Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Heritage Sites
 Header Item Preschool Services
 Header Item Hospitals Policy
 Header Item Hospital Services
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Finance Bill 2018 [Certified Money Bill]: Report and Final Stages
 Header Item Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 262 No. 3

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 10:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have received notice from Senator Tim Lombard that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, he proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works to consider the development of Desmond Castle, Kinsale, County Cork, as an interpretative centre in view of the national and international significance of the Battle of Kinsale, in 1601.

I have also received notice from Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill of the following matter:

Chun a iarraidh ar an Aire Leanaí agus Gnóthaí Óige luach saothair cothrom a thabhairt do mhúinteoirí réamhscoile or the need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to provide for equitable remuneration for preschool teachers.

I have also received notice from Senator Gerald Nash of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to outline his views on plans by hospital management to change the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, County Louth.

I have also received notice from Senator Robbie Gallagher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to consider extending the opening hours of the minor injury unit at Monaghan General Hospital and if he will explore the option of adding to the services available at the hospital.

I have also received notice from Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, in conjunction with the National Transport Authority, to consider an increase in capacity on the northern commuter railway line.

The matters raised by the Senators are suitable for discussion. I have selected the matters raised by Senators Tim Lombard, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Gerald Nash and Robbie Gallagher and they will be taken now. Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee may give notice on another day of the matter she wishes to raise.

Commencement Matters

Heritage Sites

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Moran. Tá fáilte romhat.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I welcome the Minister of State and acknowledge that it is the first time he has come to the House to address us.

  In my Commencement matter I call on the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works to let us know whether he plans to develop Desmond Castle in Kinsale as an interpretative centre, given the national and international significance of the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. As he is very much aware, Kinsale has an awful lot going for it as a tourism town. It is the start of the Wild Atlantic Way and has many attractions, including good food. This morning I will focus on the historical element.

  Kinsale dates back mainly to the battle of 1601, which was one of the most pivotal in Irish history. It had an international element because not only did Irish forces fight the Crown forces, over 1,000 Spanish soldiers were involved in the siege and battle. The Spanish Government is very much aware of the battle and has been proactive about it. We need to step into the space and have an interpretive centre in Kinsale in order that we can promote the battle site. The centre could become a focal point not alone for Irish and other European visitors but also international visitors from the entire world to learn what happened during the battle and siege.

  Desmond Castle is a unique structure located in the centre of Kinsale. It has been closed since September 2017. It housed a wine museum which is now closed. The castle could be considered by the OPW for use as an interpretive centre, thus allowing us to embrace everything Kinsale has to offer. In many ways, it has been blessed by the hand of history and geography. We have an historical building that could be used as a very important interpretive centre which would benefit Kinsale and the entire western seaboard.

  I put it to the Minister of State that we should put a plan in place and ask the OPW to consider using the building in the way I have suggested. We must see what we can do to engage with the local chamber of commerce, as well as local businesses and tourism stakeholders, to put an interpretive centre in place. The initiative would have the effect of adding another string to our bow. We would also celebrate what really was one of the most significant battles in Irish history. As I said, there is a national element, but the international element must also be highlighted as there is a story to be told. We have the building and the story. All we need are the funds and drive by the Government to ensure we can deliver on the real potential of the castle and Kinsale.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I am grateful to the Senator for giving me the chance to come into the House to speak about this issue. Desmond Castle in Kinsale, or the French Prison as it is sometimes known, is one of the heritage sites managed by the Office of Public Works, OPW, that perhaps are not well publicised and which deserve a little more attention. They are excellent historical properties in their own right. I am always anxious, as is the OPW, to bring what are called tier 2 and tier 3 sites such as this one more to the fore in order that more people can visit them. This matter is very important from the point of view of local tourism and employment creation.

  As the Senator knows, Desmond Castle is closed for urgent conservation works and visitors have been unable to visit since it was shut at the end of last year. When it was open, it was one of 70 visitor sites operated by the OPW and attracted visitors in the region of about 10,000 per year. It was managed by the guide team from Charles Fort, the OPW's other large site located close by in Kinsale. Charles Fort is a major year-round visitor site that attracted over 100,000 visitors last year.

  Desmond Castle which was declared a national monument in 1938 has had a varied history.  This has led to a lack of clarity about the site at times, which really does not help in trying to market it to visitors. As mentioned, it is closed for urgent conservation works. However, it is not immediately apparent what the extent of the problem is or exactly how long it will take to fix it; therefore, we will have to wait for the full conservation architect and structural engineer assessments. While it is closed, the OPW is taking the opportunity to look again at the site and the approach to it in order that we might possibly reposition it as a visitor attraction and in future marketing. When the OPW looked at the issue previously, it met Kinsale Chamber of Commerce to discuss it. However, it struggled at the time to define the site clearly and not much progress was made. The closure offers another opportunity to look at the issue. I can tell the Senator that the theme of the 1601 rebellion has been suggested. Clearly, it will be a strong contender in the future presentation of the site. My officials shortly hope to present the future interpretation and presentation of Desmond Castle site as an application to Fáilte Ireland for funding under its capital investment programme. I know that the OPW has high hopes this approach will bear fruit. I am sure, however, that the strong views and suggestions the Senator has communicated to me will form part of the future plans for the castle.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator may ask a brief supplementary question.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard The location of the historical site in the centre of town offers much potential. I put it to the Minister of State that his officials might come to Kinsale to meet the chamber of commerce again, as well as the local tourism agency, to engage in dialogue on how we can find a suitable home for the interpretative centre. As I said, everything in Kinsale dates back to the battle of 1601 which is of international significance. If the departmental officials could sit down with the people of Kinsale, it would go a long way towards trying to tell the story Kinsale needs to tell about the battle of 1601.

Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran: Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran As I said, tier 2 and tier 3 sites are the hidden gems of the OPW that I am trying to bring to attention for the local community and also for tourism purposes. Once we get word back from the conservation architect, we will know the extent of the work that needs to be done. We are in a position to apply to Fáilte Ireland for funding. That is a positive message to bring back to the people of Kinsale today. Once I receive the report from the conservation architect, I will set up a meeting to enable my officials to engage with Kinsale Chamber of Commerce. It was my initiative to allow young people under the age of 16 years to visit all OPW heritage sites free of charge, with people with disabilities and their carers. I believe heritage sites will benefit tourism and help the country to blossom. I share the Senator's views in that regard.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I thank the Minister of State. Without impoverishing the impartiality of the Chair, I am inclined to be on the side of Senator Lombard on this issue.

Preschool Services

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I, too, welcome the Minister of State. I acknowledge the co-operation of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, on this issue and know that she is tied up at the Cabinet meeting this morning. Her officials have been in touch with me and very co-operative.

  Baineann an cheist seo leis an rátá bunphá atá múinteoirí i gComhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta ag baint amach faoi láthair. Tá na múinteoirí réamhscoile sin an-mhíshásta. Chuir siad in iúl dom agus do na Teachtaí Dála ó Thír Chonaill go bhfuil orthu obair bhreise a bhaineann le riarachán nó le páipéarachas a dhéanamh. Tuigim go bhfuil thart ar trí uair sa bhreis sa tseachtain ag baint leis an obair sin. Tá sé deacair ar na múinteoirí an obair sin a bhaint amach le cois na cúraimí eile atá orthu, agus ag cur san áireamh an ráta íseal pá atá ag na múinteoirí seo. Tá na múinteoirí ag iarraidh go mbeidh ardú pá i gceist ionas go mbeidh ráta pá fiúntach acu.

  The issue is the level of remuneration available to preschool teachers in the Donegal Gaeltacht in Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta, Donegal branch. These teachers have additional responsibilities. A classroom teacher in a primary school has equivalent responsibilities. The facilities and services provided by these preschool teachers are excellent, essential and of crucial importance to many families living in Gaeltacht areas. There was always a distinction made - in my view, wrongly - in the pay levels of preschool teachers outside and inside the Gaeltacht. There should be parity of esteem for preschool teachers both inside and outside the Gaeltacht and no difference in pay. In fact, preschool teachers in Gaeltacht areas have additional responsibilities in trying to encourage children to speak Irish and so on and so forth. The amount required is small and not a substantial financial ask. I am not sure whether the Minister of State will have the answer, but this issue must be dealt with.

  I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Irish Language, An Coiste Gaeilge. In February we met representatives of preschool teachers when committee members visited the Donegal Gaeltacht. Following the meeting, we took on board the recommendations which had been made by the preschool teachers and made a submission to the Houses of the Oireachtas in which we recommended that the matter be dealt with. To date, as we approach the end of 2018, it has still not been dealt with. The issues are equality of pay and the availability of in-service training. The vast majority, if not all, of the preschool teachers are women who provide an excellent service locally. An added benefit is that many of the families who can send their children to preschool are able to continue working. This is an issue in a rural area, but it needs to be dealt with. It is wrong that a preschool teacher in Castlebar or Athlone is on one rate of pay, while another in Gweedore, Gortahork or elsewhere in County Donegal or Connemara is on a lower rate, although he or she is doing exactly the same work and has additional responsibilities because of the use of the Irish language.

