vote for a certain level of abortion or a greater level of abortion.

We have not seen the outcome of this course of action yet. It is very hazy. I do not know what is going to happen if and when the substantive amendment is rejected, as I feel it will be. I am sure the people are wondering. It is a great pity the Taoiseach and the Government do not make some announcement as to what the position will be should the people reject the amendment being put before them. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Flynn, and the Fianna Fáil members of the Government have been getting the message from their own supporters in regard to their unease about voting for abortion at a certain level or abortion at a greater level. I would urge the Minister to discuss in Cabinet and to bring out in the open what measures he will take when this amendment is rejected. He should also discuss and bring out in the open what measures he has taken for family support.

We have a major problem in this country with women or young girls who become pregnant and who feel they have a problem on their hands. They have what they, or some, would term an unwanted pregnancy. I do not like the term "an unwanted child" because I believe there is no such thing in this world as an unwanted child. But they have what they believe is an unwanted pregnancy and they need counselling. They need the support of the community and of the various services that are available in the State, some of which have been run down, unfortunately.

I would like to see the Government take measures now to increase family support right across the board in every possible way because there was a time — and I hope it is still here — when the family and family life were dear to the Irish people. We live in a world where it would appear that the child has now become public enemy No. 1. Is that not a terrible statement? That is how it appears to me. Only this week, the international conference in Delhi of the 40th Anniversary Congress of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, received a report which, as can be seen on the headlines of yesterday's papers, stated that there are 11 million abortions a year. It is a staggering figure; it is three times our population.

I want to speak about a country far from here. Many people have dealt with the situations in France, Holland, Italy, Great Britain and America, but I am going to pick a country further afield, Korea, which was very much in the news about 25 years ago when there was a war there. Korea is not a Catholic country but the traditional Korean culture held the family in very high regard. That is why I have chosen this country. Korea is a Buddhist country. Thirty years ago, abortion was unheard of nor would it have been contemplated by families in Korea. Thirty years ago the Koreans thought their country would never see abortion. Buddhists respect all forms of life and the prohibition against the taking of life would have made abortion unthinkable at that time. In 1972, abortion was legalised under certain conditions up to three months after fertilisation, in fact, it is provided openly up to seven and eight months into the pregnancy whether the required conditions are necessary. There are now upwards of one million abortions a year in Korea. Nobody can point to the bishops or the Catholic Church in that instance. It was the Buddhist tradition to respect the family, family life, and life born and unborn. However, because of Government measures to legalise abortion on a limited scale in 1972 there were more than 1 million abortions up to six and seven months into pregnancies. A similar situation could develop here if we allow abortion into the country in any form.

A breakdown of those 11 million abortions which took place world-wide last year is extremely interesting. I do not want to bore this House with all the figures, but there were almost 200,000 in Great Britain, our neighbour, where abortion was introduced initially on a limited scale. There is no such thing as a limited scale, as a check of the figures in any country will show.

I believe it is never necessary to intentionally take the life of an unborn child, irrespective of the condition of the mother to be. Any ailment can be medically treated. If that aborts the child that is not a direct killing of the child in the mother's womb. That happens in this country. I am assured by the many senior members of the medical profession that no mother is neglected because she is pregnant. The first concern of any doctor is the life of the patient. When a pregnant woman comes to him he realises he has two lives to deal with but he treats the complaint. If that eventually aborts the child there is nothing on his conscience. No mother need suffer the lack of treatment because she is pregnant.

In Italy, where abortions were introduced on a limited scale, today one-third of all conceptions are reckoned to be aborted. There are 150,000 abortions in the world every day. While we speak, 6,300 children are aborted every hour, 100 per minute. In other words, many hundreds of children have been aborted since I began to speak here this afternoon. It is a frightening thought for any Government to legalise abortion in this country.

Professor Bernard Nathanson wrote Aborting America. He performed thousands of abortions over many years. He says now “I now regret this loss of life. I thought the abortions were right at the time. The errors of history are not recoverable. The lives cannot be retrieved.” Very few people in this country stand up and say they are advocating abortion. There has been a lot of shadow-boxing since the X case. Most people prefix their remarks by the words “I am pro-life”. It all depends on what they mean by pro-life. To me, to be pro-life is to respect all life, born or unborn. There are some among us who advocate abortion in certain circumstances, but abortion is the termination of a life whether we like it or not.

