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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan] The whole thing is ridiculous; it is utterly crazy. How can one understand such a situation? We must put our feet in the shoes of the person in that position. People will say women have been having babies for millions of years and in most cases without any great difficulty but occasionally a problematic pregnancy occurs. What do we do then? What do we do in any medical situation? Do we debate the matter or do we attend to it? We have no option as a humane society other than to give the best possible treatment to the person presenting with the problem, it is as simple as that. If we depart from that in any shape or form, we are doing ourselves an injustice.

  There are those who would say that as a man, I should not have a view on this sort of thing. I do not mind, I am still a member of the population. I do not necessarily agree with the notion only women should make this decision. If a woman presents to a hospital with a difficult pregnancy, the time is long past for other people, men or women, to comment. The only person who is in the eye of the storm is the patient presenting in the hospital. I cannot see for the life of me how anyone could have a prior right to set out the procedure to be followed, particularly if there is a threat to the life of the mother.

  We fully accept the 1983 amendment. As we now know, however, the Attorney General at the time pointed out the potential conflict. We debated that ad infinitum at the time. Time, however, has passed and society has learned. We are not all God, and we cannot make these decisions as if we were. Even God himself would have a difficulty coming to a conclusion in some of the situations presented to us from time to time. I do not have any daughters so it easy for me to comment but other people do have daughters and in that situation the future pregnant mothers in this country must be reassured we the legislators understand their predicament and in the event of a doubt about their health during pregnancy, they will not be prevented from receiving the treatment that might be required, the most compassionate and optimum treatment at that particular time. To do otherwise is to shirk our responsibilities and to move away from the situation and leave the matter in the hands of others to be decided. We are a humane society, notwithstanding some of the things we say from time to time, and we must come to a conclusion and follow the options laid out in the report of the expert group.

  I do not believe that there should be a free vote on this. We do not come in here to have options, we must stand up and be counted. If it is the consensus in the House that we go a particular route, having regard to the situation unfolding before us, we must make our minds up. I strongly advise against a free vote because we know all about what can happen from past history.

  I compliment everyone on all sides in the debate so far. It has been a rational debate and has taken into account all of the issues that must be addressed. I hope we make the right decision and do not have recriminations. Our job, however, is to legislate. We cannot do everything. We can make provision for the issues highlighted in the expert report and have regard to recent events and past events. All of us in this House over the years have dealt with situations where questions were raised in our minds as to why particular procedures were not followed. We live in a litigious society and there could be a case where third parties might intervene to prevent a medical procedure that was urgently necessary at a particular time and that would be tragic.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The debate we are having on the report of the expert group on the judgment in the A, B and C v. Ireland case is very important. For the past two months, this has been in people's minds. At the forefront of our thoughts must be Savita Halappanavar and her family but also the State must address the findings of the expert review group and the Government must act. We must see action so there is an end to the procrastination.

  As a child born ten weeks early during a crisis pregnancy in the 1960s, to me the gift of life has been given to me. I try to adhere to words of Swift, "May you live all the days of your life", because I have been the lucky one. My mother was in trouble, she knew that as a midwife herself, but she was not listened to at times and thankfully the birth resulted in a healthy child and she had three more children afterwards. That has shaped my philosophy and ideology in life. I am pro-life by ideology but we must park our ideologies in this debate.

  I heard Deputy Flanagan speaking about single male colleagues and I am a single male man who will not have any children. That does not mean I cannot contribute to the debate. We must all listen to the views not just of women but of all people. Women are very important in this debate because if we do not listen to them, we will have lost a sense of empathy and understanding and we must try to seek consensus on this. That is why the establishment of the expert review group was important. It took less than a year to report and we are now debating that report. In discussing it, our debate and the Government decision, and the hearings in the Joint Committee on Health and Children, will stand as a template for how we as a society have learned from the debates in the 1980s.

  I was a teenager then and I remember those debates vividly. I hope in our deliberations on this report we will bring legal clarity to the medical practitioners and women who find themselves in difficult circumstances. I compliment Mr. Justice Ryan and the group on the way in which the report is presented. It is easily readable and sets out its core ideas. As part of that process it was right and proper to wait for the report to be published so we could have a debate instead of jumping through hoops to satisfy one interest group over another. Our duty as legislators is to listen to all sides and not to engage in a knee jerk reaction on either side.

  Chapter two of the report sets out clearly the current legal position, which has evolved over the last 30 years. From the 1861 Act, to the constitutional amendment, to the X case, to the provision of information, the report lays out the current legal parameters.


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