  Obviously, Údarás na Gaeltachta has a role to play and an agreement with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, from which the financial resources to ensure parity in pay rates would have to come.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Senator for tabling this Commencement matter. I am delighted that he has had a conversation with officials from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. The Minister, Deputy Zappone, has asked me to take this matter.

  The matter concerns the remuneration of early learning and care practitioners in preschool settings. The Minister has been unequivocal in her support for better pay and conditions for staff in the sector. It is her belief early learning and care practitioners play a crucial role for families and children and that they deserve to be recognised and valued. In return, the evidence shows that a valued workforce deliver higher quality services to children. However, the Department is not the employer of early learning and care staff and does not pay the salaries of staff working in early learning and care settings. Therefore, the Minister cannot set wage levels.  In that regard, the preschool context is different from the situation in primary and post-primary schools. Given this context, the Minister has been clear that there are limits to the actions that her Department can take. However, the Minister has supported a range of measures to improve pay and conditions using the tools available to her. In particular, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has seen a 117% increase in investment in the sector over the past four budgets, rising from a budget of circa €260 million in 2015 to €575 million in 2019. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has used some of this budget to introduce additional capitation to services, for example, a 7% rise this September in the ECCE capitation rate. Programme support payments to recognise the administrative roles that services play have also been introduced totalling €18 million per annum for the past two years, with €21.4 million available in 2019. The Department has also continued to provide a higher rate of capitation payment for graduate-led preschool rooms to encourage the attraction and retention of graduate staff. This year, the Minister also introduced a pilot measure to fund services whose staff take part in continuing professional development, CPD. It is the Minister's hope and intention that these additional investment measures should be reflected in the pay and conditions of staff in preschool services.

The Minister has also repeatedly called for the sector to pursue a sectoral employment order, which offers a possible mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. As the Senator will be aware, the Minister cannot initiate a sectoral employment order, nor can officials in her Department, but she is keen to co-operate with such a process if and when it is undertaken. Many early learning and care settings are open throughout the summer months and this is reflected in the remuneration to their staff. Some services choose to offer the ECCE programme only and as a result do not open during the summer months. The arrangement they make with staff in respect of remuneration during this time is a matter for the individual employer. However, the introduction of the affordable childcare scheme in autumn 2019 will for the first time allow an individual child to benefit from both the ECCE programme and a targeted funding scheme. The wrap-around character of the affordable childcare scheme will make it easier for early learning and care and school age childcare services to operate year-round, including during the summer months, if they should choose to do so.

On the question of in-service training with primary school teachers, I refer the Senator to First 5, the whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families, launched on 19 November. It is important to acknowledge that early learning and care is a profession of and in itself, and not all training accessed by primary school teachers will be relevant to the preschool context or vice versa. However, there are important areas of shared responsibility and interest, including supporting children's transitions between preschool and primary school. First 5 includes a specific commitment to develop links between CPD opportunities for the early learning and care workforce and the national structure for CPD of primary school teachers. First 5 also commits to consideration of opportunities for joint delivery of CPD programmes, where appropriate.

I am missing a page somewhere.

Acting Chairman (Senator Tim Lombard): Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard The Minister of State is over time.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I apologise. I will get the rest of the document for the Senator.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I thank the Minister of State. I know it is not under the direct remit of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to deal with this, but what is happening is that preschool teachers, because the rates of pay are so low in Gaeltacht areas, are leaving to work as special needs assistants for the Department of Education and Skills. If this continues, we will have no preschool availability in Gaeltacht areas. The issue needs to be dealt with. I am encouraged by the Minister's commitment to consider a sectoral employment order or at least that she would be keen to co-operate in this matter. I will follow up on this.

  I ask the Minister of State, if possible, to speak to officials in the Department to find out if they are willing to bring the key stakeholders together to try to find a solution to this issue. Perhaps the Minister could play the key or chairing role in facilitating such a solution. That would be the best way of dealing with this matter. It takes a leader to deal with it and the Minister is in a position to provide leadership by bringing the key stakeholders together, thrashing out the issue and dealing with it once and for all. That would be very welcome. I ask the Minister of State to raise this issue with the Minister, to whom I will certainly write about it also.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I will convey all the Senator's comments to the Minister. I agree with him in many ways. I know how difficult it is for staff to be kept in preschool. I have a niece who runs a Montessori school and she has often talked about the difficulty caused by staff moving on, which is related to the level of pay. I agree with the Senator in that regard. I will bring his concerns to the Minister, but I know from speaking to her on other occasions that she is committed to ensuring there is equal opportunity for people, whether in preschool settings or primary schools. I will ensure she hears the Senator's comments loud and clear.

Hospitals Policy

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I was shocked last week to learn that the general manager of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital had announced her intention to change the name of the hospital. A notice sent to some staff last week suggests the dropping of the name of this institution, which is more than 60 years old, is a fait accompli. There has been no consultation worth the name. It seems a decision is being handed down by a public official who has forgotten that public servants are accountable not just to their staff but also to the wider community, just as the Minister of State and I are.

  For all my public life I have fought to separate church and State, whether in the campaigns to repeal the eighth amendment and for marriage equality or in fighting for pluralism and greater tolerance in this country. I assure the Minister of State that I have the scars on my back from those campaigns, which were far from politically popular or profitable until recently. As a real pluralist, the name of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital does not offend me. The notion that we dispense with it and, as a consequence, the link to our local hospital's founders does not sit comfortably with me. This hospital was built, as the Minister of State might know, by the Medical Missionaries of Mary and Mother Mary Martin. Its bricks were financed by the people of Drogheda. There would be no hospital in Drogheda were it not for the vision of the Medical Missionaries of Mary. This is an historical fact that cannot just be airbrushed out in a rebranding campaign. One need not be a practising Catholic to understand and appreciate the abiding legacy of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, and thankfully there is no longer a Roman Catholic ethos in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. That has not been the case since the hospital transferred to State ownership through the North Eastern Health Board back in 1997, but that legacy, regardless of whether one agrees with the founders' religious perspective, ought to be honoured and the name of the hospital should remain. It is part of our identity as Drogheda people and part of the town's social and historical fabric. Will the Minister of State apprise me of who gets to make the final decision on this issue, in other words, who has the authority to do that in law? Is it the general manager, the board of the RCSI hospital group or the HSE, or is there a function for the Department of Health in this matter?

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. I thank the Senator for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity to provide an update for the House on Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital was originally opened by the Medical Missionaries of Mary as the International Missionary Training Hospital in 1957 and transferred to the North Eastern Health Board in 1997. The hospital is currently owned and run as a statutory hospital by the HSE. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is a 370-bed acute general hospital serving the local community in the north east. Services include an emergency department, an acute medical assessment unit, Louth-Meath paediatric services and the regional trauma service.

  Recent media reports have suggested the hospital is considering changing its name. It has also been reported that the general manager of the hospital wrote to staff members recently seeking their views on potential names. The Department of Health has sought a full update on this matter from the HSE. One of the suggested names was Drogheda university hospital. The Senator may wish to be aware that use of the term "university" is regulated by section 52 of the Universities Act. The Companies Registration Office will not register any company wishing to use the term "university" without authorisation from the Department of Education and Skills.  Hospitals in the RCSI hospital group, including Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, are not referred to as university hospitals because the RCSI is not a university.

  As part of investment in and reform of health services, a phased major capital infrastructural project is taking place at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. The project includes the provision of additional beds and theatre capacity, as well as the expanded emergency department. The new emergency department which will be located on the ground floor of the hospital will be completed and available to open early in 2019. The HSE has advised that some work remains to be completed in the old emergency department to allow for the installation of a new paediatric emergency department and an extension of radiology services. It anticipates that the full extension will be ready in 2019. Additional bed capacity in the hospital is also expected to be made available early in 2019.

  Further decisions on the name of the hospital will be considered by the HSE and the Department of Health and take account of the wishes of staff and the population served by the hospital.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I thank the Minister of State for her reply. She was incorrect to suggest this issue had only been raised in recent media reports. A decision was taken by the general manager of the hospital who stated in an email to senior staff that it was her intention to change the name of the hospital. It is extremely high-handed and arrogant for a public official to make that decision without consultation. It was almost presented as a fait accompli. Three options from an unknown source were put forward, namely, Drogheda regional hospital, Drogheda general hospital and Drogheda university hospital. The Minister of State has correctly pointed out that the RCSI does not have university status in Ireland. It can market itself as a university for the purposes of attracting students from abroad, but it does not have that legal status in Ireland. I have tabled an amendment to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 which would allow it to describe itself as a university in Ireland.