It might be no harm if people advocating abortion in certain circumstances, went to see the film "Silent Scream". Many people would not look at that film. People campaigning on the anti-abortion side have been showing photographs of aborted children, in recent times. We had people, even in this House, who screamed to high heaven because they saw some of those photographs. If those photographs were of seals in the North Sea being killed or bears at the North Pole being eliminated or terminated, they would look at them. I have here a horrible photograph of the naked body of one of the IRA victims where it was found on the edge of the Newtown Hamilton-Dundalk Road.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would like to point out to the Senator that he cannot display any material in the House.

I am looking at it. It appeared in all the newspapers and every Senator has seen it. Nobody complained. Many people ask why it should not be shown what the IRA are doing to our people. Why should we not show what abortion is doing to our unborn children? I do not know where the term "foetus" came from. Perhaps the use of the word "foetus" makes it easier for people to talk about abortion.

Senator Costello referred to the Eighth Amendment as a tablet of stone. I want to refer to something which might also be referred to as a tablet of stone, and that is sacred scripture. It never speaks of a foetus; that word is not used in the Bible. An unborn child is referred to as "an infant" or "an unborn child". When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary it states that the infant leaped in her womb, not the foetus leaped in her womb. Many people use the word "foetus" to make it easier for them to condone the murder of our unborn citizens.

I have a picture here of a girl who was aborted as a foetus in California 14 years ago. That girl is making a major contribution to life in the world today simply because she was retrieved from the hospital by a nurse who cared. Her name is Gianna Jessen and she has visited this country. She has visited many parts of the world and is making a major contribution by way of songwriting; singing and music.

How many people like her have been aborted? According to the report to the conference in Delhi, 11 million abortions take place each year. Are we losing our senses by advocating abortion here at any level? There is something very wrong and unnatural about killing one's own baby. If this was being done to the seals in the North Sea, the bears at the North Pole, or hares in coursing here, there would be an outcry. But to kill a baby in a woman's womb and take it out is acceptable. Hares do not do it to themselves, seals do not do it to themselves and bears do not do it to themselves. But human beings are doing it to themselves. I hope I will never see the day when abortion is legal here. Of course, children will be aborted, that happens by natural means and under medical treatment but I could not condone the deliberate killing of one life to save another, and I would hate to think it was done on my behalf.

Those calling for abortion in certain circumstances are discriminating against the unborn, each one of whom has a fundmental right to life, irrespective of the circumstances of conception. It is a grave injustice to innocent babies that a decision may be made allowing one to live and deciding that another does not have a right to life. Who can claim the right to decide whether I or anyone else should be born? If our mothers had decided to have an abortion in the nine months prior to our birth we would not be here to advocate anything.

We have reached a very sad day and a crossroads in our country. I hope and firmly believe that the people will demand the right to decide whether we have abortion here. They are not being given that right in any of these referenda and certainly not in the referendum on the substantive issue which will be put before them on 3 December. Will these referenda take place on 3 December? Is it significant that many Government speakers are absent for this important debate? Is it significant that I am speaking in a time slot that should have been allocated to a Government Senator? I estimate that only ten or 11 Government Senators have contributed to this debate since it started yesterday. Have the Government Senators been cut off, have they been told to withdraw? Are they doing so of their own free will? Is there a rumbling within the party that this amendment should not go forward?

Total nonsense.

I do not know that, may be, but——

The Senator should not be surmising.

——I do not think you can blame me for suggesting it. It is seldom a Fine Gael speaker gets a Government slot in this House and I got one today.

The Senator did not get a Government slot.

I got a Government slot; a Government Senator should now be addressing the House.

On a point of order, Senator McMahon did not get a Government slot here. He is waffling and we are tired listening to him.

Senator McMahon has a half a minute left and I would ask the Senator to speak through the Chair.

There are many things that could be said in this debate and if we were given two or three hours I am sure Senators on all sides could speak for that length of time. Having said that, I believe 30 mintues is sufficient. Many of the grey areas must be cleared up before the people vote on 3 December. I urge the Minister to give more attention to the family support services I referred to earlier: and let us carry on the great Irish tradition of support for the family. I am afraid that support is slipping at a great rate, and that is regrettable. I hope the Government will reconsider this issue. I hope they are not in such serious trouble this aftenoon that they cannot give this matter their attention. Whatever about the referendum on travel, with which I did not have time to deal, and the referendum on information I believe the people will reject the referendum on the substantive issue.

