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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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  11 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Conaghan: Information on Michael Conaghan Zoom on Michael Conaghan] His brave and prescient position was exploited by his political opponents and his seat was lost. This was the price he paid for his foresight and commitment to women's rights. I am very happy that 30 years later public opinion has shifted so far towards what Jim Kemmy believed. I only hope now that the Members of the House honour his memory by doing the right thing and not shirking their responsibility as legislators and take the long overdue steps needed to protect women's lives.

Deputy Derek Nolan: Information on Derek Nolan Zoom on Derek Nolan I commend my colleague, Deputy Conaghan, on what was a very thoughtful speech on his personal experience and engagement with the issue over the past 30 years. I also commend the late Jim Kemmy and another former Member of the House who lost his seat for taking a courageous position on the issue, namely, the President, Michael D. Higgins.

As a constituency representative of Galway West I wish to express my deep sympathy to the family of Savita Halappanavar, her husband Praveen, their relatives in India and their friends in the Indian community in Galway. They and their family were affected by a huge shocking human tragedy and inquiries are under way. I look forward to seeing these inquiries obtaining responses and clarifying the facts at the earliest opportunity.

During my short time in politics the issue of medical termination of pregnancy has been the most divisive and polarising issue with which I have had to engage. It has been around for a long time, since the 1983 amendment when people such as Jim Kemmy, Michael D. Higgins, Mary Robinson and others took the brave steps outlined by Deputy Michael Conaghan to fight for a more rational and nuanced approach recognising the vagaries of life, the grey areas which can creep into discussions and the circumstances which may require compassion and leniency rather than strict orthodoxy.

The X case resulted less than ten years later in 1992, and the Supreme Court upheld a different interpretation, stating there is a right to termination where there is a real and substantial risk to the life as distinct to the health of the mother. This decision caused uproar throughout the country in the time before I was involved in politics. It is interesting to look back now at the viciousness of the exaggerations and hyperbole involved in the discussions because the same exaggeration and hyperbole has come back into the discussion again today. Nothing dramatic has happened in the past 20 years. It is also interesting to note what happened in the aftermath of this decision. Three referendums were put to the people in which they were asked three distinct questions, namely, should a woman have a right to travel to have a termination to which the people said "Yes"; should a woman have the right to information about accessing services abroad so she can know where the services are and how to procure them to which the people also said "Yes"; and should we overturn the Supreme Court decision which stated suicide is a grounds which justifies risk to the life of the mother to which the people said "No". The people deliberately and with discernment voted "Yes" in two cases and "No" in the other.

We should not forget the details of the X case. A 14 year old girl left at home to be minded by a family friend was raped and impregnated. She was left in a terrible mental health state and suicidal. She wanted to travel to the UK to terminate the pregnancy. This is the case we are discussing. We are not speaking about a woman of majority age deciding she wanted to go for another reason. We often forget the cruel and human story behind the X case.

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