  In this case, the general manager of the hospital jumped the gun, although I do not wish to personalise the matter. There is very little public support in Drogheda for the proposal. Perhaps a compromise might be reached. For example, the name of Mother Mary Martin might be more formally associated with the hospital. There is no doubt that if a new publicly funded hospital was being developed on a greenfield site, its name would, correctly, not have religious associations. I believe in a pluralist, tolerant, secular republic and that there should not be religious overtones, particularly where State funding is provided. However, in this case, changing the name of the hospital would reject its history and the reality that it was founded by the Medical Missionaries of Mary. We are proud of their association with Drogheda and that legacy should be honoured because in a few short years very few members of the order will remain. We should respect and honour our history and that legacy.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I thank the Senator. I fully agree with him. A decision by hospital management to change the name of the hospital should have been preceded by consultation with staff and the local community. I fully agree with the Senator on the ethos of hospitals. It is not a name that makes a hospital but the people who work in it. That said, many hospitals were founded by missionary sisters or other religious orders which should not be blamed for all that has happened in the history of religion in this country. I will convey the Senator's concerns to the Minister and ask him to contact the Senator about the intention to change the name of the hospital without consultation.

Hospital Services

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I, too, welcome the Minister of State. I raise the issue of waiting lists in hospitals. Unfortunately, records show that November was one of the worst months in history for overcrowding. I am sure the Minister of State will agree that that is very unfair for patients and their families, as well as the hard-working staff in the hospital network, to whom I pay great credit. As I am sure the Minister of State will agree, this is a time of crisis. It may be time to think outside the box in terms of what we can do to alleviate the crisis, particularly in smaller hospitals throughout the country such as Monaghan Hospital. The minor injury unit at the hospital operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. It functions very well and provides an excellent service. However, its opening hours should be extended to seven days a week in order to alleviate the pressure on hospitals in Cavan, Drogheda and elsewhere in the region. Last year I pointed out that approximately 4,500 people had passed through the doors of the minor injury unit. This year more than 4,000 patients had been treated by the end of October.

  I compliment the HSE on its campaign to raise awareness of the services available at the minor injury unit. People may be treated for injuries such as broken bones and have casts supplied and X-rays taken. The turnaround times and the speed at which people are seen are testimony to its great staff. More than 91% of respondents in a recent HSE survey stated they had had an excellent or very good experience at the unit. Many were unaware of the full range of services available, which indicates that a further awareness campaign is needed. Many complained about the restricted 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, opening hours. It is worth noting that it has the shortest opening hours of the 11 minor injury units throughout the country. It treats as many patients as some minor injury units which open for seven days a week. I encourage more people to use it and the Government to explore the services available at Monaghan Hospital. In particular, consideration should be given to an extension of the opening hours of the minor injury unit for the benefit of all citizens in counties Monaghan and Cavan and elsewhere. At a time when more than 700,000 people are on waiting lists, surely, smaller hospitals could be providing additional services to alleviate the waiting lists. An audit of all hospitals should be carried out to identify the additional work they could do to alleviate the problems in the health service.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, for his absence owing to Cabinet commitments.

  I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to address the Seanad on services at Monaghan Hospital. Monaghan Hospital and Cavan General Hospital operate as a single entity, with an integrated managerial and clinical governance system, care pathways and support functions. The emergency department is located at Cavan General Hospital, while the facilities at Monaghan Hospital are focused on the provision of elective care and the streaming of appropriate patients to the minor injury unit located on site.

  The smaller hospitals framework defined the role of smaller hospitals and outlined the need for smaller and larger hospitals to operate within hospital groups. It identified the activities that could be performed in smaller model 2 hospitals such as Monaghan Hospital in a safe and sustainable manner. In developing smaller hospitals the safety of patients is the first and over-riding concern. Significant progress has been made in recent years in the establishment and development of hospital groups. Hospitals are now working together and supporting each other in groups.  This new way of working provides a stronger role for smaller hospitals such as Monaghan Hospital in delivering a higher volume of less complex care in many cases closer to patients' homes. It also ensures patients who require true emergency or complex planned care are managed safely in a larger hospital environment. Through reconfiguration and consolidation of services, demonstrably better outcomes can be achieved for patients, as has already been shown and broadly accepted by the public in the case of cancer treatment.

  With regard to the minor injury unit, as outlined in A Programme for a Partnership Government, the Department of Health is committed to undertaking a review of medical assessment units, minor injury units and similar units with a view to extending their opening hours. Minor injury clinics and similar units provide valuable services for local communities and alleviate the pressures on emergency departments. The minor injury unit in Monaghan Hospital is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can treat both adults and children over five years with non-life-threatening or limb-threatening injuries.

  The Department of Health review of opening hours will have particular regard to distance from the nearest emergency department and existing workloads. Work on this review is at an early stage. The Minister for Health visited Monaghan Hospital in July this year to engage with staff and view the hospital's facilities. The Government is committed to securing and further developing the role of smaller hospitals with the expansion of services delivered in these hospitals, especially in services such as day surgery; ambulatory care; medical services and diagnostics.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I thank the Minister of State for her response. Is there a timeframe for the review? When does the Minister expect it to be completed? We are aware that the Minister visited the hospital in July this year and we met him that Saturday morning. We are disappointed he has not come back yet with his plans. There is a degree of urgency attached to this issue. There are patients lying on trolleys for hours on end. It is very unfair and I have no doubt that there are people going to Cavan Hospital and Drogheda Hospital who could easily be treated in the Monaghan minor injury unit. It makes perfect sense to extend its opening hours to seven days a week. I implore the Minister of State to do so as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I do not have the timeframe for the review but I will ask the Minister's office to tell the Senator. I support what the Senator is saying. Having sat in the accident and emergency department for 13 hours two weeks ago with my daughter I understand the difficulties, particularly for people who have minor injuries. The overcrowding does lead to people having to be there for a long time. Minor injury clinics deliver a positive outcome to people living local to them who do not have to travel further to major hospitals. We want to make sure people who are seriously ill go to the accident and emergency department and that those who are not are filtered into the minor injury unit. I will relay the Senator's concerns to the Minister about the opening hours and the timeframe for the review.

  Sitting suspended at 11.15 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.

Order of Business

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Order of Business is No. 1, Finance Bill 2018 (Certified Money Bill) - Report and Final Stages, to be taken at 12.45 p.m.; and No. 2, Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 - Committee Stage (resumed), to be taken at 2.15 p.m. or at the conclusion of No. 1, whichever is the later, and adjourned not later than 10 p.m., if not previously concluded.

  With your indulgence, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I welcome the ladies from the Ballinascarthy branch of the ICA.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Absolutely.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee I refer to the National Maternity Hospital and the controversy about its construction. The new hospital was announced five years ago and €150 million was put aside for its construction. Construction costs have increased to €300 million since. There is no doubt that the new hospital is urgently needed. Conditions in Holles Street Hospital are not suitable for the more than 8,000 women who give birth in it. The Minister for Health needs to come to the House today or as soon as possible to clarify the position on the construction of the National Maternity Hospital. There is so much misinformation and confusion about it that I would like him to clarify the exact position for Members. There is also a lot of public concern. There appears to be a major rush to start construction of the new hospital before the end of the year. We are told that because of the changing EU regulations for publicly funded projects such as this they must have zero emissions, although that has not been stated officially. We need clarification on that issue.

  We have also learned that the Sisters of Charity have yet to hand over the land for the new hospital to the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group. It was decided that they would do this 18 months ago following a public outcry, but it has yet to be done. We are told unofficially that the papers will be lodged in the coming weeks with the Charities Regulator and the Companies Registration Office. It must be done before the Minister can sign off on the project. It would be irresponsible of him to do so without it being done. The Sisters of Charity have had 18 months in which to do so, but it has still not been done. We need clarification on the reason it has not been done. There were some reports that they needed Vatican approval before they could divest any property. I would like the Minister to make reference to the issue and clarify the point.

  We have learned in the media that there seems to be a pushback against the Minister's attempts to appoint a public interest director to the board of the new hospital which we are building at a cost of €300 million. It will be completely publicly funded, as will the administration of healthcare. Therefore, we need clarification on whether there will be a public interest director on the board. In recent years public interest directors have been appointed to the boards of various banks that we funded during the economic collapse and that seemed to be unable to function because directors' legal responsibility was to the board, not anybody else. We need clarification on whether there will be a public interest director on the board of the new hospital and, if so, if he or she will have powers to act.

  It is very important that we get everything right in the construction of the National Maternity Hospital. For too long, women have been sidelined and their healthcare has been treated as a second-class issue. We need to get this right for women and the children who will be born in the new hospital in the next 100 to 200 years. It is vital that the Minister address the issue. I am well aware that he is very busy this week and has been in recent weeks in dealing with urgently needed legislation, but this issue is tangential and also urgent. As there is a great deal of public concern about it, the Minister should clarify the Government's position on it.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I refer to the perfect storm for the agriculture sector, in particular the farm families who live in the shadow of Brexit, arising from delayed payments, the prospect of another harsh winter, a possible fodder shortage and unworkable land due to flooding. I welcome the review of areas of natural constraints, ANC, carried out recently and the additional funding of €23 million.  Unless there is additional funding to front-load payments, an increased payment rate per hectare and an increase in the number of eligible acres, this will not have the necessary effect of addressing the level of constraints experienced by farmers in marginal areas. The bottom line is that there needs to be further targeting of payments towards the areas with the highest level of natural constraint. Last Friday, I attended a meeting in County Mayo along with hundreds of farmers, which was organised by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association and at which all of these concerns were discussed. I was astounded that there was no Government representative or Fianna Fáil representative from County Mayo in attendance. Given the importance of the issue and the challenges facing the sector, the meeting should have been prioritised.

