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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 Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes Zoom on Brian Hayes]   Where a pregnancy is not sustainable for medical reasons, the decision to end the pregnancy must rest with the woman in consultation with the medical team. Where a pregnancy triggers a new serious medical condition because of an existing medical condition and where those conditions pose a real and growing threat to the health and possibly to the life of the mother, decisions on termination must rest with the mother in consultation with the medical team.

  The expert group is correct in its interpretation of the Constitution that where it is proposed to terminate a pregnancy, every effort must be made to save the unborn. Obviously, important and difficult clinical decisions may must be made surrounding the viability of the unborn and the associated issue of the timing of termination. The insertion of Article 40.3.3° into the Constitution had unintended consequences. It is important that the legal framework being considered is open to maximum scrutiny and debate. That is why it is right that the Government's proposals in the first instance will be discussed at the relevant Oireachtas committee and in the plenary session of this House.

Many thousands of Irish women have terminations every year, as stated by the Minister, Deputy Fitzgerald. They have them in Britain. It is estimated that perhaps 150,000 Irish women may have had terminations. We also have a duty to consider how the numbers might be reduced. Unwelcome and unwanted pregnancies are always going to happen. Women need effective and practical support in such situations.

In all the recent coverage on this issue, a letter by Canon Stephen Neill in The Irish Times on Thursday, 3 November most accurately reflected my views. He wrote in that letter the following:

The only hope for a reasonable debate and a mature and responsible approach to this issue which we have never faced up to as a nation is for the middle ground to find its voice. It is possible to be both pro-life and pro-choice. We can simultaneously respect the right to life of the unborn and the life of the mother.

That is the challenge facing us as legislators, to find that middle ground, where we can show reverence for all human life and respect the lives and difficult decisions faced by real people as they live their lives in ever-changing times.

Six weeks before Dr. Garret FitzGerald's passing, I had an opportunity to meet him for a lengthy lunch and conversation. It was a great privilege to discuss with him a range of issues that we faced at the time but also issues that arose during his time in politics. At the end of our discussion I asked Dr. FitzGerald the issues on which he made mistakes during his time in politics. He spoke honestly and eloquently about his deep regret in agreeing to the demands for a constitutional referendum on this issue in the early 1980s. The issue became, as he described, entangled in party politics and in the fervent political atmosphere of the time, where there were three general elections in 18 months.

Dreadful mistakes have been made on this issue since the early 1980s. I believe, however, that the majority of people, while opposing an abortion regime, want this issue resolved within the context of the Supreme Court ruling on the X case and the legal and regulatory certainty that follows that for women and their doctors. The Constitution is the Constitution. Under the Constitution, the Supreme Court has the sole right of interpretation. Ignoring its interpretation of more than 20 years is no longer an option for the Government and the House.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I thank Mr. Justice Sean Ryan for the work and commitment he and his team put in during their deliberations, given their terms of reference.

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