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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] Who better to talk to about any life situation than a mother who has given birth once, twice, three, four times, sometimes more, and is living with the day to day issues of running a family, rearing children and trying to ensure sanity prevails, especially in these challenging times, particularly of austerity and media interference?

  I am not here to shoot the messenger by any manner of means but I am here to ask some questions of the media, especially in this case, although not the report, which I welcome. I question why we have not been given an answer as to why one member of the group resigned. That is a matter for herself but it has not been made clear to me at any stage why. Were there differences or was the group told what to come up with? I am suspicious of a lot of issues like this.

  I believe this case, obviously a tragic case, in Galway has catapulted this issue on us. I have to take issue with The Irish Times and the lady who broke the story. I will not mention her name but we all know who it is. The media are picking up on the story and there was an astonishing interview with Marc Coleman recently on Newstalk where The Irish Times journalist who broke the story on Savita Halappanavar's tragic death now says the story may be muddled and it may be found there was no request for a termination. All I am asking for, and I ask for it all the time, and most ordinary sane people would ask for it, although it was a tragic situation that happened to Mrs. Savita Halappanavar, is to await the outcome of the inquiry in the hospital in Galway.

  That hospital has many specialties and does good work on an hourly basis. Why should we demonise that institution and make all kinds of assertions without any investigation or facts? We must caution against the hysteria here. We do not know. While I agree there is no need for three consultants to be put on the investigative committee from Galway University Hospital, certainly the hospital's side of the story must be told, in fairness to every member of the staff of that hospital, from the porter at the front gate right through to all the staff and clinicians and all the different clinicians who are in that situation of quite eminent qualifications. They are entitled to due process and fair play: we can never forget that.

  The Life Institute has said there are extraordinary admittances given to the global hysteria raised by the sensational reporting of Savita's death by a certain newspaper. The Life Institute is an institution of some renown. The newspaper's description of events led to an uproar when it was suggested that Savita had been allowed to die because of Ireland's ban on abortion and because of a supposed Catholic interfering with necessary medical treatment to save her life. That was reckless reporting because we simply do not know. We should await due process. This is a democracy. It was fought hard for and I like to call myself a republican and many of us are so we must wait and give due process to the people working in the hospital. We cannot let hysteria rule us.

  In an interview on the "Coleman at Large" programme, the journalist was firstly asked why she wrote in a later article in The Observer that the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established. She wrote that in a later article when she omitted it from the story that first broke the news of Savita's death to the world. She was then pressed to explain discrepancies in the newspaper reporting as to when Savita was started on antibiotics in Galway University Hospital. She then said all one could surmise is that in her husband's recollection of events, the actual timeline and days may be a little muddled. We only have Praveen and his solicitor's take on what was in or not in the notes: we are relying all the time on their take of what happened. Any of us who were lucky enough to be present at the birth of our children know it is a wonderful time, but a challenging time too, especially if anything should go wrong. We can all be quite nervous and apprehensive in normal deliveries and births so I appeal for calm and sanity to prevail.

  Thankfully I think it is starting to sink in and settle down. I will not say much more but at a time when Indian newspapers are printing headlines saying that Ireland murders pregnant Indian dentists, perhaps it is time for the truth to emerge from the so-called newspaper here. India cannot hold up its head proudly in human rights. I am not boasting about that but I am challenging it. Thankfully, in studies by the World Health Organisation, Ireland is deemed as the second or third safest place for pregnant mothers in the world. We might not have that proud record for many things but we have it for that. I am testimony to that, as is the Cathaoirleach and any of us who are here who have family. I salute and compliment all the people who work in the gynaecology wards, nurses, midwives and specialists, and those who work in aftercare in South Tipperary General Hospital and across the country.

  We have to be very careful, very sane and very understanding. In this modern world that we now like to cherish I, for example, am pro-life, as I believe are the vast majority of people in this country. I want to challenge the people who now proclaim themselves as pro-choice - and rightly so if they want to, it is a democracy. I want to challenge them on the behaviour that happened outside this House last week, when there was such a frenzy and such an attack on people who, like myself, dare to speak in favour of pro-life. I am elected by the people of south Tipperary and they will not all agree with me but I have to make that decision, speak with my conscience and deal with the people at the next election for decisions I make. To be unable to leave this Parliament, along with many others like me, because of the aggression, violence, intimidation, innuendo and insults that were thrown by so-called pro-choice people was appalling and it was a landmark in our society and we must challenge it very seriously. Are we going to be bullied into opening the flood gates? Are we going to be bullied into not making a decision we want to make honestly and openly in our own Parliament as representatives of the people for the time being?

  One of the main advantages of both guidelines and referenda approaches is that they avoid legislation for the X case. Why have seven successive Governments decided against legislating for the X case despite a resolutely pro-abortion media? The answer is simple. The X case was a flawed judgment based on non-existent medical evidence and did not foresee how open to misinterpretation its test would be. That is a fact. The Governments did not do it and are being challenged and attacked for not doing it, with comments they did not do it out of cowardice. They did not do that for fun. The majority of people who come in here over the years and who will come in here are honest people who will act according to their conscience and will act lawfully with the best intent.

  The X case provides for abortion on mental health grounds, specifically where there is a risk of suicide. By sad way of comparison, and I mentioned this last week in my contribution, roughly 95% of the 190,000 abortions that happen in Britain each year are on mental health grounds. That is a staggering figure. During the debates on the British Abortion Act 1967, I was only nine years old. The Bill's sponsor, David Steel, promised it would not lead to abortion on demand and I believe he did that honestly. Over the course of the last decade he has on numerous times acknowledged how wrong he was. International experience is unanimous in showing that once abortion is introduced on supposedly narrow grounds, it quickly expands into a much more liberal regime. Why will Ireland be any different? We must ask that question in this modern age. Any mental health grounds are the most elastic, subjective and open to manipulation.

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