  In the previous reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, we saw minimal redistribution as farmers with larger and higher payments were protected again. The forthcoming Common Agricultural Policy must right some of the wrongs of the past by ensuring that farmers can make a reasonable living while keeping the rural economy alive, promoting jobs and farming in the agricultural industries and associated sectors. Last year, Ireland made a commitment to provide extra funding for the CAP. I urge the Government to honour that commitment by making up any shortfall and ensuring that there is an annual budget in excess of €650 million.

  The agricultural schemes need to be more accessible. The organic scheme that opened last week will close next week, on 19 December. Such a short application period excludes a large number of people who would like to participate in the scheme. The marginal land, which was not eligible for the green, low-carbon, agri-environment scheme, GLAS, could be suitable for this type of scheme. The livestock rate of 0.5 per unit is too high and the marking system of the scheme favours horticulture and dairy, which get 50 marks, while beef and sheep only get ten marks. This excludes many farmers. The Government needs to consider these schemes and find ways to make them more accessible.

  I am gravely concerned about the agri-environment options scheme, AEOS, participants because their last payment will be made this month and there are no plans to replace the scheme. These farmers stayed in the AEOS as GLAS was not viable for them. We need a new scheme because farmers who are in the scheme are facing a loss of between €3,000 and €4,000, which is an awful lot out of anybody's income. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to the House early in the new year to discuss all of these farming issues.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I echo Senator Clifford-Lee's concerns about the national maternity hospital. As she said, we need some clarity from the Minister for Health as to what will be the position with the hospital. Clearly, women need a new and fit-for-purpose maternity hospital. However, there are still valid concerns about the connections between the Sisters of Charity and St. Vincent's Healthcare Group. There is still an issue regarding the appointment of a public interest director. Even though many of us would query how strong a public interest director could be, it is a real worry agreement has not been reached on the appointment of one at this point. It would be useful to have clarity on this matter. This issue also raises a bigger question about the separation of church and State and the need to ensure State ownership of hospitals and schools in a country where the Catholic Church retains ownership of the vast majority of primary school lands and many other premises that should be under State control.

  Brexit is the biggest political issue facing this country and Britain. Some of us predicted that the vote that was to have taken place in the House of Commons tonight would be postponed given that Prime Minister Theresa May would have been defeated by a large majority. I was not surprised, therefore, that she deferred the vote. However, the real worry for us is that Irish interests may become a bargaining chip in the negotiations between Britain and the European Union. Clearly, that cannot be allowed to happen. As the Labour Party leader, Deputy Brendan Howlin, said this morning, it is crucial that the Taoiseach holds firm and we see absolutely no watering down of the commitment on the backstop. That is essential. There is a cross-party and all-party political agreement on that matter, certainly in this jurisdiction.

  I ask the Leader to arrange a debate in the new year on the recent climate change performance index report that ranked Ireland as the worst country in the EU in terms of performance on climate change on a whole range of indicators. The report shows that, far from being a leader in tackling climate change, Ireland is a laggard. The Government needs to take urgent action on this matter. Last Friday, I spoke at a protest organised by Labour Youth, Young Greens Ireland and others. It was a red-green alliance and we called on the Government to take substantive steps to tackle climate change. It is most disappointing that there was no action on carbon tax in the most recent budget. As the Leader knows, there are four Private Members' Bills before the Dáil that the Government could sign up to, all of which would make a contribution to tackling climate change and moving towards emissions reduction. We are performing badly and there seems to be little political will to do anything about this in government. We need an urgent debate on this matter, specifically on the new report which confirmed how poorly this country is performing when compared with the rest of the EU.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan What do the recent Fine Gael Árd Fheis and "The Late Late Show" broadcast last Friday night have in common? One thing is that on both occasions the Taoiseach correctly referenced the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as one of the achievements of the Government. I was delighted to hear that. However, it is important that everyone from the top down - all Ministers, senior departmental officials and others - get the message that the treaty that we have bound ourselves to is now part of the business of every Department and public body and that they all have work to do on it.

  Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As I have said previously, it was the first human rights treaty introduced by the United Nations after it was established following the calamity of the Second World War when the Nazis killed and exterminated more than 300,000 people with disabilities. Many of these people were German citizens and it is sad that the Nazis did not see them as such. Life unworthy of living is what they called people with disabilities, people who were infirm and so on. Six decades later, the UN had to return to the issue of the human rights of people with disabilities because states had still not managed to make these rights happen for people. I will quote a little piece written by Eleanor Roosevelt, the chairperson of the committee that drafted the convention. When asked where do human rights begin she said:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.

Ireland and all the states of the world have to address an issue with which they have not really got to grips in the past 60 or 70 years by implementing the convention. I respectfully ask the Leader to arrange for the Taoiseach to come to the House and make a statement outlining the plan and ambition in all Departments to implement the convention. I make my request to the Taoiseach as the Head of Government. He said he would ratify the convention as soon as he was appointed and did so within a handful of months.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I will raise one substantive issue before referring to the issue raised by Senator Bacik. There is an issue in rural Ireland.  I want the Leader to respond to this and put it to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. There is an issue with mobile coverage in rural Ireland. It is very sporadic and there are black spots. One can drive to areas where there is no mobile coverage. I know of three or four areas with no mobile coverage within a very short radius of my home in County Cavan. The situation is replicated throughout County Monaghan and various parts of rural Ireland. The solution must be further investment by the private sector. The Government and, specifically, ComReg have a duty in this respect to make it clear to these providers that they should provide comprehensive coverage and, insofar as there is a deficit, invest in sorting it out. If Government intervention is necessary to decentralise jobs and develop the regions and rural Ireland, so be it. At a minimum, we need mobile coverage to maintain a quality of life. The significant agenda is broadband but this is a real agenda also. Therefore, I ask the Leader to invite the Minister to the House to discuss this issue and to talk to him in the meantime.

  In respect of the issue raised by Senator Bacik, I agree fully that we must hold firm on the Northern Ireland backstop. I am sure she was as reassured as I was this morning to hear the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade commit himself very clearly to that task and the comments of the Taoiseach yesterday. The Senator is correct. From a Border perspective and as somebody from Cavan-Monaghan, I can say that it is a real issue for us and that we must hold firm because we must maintain a normal economy, normal Border crossing and normal life there. The peace process also hinges on it. My good colleague, Senator Dolan, referenced the specific commitment to human rights under the UN. We need the backstop to preserve human rights in the context of the Good Friday Agreement.

Senator John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I want to raise an issue I have raised on numerous occasions, namely, the motorised transport grant. It relates to the issue raised by Senator Dolan regarding people with disabilities. These grants were suspended in 2013. They allowed people to get to work and allowed families to care for their loved ones in their own homes and to bring them to appointments and hospitals. It was suspended in May 2013 and was to have been restored by October of that year. We are approaching the end of 2018 and have seen the biggest spending on health this country has ever seen, but there does not seem to be anything on the horizon with regard to restoring the motorised transport grant. Essentially, it saves the taxpayer money because some of the people who availed of that grant were able to remain outside of hospital care, a situation that changed when it was suspended. Will the Leader invite the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Finian McGrath, to come to the House to outline the position on the motorised transport grant? I have raised it as a Commencement matter on numerous occasions.

  On a happier note, a sports story uplifted the nation over the weekend. I congratulate Mullinalaghta on defeating Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster senior football club final. I have nothing against Kilmacud Crokes. I admire it as a fantastic club but its club area covers an area with the same population of Leitrim while Mullinalaghta is a club from a small half parish with 440 people that epitomised what can be done if one takes on the world as underdog. I commend it and both I and the country rejoiced. Anyone with an interest in sport saw the club's joy and its return to its native village crossroads. It is not just the story of the year; it is the story of the decade in many respects.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Giant slayers.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We will debate the Finance Bill later today. As is often the case, particularly with Finance Bills, I was disappointed to have a number of my proposals for areas that should be looked at and debated ruled out of order either because they were considered to be a potential charge on the State, did not arise out of Committee Stage or were not relevant. I know this is a decision of the Cathaoirleach but I am indicating a few areas that I had hoped would be debated and that I ask the Leader to ensure are debated on the floor of the House in the new year if they cannot debated in the context of the Finance Bill.

  In particular, I was very disappointed to see that my amendments relating to Part 4 tenancies and the eviction of Part 4 tenants under the refurbishment exemption were not considered relevant given that the phrasing I used very much looked to the fact that they are relevant because the Government is giving tax relief for refurbishment. We know this is one of those areas that has been abused as a loophole to ensure people are pressed out of their houses and the rent can then be raised under a new tenancy. There is a real concern that we may have given a perverse incentive in this regard. Again, I find bizarre the idea that tenants and their security are not relevant to a tax relief for landlords.