Ba mhaith liom cúpla focal a rá mar gheall ar na trí Billí atá anseo os comhair an tSeanaid inniu. In doing so I want to give my own personal opinion. I do not want to try to change anybody's mind but I would like to put the record straight in regard to my views on these three Bills.

I am not a solicitor or a barrister and I believe the Government, the Minister and the legal people have devised the best possible wording. We are all talking as if we were barristers, solicitors, doctors, gynaecologists, we have no right to talk like that. I am an ordinary run of the mill family man. I have raised my family to the best of my ability and will continue to do so.

With regard to abortion and the termination of a pregnancy, when I got married 25 years ago I and my wife took the marriage vows to live together, to raise a family and to do all we were supposed to on this God created planet. If my wife was pregnant and a doctor advised me that the termination of a pregnancy was the only way that her life could be saved, I would choose to save the life of my wife; I have no hesitation in saying that. What anybody else thinks is their business, but that is my view. I would have to put my wife's life first because she is the person I know, love and have lived with for many years.

I will be voting for the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments on election day and I have no intention of stuffing my views down anyone's throat. I resent people in the various organisations stuffing their views down my throat and clogging our letter boxes every day with literature on which 99 per cent of the information is false. Some of this literature is being sent from organisations I have never heard of, from unknown addresses. I am not accusing people involved in the pro-life campaign, but——

We will be getting much more literature when the Taoiseach calls an election.

Acting Chairman

Senator Fitzgerald, without interruption, please.

——there must be at least 20 organisations with different views. Over the past couple of days nobody has come up with an alternative. We heard nothing but criticism from the Opposition. It is their right to be critical but it should be constructive, and they should give us a better solution than the Minister put before us.

Those who are against Government, the Minister and the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments are almost blaming the Minister and the Government for every unwanted pregnancy. Nobody on the Opposition benches dealt with that question. Why are there unwanted pregnancies? Why are there abortions? Perhaps we should have another look at this because that is the kernel of the problem. The Constitution had been written for 50 or 60 years before we inserted the 1983 Amendment to protect the life of the unborn, and that was because life and attitudes were changing. I do not believe that the Church is blameless. They should modernise their teachings and bring people more up to date.

Our education system should provide for more open discussion. I do not want to enter into a discussion on contraceptives, but I thought it was ludicrous to reduce the age at which a person could purchase condoms from 18 to 17. We should be legislating for 17 year olds down to 12 year olds because the majority of people who get pregnant and seek abortions are in that age bracket.

I am absolutely anti-abortion and pro-life as is every member of the Government and every Member of this House. We are all pro-life. No one should brand the Government, the Taoiseach or the Minister as abortionists, we are not. We are trying to legislate to ensure that the life of the mother is protected.

With regard to the freedom to travel, it was ludicrous that a woman could be prevented from travelling. Women are not criminals, they are innocent people and if they want to travel they should be allowed to do so. I also agree with the Fourteenth Amendment. Doctors I have spoken to have told me that information in regard to abortion is very important because 99 times out of 100, with the proper availability of information women might change their minds about having an abortion. Information should be given to anybody who needs it. I support all three Bills and hope I have put the record straight with regard to my views.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the three amendments of the Constitution. All fair-minded people will have no difficulty with the amendments on travel and information. It is an anathema in a modern society that calls itself a Republic to find ourselves in the position where a woman does not have the right to travel in all circumstances. That is a reflection on the poor law that has been inserted in our Constitution in the past. It is a tragedy that this problem should have occurred at all and therefore I am pleased that it will be rectified, and rectified very quickly, in the forthcoming referenda.

The right to information will simply provide people with a proper and circumspect view in regard to an action which they may or may not take, based on very sound, cogent and professional information on what exactly a termination of a life or an abortion means. It is my view and that of many other people, both inside and outside this House, that the proper provision of information relating to all the facts regarding the issue could in many instances deter women from having an abortion. That is a very well established fact.

I hope the people will support the right of women to travel freely and also their right to information on the subject of abortion. Information on abortion should not only be available in the private health care sector but also in public health service areas. I do not see why information of this nature should only be provided, as has been indicated, through the private health sector and that health boards would have no role in that regard. That does not make sense. Information should be available from professionals in this field to all women who wish to discuss the option — the horrible option — of abortion.

