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

Friday, 7 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 4

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Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney I thank the Ceann Comhairle for facilitating me, it is entirely my fault. Thanks are due to Mr. Justice Sean Ryan and the other 13 members of the expert group whose report we are discussing. It is a comprehensive report and, as someone with no legal and medical background, its detail and comprehension is to be admired. It is difficult to be objective given the subject matter but I found it sensitive in how it was drafted and how it sets out the options for people such as us, who must ultimately decide on the issue.

I am pro-life and I have never met a human being, in the House or elsewhere, who is not pro-life. I reject the impression created by a small minority that, somehow, they value life more than people like me or others. I have never been of the opinion that any woman makes lightly the decision to have a termination or to abort her pregnancy. As men, we must say that. It must be a traumatic and emotional decision for a woman to make. We should be sensitive when talking about the subject. It is not a decision any woman makes lightly.

I compliment Deputy Charles Flanagan. I agree with many of his points and he said things that I do not now need to say. His contribution was thoughtful and balanced and included a comment that the debate is about women who became pregnant. Women who find themselves in that situation and find their lives at risk are the priority.

As legislators, over the past 30 years, we have not made much progress but I will welcome primary legislation whenever it arrives in the House. I think is the only way to deal with the issue and I will have no hesitation in making my mind up about the best thing to do. No other woman should die in the jurisdiction when her life is threatened by pregnancy. With regard to the prolonged history of evading making a decision on the matter, I refer to previous Members of this House, the late Jim Kemmy, the Limerick socialist, and Michael D. Higgins, who represented Galway West. They lost their seats in 1983 as a result of the amendment at the time. Some people paid the price at the time and it is now clearer political weather than it was in 1982 and 1983. We must step up to the edge because no woman should die due to a lack of legislation to protect women in danger during pregnancy.

Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy: Information on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Zoom on Marcella Corcoran Kennedy It was stated in the House, and the medical evidence supports the assertion, that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world for women to give birth. I concur, having availed of maternity services on three occasions. I express my deepest sympathies to the Halappanavar family on the loss of Savita. Sadly, it seems the family's tragedy has been hijacked by some as evidenced by the intense lobbying of Oireachtas Members in the past weeks. I talked to some of the young people protesting outside the gates of the Dáil. I discovered they were sincere in their sympathy to the Halappanavar family but confused about the legalities of termination for women in need during pregnancy. They were certain, as I am, that they never wanted anything like that to happen to a pregnant woman in this country again. We must be confident in the level of expertise and care we will receive in pregnancy until pregnancy is completed by the birth of a child. It is a joyful and life-enhancing milestone in most cases. However, pregnancy brings challenges to the healthiest of women. Pregnancies may end in miscarriage or the foetus dying in utero or having a foetus with an abnormality.

  We must reflect on how life has been for women in Ireland in the past. They have not had it easy. We must never forget the treatment of single women in their attempts to obtain contraception or when single women became pregnant. Married women and their husbands who wanted to obtain contraception found it very difficult. Women had appalling procedures carried out on them in labour and after delivery, leaving them with lifelong problems or unable to have more children. As a society, we seem to have real problems with the fact that we are human beings in whose DNA it is to procreate. In the past, campaigners even objected to the provision of sex education. Somehow, they believe that keeping people ignorant of their potential to reproduce will prevent sexual activity. As a society, we are slowly but surely acknowledging our human drive to reproduce. In an ideal world, all pregnancies would be welcome but that is not the case. Many of our young women, some barely out of childhood, have been victims of rape and incest, with acts perpetrated on them, in many cases, by the men they trusted most. I am conscious of the sensitivities of these cases and do not want to cause distress but we must never forget how poorly our young women have been treated, resulting in much emotional and psychological damage. We have also heard tragic cases of those who have made the decision to travel abroad for an abortion and the impact it has on their lives thereafter. Debate on this sensitive and human issue exposed the many complexities of the matter.

  I welcome the recent report of the expert group on the judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland case. I have strayed off the agenda but it is important to reflect on where we come from. The terms of reference of the expert group were clear. The first was to examine the judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland case in the European Court of Human Rights. The second was to elucidate on its implications for the provision of health care services to pregnant women in Ireland. The third was to recommend a series of options on how to implement the judgment, taking into account the legal, medical and ethical considerations in the formulation of public policy in the area and, more importantly, the overriding need for speedy action. I thank Mr. Justice Ryan and the members of the expert group in their work producing the report and their careful consideration and production of options. As a Legislature, we must carefully consider the options presented. It may be guidelines, regulations, legislation or legislation and regulations but all must be considered carefully. The report will help us to come to a decision on the best for society. This society has tried to grapple with various sides of the arguments for and against the ending of the life of the unborn child. Ethical, social and religious points have been debated but the fallout is that deep divisions were created, with many people fearful of revealing what they really felt. Like many colleagues, I received passionate and emotive lobbying from both sides. The termination of a pregnancy can be performed where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. Our Constitution also has a provision to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn. In this case, we must make our choices and learn from other jurisdictions. That does not mean we should slavishly follow what they do. At this point, we need a reasoned and calm debate as it is one of the most significant decisions the Government must consider. Emotion and hysteria will also only serve to cloud the issue.

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