  The other issue we will not be debating in the context of the Finance Bill but where I hope the Leader might facilitate a debate either next week or in January is carbon tax, especially carbon tax on commercial activities. It has been very much spoken about on an individual basis and we have the EU emissions trading scheme, but there are a large number of commercial activities that are not covered under this scheme. I would appreciate it if we could have a debate on this. I will build on something Senator Humphreys said, which is that the transition statements last week were a disgrace. They were a disgrace with regard to fulfilling adequately the obligation, which we had last year and the previous year, whereby each Minister would come to the House to give a statement regarding what he or she is doing in terms of adjustment, transition and dealing with climate change, and to answer questions. Instead, we had a set piece involving a few little statements from Ministers who immediately left the House. I am adding to Senator Humphreys's comments by saying that I will certainly be pressing for all Ministers to come in and have a proper debate on each of their briefs in terms of what they are doing. In the newspapers today, we are looking at Ireland being called out again, ranked 48th out of 60 countries, and being the worst country in Europe in terms of our carbon emissions and what we are doing on climate change. As the bells are ringing in alarm with regard to climate change, I ask the Leader to facilitate a lengthy debate with the new Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, a debate on carbon tax and a return to the House by each of the Ministers to speak about what they intend to do in respect of climate change.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I rise to discuss the issue of small towns and villages. We have an issue with urban and village renewal. It has been shown that we need to promote towns as best we can. I raise this issue in the light of what happened in Bandon, one of our gateway towns in west Cork, last night. A building on Oliver Plunkett Street in the town fell down. This was a very significant structure that the local authority cordoned off yesterday. It collapsed overnight. We need to look at structures throughout villages, while the town and village renewal scheme needs to look at the structures, their history and what can be done to maintain and develop town centres. I was going to do my usual routine and ask the Minister to come to the House but I do not think it is appropriate in this case. The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, needs to come to Bandon and look at the town and its structures because we need action on the ground. We need to see what can be done in the long term in order that the incident that occurred yesterday in Bandon does not recur. These are gateway towns. Structures like these need to be looked at by the local authority.  The local authority did a very capable job in cordoning off the location yesterday. We do, however, have to examine if local authorities throughout Ireland have buildings such as these on a register. We also have to ask how structurally safe are they. There are issues at which we need to look.

  We have dereliction in many towns and villages. This €2 billion urban renewal scheme needs to be rolled out and progressed in order t hat these buildings can be examined and villages and towns developed. It needs to be done in order that we can solve part of our housing and economic problems. One aspect of our economic problem is that we have big developments in towns and in cities such as Cork, Dublin and Limerick. The smaller towns, however, are not developing. We need to have a real look at how we develop in that respect. The Leader might ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to come to Bandon, examine what can be done and see if something can be done on the ground in respect of the renewal scheme so that there can be some movement in these gateway towns.

Senator Frank Feighan: Information on Frank Feighan Zoom on Frank Feighan I join my colleague, Senator O'Mahony, in congratulating Mullinalaghta GAA Club. Its victory brought great joy and pride to every town, village and rural area around the country and to every city also. It showed what could be done. I am talking about the spirit of Gaelic football, the club and the community and what that means. I come from a neighbouring county and I was in Longford yesterday. It was possible to see that it had transcended rural Ireland. I again congratulate a great bunch of lads and a great community team.

  I also agree with Senator Bacik. We are in a very difficult situation. What is happening now, in our lifetime, is very serious. We have had the postponing of the vote in London on the withdrawal agreement. The EU, however, is our staunch supporter and we must stand firm in ensuring, in any withdrawal agreement, that the Irish backstop will be included. We need cool heads and to work together in the coming months. I hope that it is months but, as someone said, it could be years. We might not get to the bottom of Brexit for many years to come.

  On working together, I have Dr. Greg Munro, chief executive of the Royal Commonwealth Society, coming into Leinster House this Thursday from 5 p.m. until 6.30 p.m. I invite my colleagues and anybody who is interested to come along. It might give an insight into all aspects of the modern Commonwealth of Nations. There are 53 member states, of which 32 are republics. The Commonwealth consists of 2.2 billion people, which is 30% of the population of the world. We have a common legal system, similar political institutions and a shared language. It advances bilateral, multicultural and multilateral connections in diplomacy, trade, development, culture and sport. It is the Commonwealth of Nations, for anyone who may not be familiar with it. It is not the British Commonwealth. Of the people born on the island of Ireland, 70% reside in countries which are members of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK. If people have anything to ask on Thursday, they are more than welcome to come into the Members' private dining room between 5 p.m. and 6.30 p.m.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank Members of the House for their contributions on the Order of Business. All of us this morning stand united in our hope and desire that the issue of Brexit will be resolved. I again commend the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, on their sure-footedness on the issue of Brexit. The decision to postpone the vote at Westminster is the business of the British Houses of Parliament. The deadline of 29 March 2019 still looms. As a country, we have worked with our European colleagues and friends to reach the deal that was presented to all parties involved. The Taoiseach and Mr. Donald Tusk spoke yesterday. It is fair to say all of us recognise that the withdrawal agreement is the best option for us and that it should not be renegotiated. As I said here before, there is no such thing as a good Brexit. I hope that when the Heads of State meet again this Thursday, they will recognise the importance of Ireland.

  Senators Clifford-Lee and Bacik raised the important issue of the National Maternity Hospital. It is important to acknowledge the concerns people have about this new campus. I also ask Members to recall the remarks made last Saturday by Dr. Rhona Mahony on the Marian Finucane programme. Dr. Mahony spoke about the fact that the religious order in question did not ask to be and will not be involved in the running of the new hospital. She also stated that canon law would be irrelevant to the new facility on the campus of St. Vincent's University Hospital. I take great comfort from the words of Dr. Mahony, the outgoing master of the National Maternity Hospital. She is somebody I have worked with and have seen at close hand. It is important we understand that the religious order in question has not sought to be involved and it does not have any involvement. The land has been given free of charge.

  A contract deadline is 31 December. It behoves everybody to ensure that contract is signed. The terms of the agreement reached by the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital on the relocation to the Elm Park campus refer to there being a national maternity hospital. The new company will have clinical and operational, as well as financial and budgetary, independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecological and neonatal services. In 2017, the Sisters of Charity announced that it would not have ownership or a role in respect of the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group. I welcome that historic decision. This is a significant investment by the Government. It needs to be prioritised and I hope that it will happen. I will be very happy to have the Minister for Health come to the House in due course for a debate on that issue.

  I support the point made by Senator Clifford-Lee on public interest directors in all aspects of what we try to do. Some of the public interest directors we have had in the banking system have actually done a good job for the State. She is right, however, that more independent public interest directors need to be involved. They can do a very good job for the State. I concur with her in that regard.

  Senator Conway-Walsh sounds a little like the prophet of doom and gloom. She is similar to the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament when it comes to farming.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan Senator Buttimer is well named.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh That is because he is from Cork-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is right.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh -----with all of the big farmers.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Conway-Walsh fails to recognise that the significant review of areas of natural constraint, ANCs, was welcomed. All of the farming groups about which I have read have welcomed the ANC review.

  On the issue of payment, we are ahead of the curve in Europe and leading with the single farm payment. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, recently announced the pre-payment of aid to farmers.

  I hope Senator Conway-Walsh's clairvoyance regarding the weather is not accurate. We cannot plan for the weather from the forecast. We can, though, do what the Minister has done, which is to plan for all provisos. He is doing that. I am happy to have the Minister come to the House in due course. I do not share the Senator's dystopian view of the world of agriculture. It is important to recognise there has been much positivity in agriculture, notwithstanding the issues of climate that we have had to endure this year, whether bad or overly hot weather.

  I cannot comment on the absence of people at meetings, but the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, is very much on the ground in County Mayo, as the Senator is aware. Senator Mulherin is also. I cannot comment on others. I am sure Senator Conway-Walsh will keep them on their toes.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I will do my best.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senators Bacik, O'Reilly and Feighan all mentioned the issue of Brexit. It is important. It is also important that we all stand together and wear the green jersey.

  The issue of climate change was raised by Senators Higgins and Bacik. The report on climate change performance is disappointing from an Irish perspective. There is no point saying it is not. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, has acknowledged that we are far off course in our response to climate change. Since he has been appointed, however, he has secured Government approval to develop an all-Government plan to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. The plan will have actions across all sectors of society and all Departments. It will also have timelines with clear lines of responsibility.  The report that has been published reinforces the urgency of the Minister's work and that of the all-party Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. The committee has strong members from this House. The committee is due to report back on 22 January or as close to it as it can. It is the biggest issue we have to face and I am confident that we will do so.

  Senator Dolan welcomed the decision of the Government and the Parliament to sign up to the universal convention and acknowledged that the Taoiseach had done so. A request from me, as Leader of the House, has gone to the Taoiseach asking him to come to the House. I hope he will be here in the new year and that as part of his address he will speak about the matters Senator Dolan has raised. It is important that he has raised these matters.