I am unequivocal in that I am opposed to abortion. It is something I certainly could not foresee happening in my personal life and I would advise any young woman or family to give serious consideration to all the options before they follow through with such an act. It is somewhat disingenuous of the pro-life side to advocate that if one is not absolutely committed to their absolutist point of view one is somehow pro-abortion. That is unacceptable and I reject it totally and utterly. What we should have here is a society that builds itself on republican ideals. That means having a pluralist and compassionate society, one that understands the needs and desires of all people at a human level. Those are the essential principles I subscribe to. I dislike the notion that somehow we cannot embody those deep compassionate and human feelings in our laws.

I am always on record as saying that I have enormous and deep difficulties with the amendment in regard to the substantive issue, as it has been euphemistically referred to over the past number of weeks.

I see nothing in this amendment of our Constitution that will in any way benefit the people. It is bad law. To try to differentiate between the health and life of a woman is something I cannot understand. I could spend the next half hour indicating case after case of where these two areas could come into conflict. Why do we as politicians feel the need to use this kind of inflammatory language in regard to women? Why do we need to say to them that somehow we have not got the capacity as legislators to embrace within reason all of the difficult situations we know arise from time to time? If this amendment to the Constitution is passed I believe that within months we will have a Y case, an Z case, or whatever it might be called, before the Supreme Court testing this legislation. I have no doubt the result of a further Supreme Court judgment would put the ball fairly and squarely back in the court of the politicians, where it was after the X case and where once again the political establishment failed to deal seriously with the issue, as has been said by the Progressive Democrats on numerous occasions.

The preferred option to deal with these issues was through legislation in the first place. To try to embody in two or three sentences in our Constitution issues which are so complex and difficult is beyond the capacity of man. Why are we pursuing this role and going down this road? With what do we find it so difficult to deal? Why do we run away from these important and weighty issues? I am not a qualified medical expert nor am I a qualified lawyer. Why do we distrust the medical profession in making sound judgments on a case by case basis? Why will we not give them the flexibility in a proper legislative framework to make a decision in the best interests of a mother and an unborn child? Why do we need to further complicate that area? Why do we need to make it so difficult to be interpretative? Why are we creating fears in the minds of medical experts, of women, and of anybody who may need a medical opinion and advice in this area? Why are we as politicians shirking our responsibility in this matter?

I find it difficult also to deal with the notion that we have been unable to separate mental and physical health. In other words, there seems to be a totally different set of criteria that do not impinge on the condition of a pregnant woman. Who are the geniuses who drafted this legislation, who dogmatically put into our Constitution words which specifically exclude the mental health of a woman? Where will this lead or where is the logic in it? Who is it supposed to be satisfying?

What is the purpose of specifically dealing with the health of a woman and then separating her physical and mental health? Are we satisfied that because we can prove a physical condition which may affect the life of her mother, a termination can take place; but when her mental health is affected we cannot do anything about it? As far as mental health is concerned it does not exist at all. According to the way I look at this legislation, no circumstances can be invoked or envisaged where a requirement of a medical expert on the psychiatric side could be invoked under this new amendment to our Constitution, so that a woman in those circumstances who would have enormous problems would be able to seek a termination.

I have said I cannot live with the differentiation between the health of a woman and the life of a woman. I do not believe any formulation of words exists that can categorise those into separate compartments. I believe it is wrong; it is bad constitutional law to pursue this line. I believe, as I have stated, that to exclude specifically the mental health of a woman is wrong and is further bad law and legislation and will be of no benefit in my view to the Irish Constitution. When the Houses of the Oireachtas discuss these difficult moral issues, why are we incapable of dealing with them honestly and openly in the climate of the 1990s? We are not dealing with this issue to the best of our ability as elected public representatives. It is taking another shortcut to disaster for purposes that are yet to be fully explained. We know in our hearts and souls that this will be tested before the Supreme Court.

This society needs compassionate and courageous leadership. We must have balanced growth. It is not enough for a society to grow simply in economic terms or in terms of growth and infrastructure. We must grow as a people, we must understand each other as a people, we must understand our need for each other. We must not alone understand that but we must act upon it. The primary places where these values must be upheld, enhanced and acted upon are in the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is there that the Irish people look to see real values courageously expounded so that our society can evolve, mature and develop into one that is modern and pluralist and that has an understanding of the needs of all. Such a society must be compassionate, caring and Christian.

I do not see such an attitude in the amendment to the Constitution. I see a divisiveness, a retrograde step and a backward movement, a failure to go forward. As an elected representative, am I supposed to support something I fundamentally believe to be wrong? I have no intention of supporting that amendment to the Constitution. I would find it in my heart impossible to go out of this House this evening having voted for something I know and believe to be fundamentally flawed. It is not in the best interests of the Irish people. I hope the amendment dealing with the right to life, or the substantive issue as it is called, is defeated in this forthcoming referendum.

