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Report of the Expert Group on the Judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland Case: Statements (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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  7 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh]   We are also tempted as legislators to talk about our personal journeys and tap in to our personal judgments to form value considerations. That is dangerous. Our personal journeys are not enough because here we are dealing with moral choices, whether objective or subjective, be it the moral choice that I make with respect to my core belief in the protection of life or the subjective value judgments of others on the right to travel to the United Kingdom or on the right of access to information. There is an intertwining of moral consideration in this debate about which we need to be careful.

  We also must be careful around the inherent dangers in the timeframe that we are allowing to discuss this. Deputy McDonald offered a window, stating that this needs to be done in two or three months. I hope I reflect accurately her point of view. There is an inherent danger in the time restriction that we afford to this. If we think for a second that we can come to a careful considered viewpoint in the short window afforded to us, we are starting off on the wrong foot. We should allow as much time as possible and allow for enough consideration to harness as much as possible of the ethical viewpoints and judgments, be they of theologians or persons with a moral compass. We need help here. We cannot come to a careful conclusion on this as politicians as we are only one element of a trilateral jigsaw of morality, politics and religion.

  I find myself agreeing with Deputy McDonald on how stifling this debate is when a battle line is drawn in the sand between pro-life and pro-choice. That is extremely unhelpful. Perhaps I have been leading a humble quiet existence, but I have never come across a person who is not pro-life. I am sure the other 165 Deputies have shared a similar experience. The battleground to which I refer does not exist. Maybe I have had a sheltered upbringing and in living in Philadelphia, the Middle East and London, I led a sheltered existence, but in all my time I have not met anybody who is not pro-life with a core value system regarding the protection of life.

  I want to talk about the role of those who are involved at the coalface, the obstetricians and medics. They take their job extremely seriously and are faced with the choice of co-joined lives where a decision must be made. We as adults know such decisions are being made on a daily basis. If we do anything in this House, we should facilitate an enabling mechanism for these medics, who are making these important choices with their own moral compass and strict code of ethics as medical practitioners, where their core moral belief is in the protection of all lives, be it the mother or the unborn.

  We need their help. The Irish Medical Council, IMC, has made statements, but we need its help. We need it to articulate exactly what is going on and the choices it faces on a daily basis. If it feels restricted because of the lack of legislation and there is a barrier in place with respect to its work, we need to find out the status quo. I have had communication with persons of a strong pro-life view and I was surprised on Friday when one of them said: "We are happy with what is going on in the hospitals already. We know what is going on. We know the choices are being made." If anything comes out of this process, it should be an enabling mechanism to address what is happening and protect those faced with the decision, which is a moral decision obviously intertwined with a medical one.

  We should go further with respect to this debate, and I say this carefully. In the past four or five years, we have been talking about the economy. That is the reality of where we are as a society. People are hurting and have less money. There is a danger that we have monopolised the conversation in this House around the economy and forgotten about society and the type of country in which we want to live and into which we want to bring the next generation. Even if tomorrow morning we get a debt write-down from the EU-IMF-ECB and everything is sorted, our deficit is paired back, everything is hunky-dory and the unemployment problem evaporates, we still need to allow a space in this House to talk about society. The constitutional convention will certainly play a role, primarily at a nuts and bolts level, but we have a role in talking about the type of society we want. From my communication with the people, we are at a new level and it is not because everybody got greater access to education and the people are smarter than 50 or 100 years ago. There has been an empowerment process over the past 30 or 40 years due to a myriad of factors such as greater independence, less adherence to restrictive autocracy leadership, be it at a political or a religious level, and greater confidence. We should have the confidence as legislators to articulate where the people are at.

  I have total confidence in the ethical judgments of obstetricians and medical staff who have the important task of saving co-joined lives, be it the mother or the child. As they are faced with a decision in the theatre with lives at stake, we need them to rise up and get involved in this conversation because we cannot do it on our own. We can have the political forum to articulate viewpoints on either side, be they strongly held or less so, but we do not have the moral compass on this issue that the medical staff at the coalface have. I call on the Irish Medical Council to get more involved in this debate. We need its help.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Hear, hear.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh We need the help of civic leaders. We also need the help of the church and theologians. While they have a right to stand outside this House and to join in protests, I call on them to get involved in the debate because we need their help. We cannot do this on our own. For centuries, philosophers and theologians have tried to do this and they cannot do it on their own. We need their help. I make that appeal to the IMC and the religious and civic leaders because this is an opportunity to start the debate on the type of country in which we want to live and in which we want to raise our children.


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