  Senator O'Reilly raised the issue of mobile phone coverage. To be fair to him, he has raised the matter on more than one occasion in the House. It is a matter of major concern for people not only in rural Ireland but in parts of urban built Ireland where there have been issues of poor mobile phone coverage as well. It is welcome that Eir has committed €150 million in the roll-out of 4G broadband. Eir maintains this investment will cover 99% of the population. A new operator, Cignal, is putting in a €25 million investment for 300 new towers. Investment in infrastructure is important and I welcome the provision of moneys by both companies.

  Senator O'Reilly is correct to say that in parts of Cavan there is poor coverage and that this needs to be followed up on by the companies. He has raised the matter before.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh They will not even answer the telephone. The Senator is right about that.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Who are "they"?

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh Private communications companies.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sorry. The Leader may welcome interventions but I cannot allow the Senator back in. The Leader to respond, without interruption.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer For once the intervention is good and I welcome it. Senator Conway-Walsh is right. To be fair to all public representatives, we know there is an issue with customer care in some parts and with some private telephone operators. They have a duty to work with people to ensure queries and concerns are met. I full agree with the Senator. If I was to telephone one of these companies and get through within 20 minutes, I would be doing well. God be with the old days when, if I pressed the button, I could get my money back. Now, I have to press the button to go further without even getting to speak to someone, which is rather disconcerting. I was on the telephone to Eir.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Chair cannot welcome interventions. I am bound otherwise.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I am sorry.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I know of a frustrated person who was in the front room at home on a Monday morning - the same could apply to any morning or to a person of any age or description. The person had to wait 49 minutes to get hold of an operator to speak about an issue with a bill. That is only one example that I can quote from – it comes from an experience I have had personally. People can spend 90 minutes waiting to speak to an operator or customer service person. That is not good enough, given that we are investing millions of euro. The fundamental point is that the customer, in some cases, may not have the wherewithal to go through the various steps to get to talk to an agent. We must make it easier and simpler for people to engage rather than more difficult. The same applies to banking. A person now walks into personless banks to lodge funds.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee: Information on Lorraine Clifford-Lee Zoom on Lorraine Clifford-Lee It is the same with supermarkets.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It applies to supermarkets also. Not everyone uses online banking. Not everyone is proficient in the online world and it is important that companies take cognisance of this. We maintain we want to improve our quality of life as a society. However, half the stress that people have to endure derives, in some cases, from dealing with these faceless corporations.

  I am disappointed with the remarks of Senator Higgins about the climate change statements last week. We need to ensure that we have statements on climate change. I would be happy to discuss the issues she raised regarding the Finance Bill as we go along.

  Senator Lombard raised the important issue of the urban village renewal scheme. He made a request for the Minister of State to go to Bandon. I would be happy to take up that issue with the Minister of State for the Senator.

  I remind the House that the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, has announced and secured funding from Government for a variety of projects under the town and village renewal scheme. They will benefit towns.

  I commend Senator Feighan on reaching out across the political divide and building bridges. The visit this week of Mr. Munro is to be welcomed, for which I thank him. I hope people will attend.

  I think I have answered all of the questions that were asked, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the Order of Business agreed to?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer On a personal note, I congratulate Mullinalaghta St. Columba's GAA Club on its wonderful success. It underlines the importance of the pride of the parish and the half-parish. Charles Kickham and "Pride of the Parish" illustrate the importance of the GAA.

Senator John Dolan: Information on John Dolan Zoom on John Dolan He was a good Tipperary man.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Last Sunday we saw six sets of brothers play. The club draws from a population of 440 people. The team could well be playing Dr. Crokes in later times, a Leas-Chathaoirligh.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Leader had better not overlook Senator O'Mahony.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It illustrates the importance of community and sport.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The team will be meeting a new club next time.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator McFadden reminded me that the team is from County Longford, a good midlands county. The importance of sport and community is something we should herald today also. My apologies for not recognising Mullinalaghta. I congratulate the club again.

Senator John O'Mahony: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony I asked about the motorised transport grant.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am sorry I did not see that. The Minister is before the Committee on Public Petitions. There is an ongoing issue but I would be happy for the Minister to come to the House to discuss the matter.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Let there be no more interruptions, please.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer We have loads of time.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is immaterial.

  Order of Business agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 12.15 p.m. and resumed at 12.55 p.m.

Finance Bill 2018 [Certified Money Bill]: Report and Final Stages

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Item No. 1, Finance Bill 2018 - Report and Final Stages. I welcome Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, back to the House.

  Before we commence, I would like to remind Senators that a Senator may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of a recommendation who may reply to the discussion on the recommendation. On Report Stage, each recommendation must be seconded.

  Recommendation No. 1, in the names of Senators Conway-Walsh, Devine, Gavan, Mac Lochlainn, Ó Donnghaile and Warfield, is ruled out of order as it does not arise out of committee proceedings.

  Recommendation No. 1 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation Nos. 2 to 4 are ruled out of order as there is a potential charge to the Exchequer.

  Recommendations Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, not moved.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation No. 5 in the names of Senators Conway-Walsh, Devine, Gavan, Mac Lochlainn, Ó Donnghaile and Warfield arises out of committee proceedings.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I move recommendation No. 5:

In page 112, after line 42, to insert the following:

“Report on “double Irish” tax scheme

29. The Minister shall, within 6 months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before the

Oireachtas a report on the options available to end the transition period for companies

availing of the double Irish sooner than 2020.”.

  It was with much fanfare that Fine Gael announced the closing of the double Irish and we know now that another window was opened through the intangible assets write off, but even without that, companies were given until 2020 to use the double Irish. The inevitable is now happening as we find out how much that is costing us. New EU rules on transparency allow us to see the cost and, to quote from recent articles, the figures for Google Ireland Holdings, the parent company of Google Ireland, and a string of other locally incorporated firms, include $14.5 billion in untaxed profits from last year, on a turnover of $22.3 billion. This was an increase on the $8.9 billion profit the company declared in 2016 on the turnover of $17.6 billion. At the standard Irish rate of 12.5% corporation tax, the company's 2017 tax bill would have stood at more than $1.8 billion, or €1.6 billion at current exchange rates, while the tally for 2016 would have come to €1.1 billion.

  Doubtless other companies are using this ongoing loophole and it is within the power of the Minister to change the date so that this is the last year we will be subsidising these billion dollar companies. My question to the Minister of State is will he do so.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I need a seconder and, if I do not have a seconder, the Minister of State is not able to respond. Is there a seconder?

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh My seconder is delayed.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I have no seconder, so the recommendation falls.

  Recommendation No. 6 in the names of Senators Conway-Walsh, Devine, Gavan, Mac Lochlainn, Ó Donnghaile and Warfield arise out of committee proceedings.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I move recommendation No. 6:

In page 125, to delete lines 11 to 16.

  This recommendation relates to the betting duty. We are asking the Minister of State for a clarification on his intentions with that.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan There is no seconder so the recommendation falls.

  Recommendation No. 7 in the names of Higgins and Kelleher arise out of committee proceedings. Is anyone moving this one?

  Recommendation No. 7 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation No. 8 in the names of Senators Higgins and Kelleher is out of order as there is a potential charge to the Exchequer.

  Recommendation No. 8 not moved.

Senator Gerry Horkan: Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation No. 9, in the names of Senators Conway-Walsh, Devine, Gavan, Mac Lochlainn, Ó Donnghaile and Warfield arise out of committee proceedings.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I move recommendation No. 9:

In page 138, to delete line 19.

  I want to speak on this recommendation. I know it is quite specialist but we have been contacted by a tax specialist who has brought concerns about the deletion of 949AG. I understand that this provision, unless deleted, removes the right of the Appeals Commissioner to require Revenue to provide the information which Revenue relied on to make an assessment. This is one of the very few balances which allows for the taxpayer to make a defence in an appeal situation. Could the Minister of State say if it is Revenue or the Tax Appeals Commission which is promoting this amendment and why it is considered necessary. It seems to me that this is an unnecessary removal. In natural justice, the Tax Appeals Commission should hear both sides of the question and the appellant should know what is the case against him or her. Section 949AG provides the mechanism which enables the appellant to establish that. Revenue is a respected and honest body, by all accounts. Nevertheless we have these safeguards for a reason. I would like to hear the Minister of State's justification for the removal.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I second the recommendation.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy Section 59 contains technical amendments intended to facilitate improvements to the tax appeal process. This recommendation seeks to retain one of the provisions that is being removed from the Taxes Consolidation Act, section 949AG. Section 949AG was intended as a replacement for a small number of tax provisions identified as part of a reformed tax appeal system. However, it has since been identified that section 949AG has had unintended consequences and can impose an unintended and inappropriate administrative burden on the Tax Appeals Commission and Revenue.