People should be in no doubt that the reason I will not support this legislation this evening is because the party leader of the Progressive Democrats and Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, stated clearly that the Progressive Democrats would not oppose this legislation. The closest I can come in what I want to do is not to support that legislation this evening. It would be wrong of us, no matter what pressures are brought to bear, to vote for that amendment of the Constitution this evening. I could never live with myself. I could never face young people in this country. I could not face the women of this country nor could I face free thinking people in this country if I was to vote for it.

I want to assure people outside that the values this party subscribe to and hold are precious, meaningful and dear to all of us. We will go on fighting to ensure that the issues on the social side of the agenda in this country are brought into the political arena and dealt with. It is my view that the amendment of the Constitution dealing with the substantive issue will be defeated. I look forward to that defeat. I look forward to coming back into this House to deal with real and substantial legislation that can protect the rights of women and the rights of the unborn. Such legislation must do those things and show the type of compassion that we, as a society, tell others to have for each other but at times fail to show themselves. The pluralist values that embrace a Repulic must be implemented and that must start with the legislators.

We will not support this legislation in the House this evening. We will make an historic decision and take an historic stance in this House by not supporting a Government Bill of this nature. We believe it is wrong and is fundamentally flawed. It is because our party leader in the Dáil committed the Progressive Democrats in the Oireachtas to not opposing it that we will take that stance. I want the public to understand that I and my colleagues in this party are in full agreement that this is the wrong approach. We believe that it is not the right way to proceed with this matter and that ultimately it will be defeated by the Irish people. I look forward to that defeat.

I understand I have only 15 minutes to speak. I will not have the opportunity in 15 minutes to reply to all the points made but no doubt I will have the time and opportunity to deal with them tomorrow.

I would like to thank all the Members of the House who have contributed to the very detailed and wide-ranging debate on the Second Stage of these three Bills over the past couple of days.

I want now to respond partly in the time available to me to the points which have been made. In a debate as comprehensive as this has been on such complex topics the House will appreciate that it is just not possible at this stage to cover every single point which individual Members of the House made.

Two basic and central themes have run through the whole debate — concern to protect the lives and health of pregnant women and concern to protect the right to life of the unborn child. Widely divergent views have been expressed on the issues raised by the Bills, ranging from those who regard the Government's proposals on the substantive issue as not being restrictive enough and those who regard the proposals as being too restrictive.

Taking that wide diversity of views into account, I am convinced the approach taken by the Government in this matter is the correct one and strikes the proper balance between the need to protect the lives and health of pregnant women and the need to protect the life of the unborn child. Widely divergent views have been expressed on the issues raised by the Bills, ranging from those who regard the Government's proposals on the substantive issue as not being restrictive enough to those who regard the proposals as being too restrictive. Taking that wide diversity of views into account I am convinced that the approach taken by the Government on this whole matter is the correct one and strikes the proper balance between the need to protect the lives and health of pregnant women and the need to protect the lives of the unborn.

I will now deal with the more important points that have been raised in relation to each of the Bills individually, beginning with the Twelfth Amendment Bill dealing with the substantive right to life issue. The proposal by Senator Manning to the effect that the Second Reading of the Twelfth Amendment Bill should follow the publication and debate of legislation to supplement the proposed amendment is not acceptable to the Government. Since the amendment would in effect negative the suicide aspect of the Supreme Court's test for termination of pregnancy, any legislation to supplement the amendment will have to take that change in the law into account. It would be objectionable from a legal and a more general viewpoint to put legislation through the House, albeit short of completion of Final Stage, which sought to anticipate the outcome of a decision by the people in a referendum on the subject matter of that legislation.

In his opening contribution on this debate, the Minister for Justice made clear the Government's position on legislation to supplement the amendment. If the Government are persuaded of the need for that legislation they will consider the matter further. They are not, however, at present convinced of the need for such legislation. I will deal tomorrow in more detail, when I get the opportunity, with the case against legislating in this area.

In his contribution Senator Manning said he found a contradiction in the Minister's speech to the effect that the Minister said on the one hand that it is not possible to have legislation because of the X case and yet later he said that if the people rejected the Government's proposals there would be legislation. If the Senator were to look again at what the Minister had to say he will see there was absolutely no contradiction in this regard. Indeed, the Senator appears to be under an entirely wrong impression on an issue that is fundamental to this whole debate.

