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

Monday, 17 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews] There have been difficulties with regard to certain cases and those cases are being referred back to the Constitution where there may not be any certain answers, now or ever.

There are people whose vocation and professional lives are dedicated to delivering the services that look after women, not just in childbirth and pregnancy but in general. There are also paediatricians who look after children and other doctors who look after patients of both sexes. The Supreme Court delivered its judgment and particularised a situation where there was a danger to the life of a woman as a result of the threat of her suicide. It could be, given some of the valuable and expert opinions of the medical profession, that the Supreme Court, with its good intention, stepped outside its competency to particularise a condition in which someone was psychiatrically unwell, and that this posed a real or substantial threat to the life. In recent days, some experienced and wise psychiatrists have questioned the wisdom of expressly mentioning a particular condition that might be a real or substantive threat to the life of a pregnant woman. To legislation for such situations, therefore, might not be wise.

The expert group comprised 14 people, including four lawyers. I am not sure of the ages of the members of the expert group. It is interesting to know that we change our views with experience of life and further evaluation of our lives and our family life. An interesting case in this regard is that of the late Anthony Clare, who was a professor of psychiatry and was well known to most people here, in England and throughout the world, with his wife and he had six children. He had a brilliant academic mind. In the passage of time, his views on the situations in which the termination of the life of an unborn baby might be admissible changed. He moved from what could loosely be described as - and I hate these terms - a pro-choice view of the world to what could loosely be termed a more pro-life view. He was short-lived because he got cancer and died in his early 60s. It took the passage of time, the consideration of more than just the narrow spectrum of a legal or technical debate and the understanding of life through living it to come to that view.

This national assembly of legislators should be careful, and we are being careful. People will say it took 20 years to get to where we are.

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