  There are a small number of provisions in the tax Act that require the Appeal Commissioners to have regard to all matters to which Revenue was required to have regard in making the decision that is the subject of the appeal. This type of provision would typically deal with a situation where, for example, specified conditions had to be met, or procedures followed, by a taxpayer or by Revenue and, in determining an appeal, the Appeal Commissioners are therefore also required to have regard to the same conditions or processes. In the legislation establishing the new Tax Appeals Commission in 2015, section 949AG was introduced with the intention of mirroring this requirement in the part of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 that deals with appeal proceedings.  However, it has been interpreted by a minority of appellants as applying in all situations and as conferring the right on appellants to require the Tax Appeals Commission to require disclosure of all Revenue's documentation on a particular taxpayer or matter, regardless of whether the commissioners consider that this is necessary to determine the particular appeal.

The removal of section 949AG precludes any assertion that it should apply in all situations, even those where there is no statutory requirement for the appeal commissioners to have regard to the same matters to which Revenue was required to have regard. Its removal will restore thestatus quo before the passage of the Finance (Tax Appeals) Act 2015. It should be noted that that legislation provides the Tax Appeals Commission with a wide range of other powers to require appellants and Revenue to supply information to assist the appeal commissioners in their adjudication and determination of an appeal. It is considered that these powers are sufficiently extensive to allow for the effective operation of the appeals process. However, officials of the Department of Finance will keep the matter under review in the coming year and further amendments will be considered if the need for such is identified. For those reasons, I do not accept the recommendation.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I will revisit the matter in another forum at a later date.

  Recommendation put and declared lost.

  Recommendation No. 10 not moved.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move recommendation No. 11:

In page 146, after line 36, to insert the following:
“Gender and Equality Proofing of Taxation and Expenditure

64. The Minister shall ensure a comprehensive gender and equality proofing of Budget 2020 is conducted to include both taxation and expenditure.”.

This recommendation aims to ensure a full gender and equality proofing exercise is conducted for budget 2020. Gender and equality budgeting is committed to in the programme for Government, the national strategy for women and girls and the recommendations of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. There has been strong rhetorical commitment in this area but very little action. Although pilot projects have been undertaken, they have been small in ambition and scale. We need to scale up this ambition.

  It was disappointing that budget 2019 did not make progress in this area after some initial positive moves 12 months previously. A measure such as that proposed in the recommendation is in place in Scotland and other jurisdictions. We need to move beyond commitments and warm words and put this into practice.

  I ask the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, to ensure a gender and equality proofing exercise is conducted next year and that we deliver a budget which gives transparency and accountability in addressing rather than exacerbating gender and economic inequality. Obviously, there are points to be made in terms of positive actions with regard to social welfare and taxation, but the tax forgone must also be considered. We need to have oversight on this issue and its impact on gender and inequality.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I second the recommendation.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy A Programme for a Partnership Government sets out a commitment to developing a process of budget policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights. In addition to considering the level of expenditure, equality budgeting focuses on how money is spent and the impact it has, it considers tax forgone.

  In his 2019 Budget Statement in October the Minister outlined the work that had been undertaken on equality budgeting and reiterated the commitment of the Government to develop gender budgeting elements further and broaden the scope of equality budgeting to other dimensions of equality, including poverty, socio-economic inequality and disability. The social impact assessment framework developed by the Department of Public Expenditure to facilitate a more comprehensive assessment of budgetary policies and household living standards is described in the equality budgeting paper available on the budget 2019 website. The framework complements the established Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection social impact assessment which focuses on the effect of income tax and welfare measures using the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, SWITCH model. It focuses on policy areas that cannot easily be incorporated into the existing SWITCH model, specifically the impacts of public expenditure on recipient households. Strong stakeholder engagement also routinely assesses the impact of budgetary measures on equality. As part of this distributional analysis, the impact of tax and welfare changes by income band is examined. This, too, is undertaken using the ESRI SWITCH simulation model.

  Strong stakeholder engagement remains central to the work regarding gender and equality budgeting. An expert advisory group chaired by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has been established and has a significant role. The Committee on Budgetary Oversight also works on this topic. The expert advisory group represents key stakeholders such as the National Women's Council, the ESRI, the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, the Central Statistics Office, CSO, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, IHREC, the Department of Justice and Equality, and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. The Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are also represented on the implementation group for the national strategy for women and girls 2017 to 2020 and contribute appropriately in that regard.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher It is very heartening that there is a framework and advisory group, but when will the exercise take place? That is the point of the recommendation. I have not been persuaded by the remarks of the Minister of State. I am disappointed that he cannot set a date and give a firm commitment on the matter.

  Recommendation put and declared lost.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move recommendation No. 12:

In page 146, after line 36, to insert the following:
“Sustainable Development Report

64. The Minister shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report assessing the impact of the Finance Act 2018 on the progressive implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 10, including target 10.1, to progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average. The report should also include proposals of how this target may be progressed by the Department of Finance in 2020.”.

The Minister of State will be aware that Ireland played a leading role in negotiating and securing a global framework for sustainable development goals. However, we have been weak in the implementation of those goals. Notably, it was reported in newspapers yesterday that Ireland was the worst performing country in the EU in terms of climate action.

  The recommendation addresses the specific target set under goal 10 of the sustainable development goals to reduce inequality between and within countries. It specifically aims to achieve progressively and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average. This target is very much the specific responsibility of the Department of Finance and relates to the taxation policy that is pursued.

  The ESRI reported that budget 2019 will result in a net reduction in household disposable income. We need transparency and accountability on the comparative impact of the measures in budget 2019 and all future budgets on households and individuals at all levels of income. In addition to advocating for the sustainable development goals in other contexts, we need to lead by example and put into practice the policies and income redistribution and other measures required to achieve them in this country.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I second the recommendation.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy The sustainable development goals were adopted in 2015 by 193 UN members, including Ireland, and consist of 17 high-level goals and 169 targets. While not legally binding, both developed and developing countries are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for achieving the goals by 2030.

  A senior officials group led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has been set up to oversee Ireland's implementation of the goals. In July 2018, Ireland presented its first voluntary national review of progress to date under the sustainable development goals at the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Regarding goal 10, the review stated Ireland performed marginally better than the EU average measured by relative median at-risk-of-poverty gap, Gini coefficient of equalised disposable income and income share of the bottom 40% of the population.   From an income tax perspective, the changes introduced in the past five budgets have made incremental progress in reducing the income tax burden, thereby increasing net after-tax income, with an emphasis on low and middle income earners. It is the Government's intention to continue this process in future budgets as fiscal resources allow. It is important to examine the broader effects of budgetary measures over time, such as the contribution of budgetary policy to employment growth in recent years. In addition, it is necessary to consider other non-budgetary Government measures to support these lower incomes.

  The Government has adopted the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission to provide for an increase in the national minimum wage from January 2019. This is the fourth consecutive year in which it has increased.

  Budget 2019 has provided for increases in social protection payments, including an increase of €5 per week in all social welfare payments, to be introduced through the social welfare Bill. Therefore, analysis of the Finance Bill alone would not be representative of the range of measures undertaken by the Government to support those who are on lower incomes.

  Senators will be aware that a significant volume of work is already being undertaken by the Department of Finance and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to assess the impact of the budget, tax and expenditure measures on income equality. Taking these factors into account and in view of the oversight role held by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the sustainable development goals, I cannot accept the Senator's recommendation.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I am disappointed by the Minister of State's response. We really need clear sight of the impact of budgetary measures on sustaining income growth for the bottom 40%. I absolutely understand the focus on jobs and the need for employment but there is such a group as the working poor, particularly in the context of very high rents.

  The Minister of State says we must examine cumulative measures. We must examine all the measures. There was a time when the yardstick was that rent would be about 25% of one's income but we now know this proportion is very much higher for many. Therefore, I do not accept there are sufficient reporting arrangements to pull all the information together. It is not a question of standing still but of sustainable growth in income for the 40%. I wish the Minister of State would have accepted our recommendation, which I will press.

  Recommendation put and declared lost.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move recommendation No. 13:

In page 146, after line 36, to insert the following:
"Report on impact of Irish Real Estate Investment Funds on residential property prices

64. The Minister shall, within six months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on—
(a) the impact of Irish Real Estate Funds and the Real Estate Investment Trusts on the Irish property and housing sector, including rental prices and residential and commercial property prices throughout Ireland, and

(b) the effective tax rates paid on the profits of these entities and their shareholders.".

I am not going to speak at length to this recommendation. It would be helpful to have oversight of the impact of these measures on property prices. We have talked about rental income and levels of rent. We have also talked about the housing situation, which is such that only the very rich are able to purchase a house. That is what is behind this recommendation. We want clarity and transparency on the impact of IREFs and REITs on property prices.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I second the recommendation.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy Senators may be aware that during the response to amendments of a similar nature on Committee Stage in the Dáil, the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, advised that officials in the Department of Finance had already commenced further work to examine the activities of IREFs and REITs in the Irish property market.