What the Minister said was that to proceed to legislation rather than an amendment to the Constitution would mean accepting in full in that legislation the findings of the Supreme Court in the X case, including the finding that a risk of suicide is a ground for abortion. I have to emphasise, because I think there has been confusion on this issue during the course of the debate, that suicide as a ground could not be removed by legislation alone. There is no point in people pretending that the choice between an amendment or legislation is equal in terms of what can be achieved by either. That is simply not the case. The Government have made their position clear. They do not believe they should legislate on the basis of a risk of self-destruction without first giving the people a chance to decide on that issue.

I find it strange that people have accused us of making some sort of threat to the people by informing them that we would bring forward legislation to deal with the Supreme Court issue if the amendment is defeated. Those very same people, in this House and in the lower House, are the people who have quoted, with approval, Mr. Justice McCarthy's judgment in the Supreme Court castigating us for not having legislated on the original Article 40.3.3º.

The substance of what Senator Manning had to say, and the effect of the amendment he proposes, seem to amount to little more than a plea for more time to consider the issues involved. I appreciate that there are genuinely held different views of whether a risk of suicide should or should not be included as a ground for terminaton of pregnancy. But it is an issue which the Government have faced up to and it is hard to avoid concluding that the Fine Gael amendment is designed solely to deal with a situation where that party has failed, and appears to be unwilling, to take a coherent and definitive view on this central question.

Senator Manning claims that there is unanimity in his party on their approach to the issues raised by the Bills before the House. But having listened to the debate in both Houses I have no idea where the Fine Gael Party stand on the central issues. Do they believe that a risk of suicide or general health grounds should constitute grounds for termination of pregnancy? Instead of enunciating their policy on these matters, the only unanimous view seems to be that they should not deal with those matters yet.

I am reinforced in the view that there is a reluctance on their part to deal with and take a position on the central issues by the fact that Senator Manning, Senator Doyle and, indeed, other Senators call for more time while at the same time using much of the time available to them in this debate as a vehicle to score points on a cheap party political basis. I do not believe that it would be helpful for me to dwell on this at any great length. But just as one example: Senator Manning in the course of his contribution referred to the Government's genuine attempts to achieve consensus as being a fraud and a charade. Leaving aside the difficulty of achieving consensus where parties are reluctant to face up to the issues involved, it is hard to reconcile the use of these type of words by Senator Manning with his call later in his contribution for the debate to be deferred until there are cooler heads and cooler words can be spoken.

Before leaving this issue there is a specific point which Senator Manning made in his contribution which should not go uncorrected in the record of this House. He said that the Minister had been more than disingenuous in quoting from a letter written to newspapers last Saturday by 13 eminent gynaecologists. Senator Manning said that the letter was a direct attack on the Minister's case and that the Minister had twisted its meaning to support this case. I would like to quote directly from the letter to which the Senator was referring. The letter said:

As practising Irish obstetricians we are gravely concerned about some aspects of the current referendum debate. Although the situation seldom arises, we believe that sometimes the continuation of pregnancy poses a real and substantial threat to the life of the mother.

The letter went on to refer to an English report, and concluded:

From the above it is clear that continuation of pregnancy can pose a real danger to a small number of women. Whatever else results from the current controversy. Irish women must be protected from such dangers.

Nowhere does the letter criticise the wording proposed by the Government and, indeed, the very reason the Government differ from the pro-life groups is that the Government have recognised from the start the possibility that termination of pregnancy may be necessary to save life in the case of life-threatening conditions.

I think it will be clear that import of the letter from the obstetricians would provide support for the approach which the Government are taking. I hope in the circumstances that Senator Manning might take the opportunity on the Committee Stage to withdraw the suggestion that it was the Minister who twisted the words of the letter.

Many Senators, including Senators Doyle and Upton, are concerned about the inclusion of the phrase "life as distinct from health". Let me repeat that if the Government saw any way that those words could be omitted without giving rise to a real danger that this might eventually lead to abortion on demand, they would be only too happy to leave them out. But there is a real danger that, without the inclusion of those words, in a future "hard" case unrelated to a life-threatening condition it might be found that health would be a ground for abortion, as happened in Britain in the Bourne case with the results we are all familiar with.

Senator Doyle made the point, in relation to the inclusion of this phrase, that she represented the view of women between the ages of 14 and 50 and that the Government decided not to listen to women's views and proceeded, so that women felt abused by the amendment. I regret that the Senator spoke in those terms. I, of course, recognise the particular and special experience which women can bring to this debate. But I believe it to be deeply offensive to women to suggest, as Senator Doyle seemed to, that women are of one view in relation to the wording of the amendment. That would clearly be an absurdity as would any suggestion that any one person could take it upon his or herself to speak for them. I have no doubt that many women will take the view that what is contained in the amendment, far from being offensive, is necessary to avoid a situation where there is widescale abortion in this country while at the same time containing a full commitment to the right to life of women.

A number of Senators made the point that a line cannot be unambiguously drawn between life and health and that this will give rise to difficulties. But the Supreme Court has already drawn that line and had no difficulty in doing so. The essence of the Supreme Court judgment is that such a line must be drawn on the proper interpretation of Article 40.3.3º because that Article on its true interpretation will allow the right to life of the unborn to be superseded only where that is necessary to save the life of the mother in the sense that otherwise she will die. That is clear from all the judgments. The Twelfth Amendment would not make any change in the Supreme Court's test on this point except to establish that test as something which could not be changed at any time in the future without the consent of the people.

The Minister for Justice dealt in his opening remarks with suggestions that doctors may feel that in some way the inclusion of the phrase in the amendment will inhibit them from acting until there is a degree of certainty in relation to the existence of a risk to life which would be wholly impracticable in medical practice which can only proceed on the basis of probability. The Minister explained in opening this debate that the Supreme Court decision requires only that the existence of a real and substantial risk to life be established on the balance of probabilities and that there is nothing in the amendment which would change that.

There have been suggestions that the amendment will render unlawful medical treatment for mothers where that treatment is for the benefit of their health as opposed to saving their lives. Could I make the point here again that the amendment is not changing the law in this respect — it adopts the existing law as set out by the Supreme Court. Nobody has ever suggested or attempted to suggest, as far as I know, that the Supreme Court decision has given rise to the consequences that it is now claimed would flow from the amendments.

Some Senators have expressed concerns that the phrase "necessary to save the life" means that the risk to life must be imminent before action to terminate the pregnancy would be permitted. The test enunciated by the Supreme Court does not require that the risk to life must be immediate — the court specifically rejected that proposition — and neither does the wording of the proposed amendment require that the risk to life should be immediate. The advice available to the Government is that the phrase "necessary to save the life" means that a pregnancy could be terminated if the doctors were able to form the view that even after childbirth and recovery of the mother therefrom, other treatments for whatever condition she was suffering from would be ineffective to protect her life.

The suggestion has been made that the proper way to approach the problems we are dealing with is simply to repeal Article 40.3.3º. Some people who advocate that course see Article 40.3.3º as the factor that has given rise to the controversial and troubling questions that now concern us. I do not think we need spend much time on that particular suggestion. Is it being seriously suggested that the people of this country who voted by a large majority to include Article 40.3.3º in the Constitution would be likely now, nine years later, to reverse their view and vote to remove Article 40.3.3º from the Constitution? I do not think such a prospect at all likely, and because of that I regard that suggestion as academic.

In response to the point made by a number of Senators opposed to excluding suicide as a ground for termination of pregnancy, I would just like to reiterate one point which the Minister for Justice made at the outset of this debate: if it is the case that suicide in pregnancy is extremely rare but if it is very difficult to predict accurately in an individual case, accepting suicidal tendencies as a ground for termination would be likely to lead to the certain loss of many unborn children without any certainty that even one suicide had been averted.

Senator Hanafin said in his contribution that "none of the Government's euphemisms can disguise the basic fact that the purpose is to seek the formal sanction for a constitutional right to deliberately take the lives of unborn children". I think that the accusation that it is the Government which are using euphemisms should be seen against the background of the use by the pro-life campaign at various stages in recent weeks of the words "indirect", "unintended", "unsought" and "inadvertent" to describe terminations of pregnancies in circumstances which they apparently regard as acceptable.

As the Minister for Justice indicated earlier in the debate, the use of this type of distinction could not serve as a basis for a constitutional provision on this subject. How can it be maintained, for example, in removing a cancerous womb, where termination of the life of the foetus is clearly foreseen from the very outset and is inevitable, that such termination is unintended, unsought, inadvertent or not deliberate, however undesired such a termination may be?

Senator Hanafin spoke of the Twelfth Amendment Bill as being a proposal to provide for abortion in Irish hospitals. He appears to speak as if the recognition that there are circumstances where it is, regrettably, necessary to terminate the life of the foetus is something new. This is clearly not the case.

The Minister for Justice has already explained that, leaving aside the suicide aspect, the substance of the Supreme Court decision is, in my view, fully in line with pre-existing law and I imagine is widely acceptable. That is why the proposed amendment reproduces the substance of that decision.

There is no warrant whatsoever for any suggestion that the amendment will open the door to abortion. It is most emphatically not an abortion amendment. Far from making the law concerning abortion more permissive, as some people are wrongly suggesting, the amendment will have exactly and precisely the opposite effect: it will prohibit abortion in circumstances where it is now permitted without disturbing existing medical practice and without putting mothers' lives at risk. It is a provision that arises from a woman's entitlement to protection where there is a risk to her life and it enshrines that protection. I would submit that in all conscience we could do no less than we are doing.

Senator Hanafin spoke about the effect of the Twelfth Amendment. I would like to say this to the Senator. The basic premise which underlies the argument that he and the group with which he is associated have put forward is that there are no medical conditions whatsoever in which what they call a "direct" termination of pregnancy is necessary to save the life of the mother. I think I can claim that the Minister for Justice has convincingly shown in his opening remarks that that premise cannot be accepted or sustained. That being the case a question arises that cannot be ignored. What is a doctor to do when he is faced with the choice of saving the life of the mother or saving the life of the foetus? Is the Senator saying that in these tragic cases the mother must die so that the foetus may survive? If that is what he means, he should say so clearly and distinctly so that the people he seeks to enlist in his support will know precisely what they are being asked to support.

I, of course, recognise the genuineness of Senator Hanafin's concern, and that of other Members of this House, for the protection of the unborn and I share it. But I would ask Senator Hanafin to use the influence which he has with pro-life groups to ask them to reflect again on the position they are adopting in relation to the passage of this amendment. The reality is that once the Seanad passes the Twelfth Amendment Bill the people will be asked, in effect, to decide whether to accept the amendment or accept the text laid down by the Supreme Court including a test of self-destruction. If the amendment fails, that Supreme Court test will remain a fundamental part of our law. In the Government's view the inclusion of self-destruction as a ground for termination of pregnancy could lead to the widescale availability of abortion in this country. I fail to see how voting against the amendment could do anything to protect the lives of the unborn. It would, in fact, be likely to mean that unborn lives would be lost which by voting for the amendment would be saved.

The European Court of Human Rights today delivered its judgment in the case of Open Door Counselling Limited and Dublin Well Woman Centre Limited and Others on 29 October, 1992. The European Court of Human Rights held, by 15 votes to eight, that there had been a violation of Article 10 — the right to receive and impart information — of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1992, proposes an amendment to the Constitution on the question of information. The proposal in the Bill, which the Government intend should be put to the people, will provide that Article 40.3.3º cannot in future be invoked, as it was in the Grogan case and Well Woman Centre cases, to limit freedom to obtain or make available in accordance with conditions to be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

The Government are satisfied that the inclusion of this provision in Article 40.3.3º of the Constitution will cure the breach of the European Convention found by the European Court in today's judgment. The Minister for Justice had already indicated in the debates in the Dáil and Seanad on the Fourteenth Amendment Bill that there were no grounds for believing that the then expected judgment of the European Court would interfere in any way with the constitutional amendment proposal. That, in fact, has turned out to be the case.

In conclusion, I should say that, as was recognised in many of the contributions, including Senator Conroy's, the whole question of the right to life raises the most profound and delicate issues — moral, medical and legal. Harmonising competing or conflicting rights to life in particular creates problems of a most difficult not to say intractable kind. The X case and the public debate in its aftermath gave rise to a series of complex and difficult issues. I think that any fair-minded and impartial observer would be prepared to acknowledge that the proposals in three Bills to amend the Constitution that are now before the House represent a conscientious, reasonable and balanced response to those issues and one that is in the public interest. The Government are satisfied that these proposals are the correct response to the problems arising and are happy to commend these amendments of the Constitution to the people in the forthcoming referenda on 3 December.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment being pressed?


Cuireadh an cheist: "Go bhfanfaidh na focail a thairgtear a scriosadh."

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."

Acting Chairman

A division has been demanded on the question. In accordance with the Order of the House the division is postponed until 6.30 p.m.