  It was previously agreed by the Dáil on Committee Stage of the Finance Act 2017 to produce a report in this year's Tax Strategy Group papers on the impact that REITs and IREFs are having on the residential property market. As the IREF regime was introduced in October 2016 and the first returns were due only this summer, the lack of available data limited the detail that could be provided on the subject in this year's Tax Strategy Group paper. The Minister has, therefore, already requested officials to undertake further work based on property market data. This will be supplemented by Revenue data due to become available in the new year as further IREF returns will be received and analysed in early 2019. We will have enough data available by the end of the first quarter of 2019 to provide a more complete picture of the activities of IREFs in the Irish property market. It is intended that a detailed report containing this analysis will be presented to the Tax Strategy Group next summer. I, therefore, cannot accept the Senator's recommendation but I can confirm that a report of the nature requested will be publicly available in advance of budget 2020.

  It sometimes surprises a lot of individuals that the top 20 entities, companies, IREFs and REITs in the country own about 2.8% of the properties. I am aware that there is a lot of focus on these but really the focus should be on the 97%, not just the 2.8%.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I am glad that there will be a report forthcoming on this matter. The effect of these measures is tax forgone. That is money we could spend on other things such as social housing and housing measures to address the crisis we are experiencing.

  I worked for Cork Simon Community for many years. In 2009, we were able to say there was no rough sleeping in the city. Look at how things have changed since and how the problem has escalated. It is important that we examine on what we spend our money but also what we forgo in terms of tax income. Therefore, I am glad the report is forthcoming.

  Recommendation, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation Nos. 14, in the names of Senators Higgins and Kelleher, has been ruled out of order. It is not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill.

  Recommendation No. 14 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendation No. 15, in the names of Senators Higgins and Kelleher, has been out of order. It does not arise out of Committee proceedings.

  Recommendation No. 15 not moved.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move recommendation No. 16:

In page 146, after line 36, to insert the following:
"Report on re-introduction of trade union tax relief

64. The Minister shall, within three months of the passing of this Act, prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on—
(a) the impact of trade union membership, based on comparative examples, statistics and case studies across a number of sectors, on—
(i) income levels for employees;

(ii) reliance on working family payment;

(iii) the common good;

(iv) the achievement of Ireland's targets under the Sustainable Development Goals;

(v) the achievement of Ireland's UN and ILO commitments; and

(vi) the promotion of quality employment;

and
(b) the options for the restoration on tax relief for trade union membership.".

In budget 2011 the then Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, announced he intended to abolish tax reliefs on trade union subscriptions, as well as subscriptions to professional bodies. This was part of a review of tax reliefs as part of the Government's response to the economic crisis. Owing to that crisis, the trade union movement did not campaign on this matter. This recommendation, however, is asking the current Minister to reconsider the position, particularly the impact of trade union membership, based on the following: comparative examples, statistics and case studies across a number of sectors, on income levels for employees; the reliance on the working family payment, in respect of which we have talked about the working poor; the common good; the achievement of Ireland's targets under the sustainable development goals, which we have already discussed; the achievement of Ireland's UN and ILO commitments; on the promotion of quality employment; and the options for the restoration of tax relief for trade union membership. An employment Bill is passing through the Houses currently that is tackling the evil scourge of zero-hours contracts. I hope they will be eliminated by Christmas. We also have concerns about bogus self-employment, particularly in the food delivery business. The trade unions have a major role to play. We believe all these issues are linked and that is why we are moving this recommendation.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I second the recommendation.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy Senator Devine is very good at seconding.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Now she is on the record as having been here, at least.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy In October 2016, the Department of Finance published a report on tax expenditures which included a review of the treatment for tax purposes of trade union subscriptions and professional body fees. The review found that a scheme of tax reliefs for trade union subscriptions would fail to meet the evaluation threshold laid down by the Department's tax expenditure guidelines. The reinstatement of this tax relief would have no justifiable policy rationale and would not express a defined policy objective.  Given that individuals join trade unions largely for the benefits of membership and that the potential value of the relief to an individual would, in most cases, amount to approximately €1 per week, the scheme would have little or no incentive effect on the numbers choosing to join. It is worth noting that while the relief equates to a small sum at an individual level, the cost to the Exchequer at its peak in 2009 was approximately €26.7 million.

  The 2016 review conducted by the Department of Finance estimated, on the basis of ICTU membership data that, if reinstated, the relief could cost the Exchequer over €39.5 million. This figure would likely be higher again if the relief was reintroduced in the context of improving employment rates.

  The Minister receives many requests for tax reliefs. While there may be merit in the requests, we must be mindful of the many competing demands on the Exchequer. I am not convinced there is specific market failure that needs to be addressed by such a scheme. In my view, it consists largely of dead weight. Additionally, broad income tax relief of this kind could be targeted at those most in need. Those on lower incomes may not benefit at all in this case. Our highly progressive tax regime ensures that such individuals pay proportionally less tax than those on higher incomes.

  A report with varied terms of reference as suggested by the Senator would neither be within the Minister's purview as Minister for Finance or Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform nor within the scope of the Bill. For example, the working family payment is entirely a matter for the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Given the fact that the Department of Finance has relatively recently carried out a review of the tax treatment of trade union subscriptions, I do not propose to accept the recommendation.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I am disappointed by the response of the Minister of State. I was not in the Chamber for the response of the Minister of State on the tax relief for golf clubs. While I would not ban them, I would not have thought they were making as much of a contribution to the common good as trade union membership. I work with people from the trade union movement on housing and the need for a constitutional right to housing. I am disappointed that the Minister of State will not consider or accept the recommendation. Trade unions are one of the important partners in our democracy. I appeal to the Minister of State to reconsider the matter. Trade unions play a far wider role than simply that of a membership organisation or lobby organisation. That is what informs the recommendation. I will be pressing it.

  Recommendation put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan Recommendations Nos. 17 and 18 have been ruled out of order as they do not arise from Committee proceedings.

  Recommendations Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.

  Bill received for final consideration.

Question put: "That the Bill be returned to the Dáil."

The Seanad divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 12.

Níl
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin. Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank. Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle. Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle. Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine. Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran. Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.  
Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and John O'Mahony; Níl, Senators Rose Conway-Walsh and Paul Gavan..

Question declared carried.

  Sitting suspended at 1.35 p.m. and resumed at 2.15 p.m.

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)

SECTION 12

Debate resumed on amendment No. 24:
In page 9, lines 38 and 39, to delete all words from and including “that” in line 38 down to and including line 39 and substitute the following:
"that—

(a) the pregnancy concerned has not exceeded 12 weeks of pregnancy, and

(b) a termination of the pregnancy concerned is not being sought because of the sex or race of the foetus concerned or because of any condition or disability affecting the foetus concerned.".

- (Senator Rónán Mullen).

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerry Horkan): Information on Gerry Horkan Zoom on Gerry Horkan I welcome the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, back to the House.

  At the conclusion of business at 8 p.m. yesterday evening, amendment No. 24 was being discussed and Senator Mullen was in possession.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen As the Minister and colleagues will recall, this amendment has to do with the provision of abortion under section 12 in early pregnancy. It provides for additional text which would ensure that a termination being sought because of the sex or race of the foetus concerned or because of any condition or disability affecting the foetus concerned would not be certified where the medical practitioner in question is of the reasonable opinion, formed in good faith, that such is the reason for the termination.

  It goes without saying, as with all the amendments that I have tabled and that Senators Ó Domhnaill and Coghlan have seconded, that we are trying to make a bad situation better.  The purpose of the amendment is not to nullify completely the provision of abortion at that 12 weeks stage. I will not repeat what I said yesterday when I recounted the international context in which abortions are sought on gender grounds, in particular. The amendment is fairly self-explanatory but one thing is clear. It would have the effect of delivering on a core promise made by the Government in advance of the referendum that abortion, on the grounds of disability, would be specifically excluded by this legislation. Without this amendment, that is not the case, and that puts question marks over the Government's credibility and honesty.

The entire tenor of this debate has been changed by the advent of what is referred to as non-invasive pregnancy testing. Tests such as the Harmony test can tell the sex of the baby but also screen for genetic conditions such as Down's syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome. Major focus was given to this issue during the referendum campaign. In my Second Stage contribution, for which I accept the Minister was unavoidably absent from the House and which was not responded to by either the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, or the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, I stated that the Minister said he had specifically excluded disability as grounds for abortion in the legislation. His former party colleague, Deputy Fitzpatrick, mentioned recently that the Fine Gael head office had produced a graphic for Twitter during the campaign which stated that termination on grounds of disability is prohibited. The Minister used the words "specifically excluded" and Fine Gael stated "has prohibited". Will the Minister point out to me where that is in the legislation? Legal experts, and there are a few in the House, would tell him that for legislation specifically to exclude or prohibit something, there must be explicit language in the Bill which excludes or prohibits. Expressio unius est exclusio alteriusis the Latin phrase. It is long established. The expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other. For something to be banned, the legislation needs to state specifically that it is banned, but there is no such language in the Bill that bans abortion on the grounds of disability. If there is, will the Minister please point it out, as I have asked? I will gladly withdraw the amendment if he can do so, but if there is no such language, why can the Government not support this amendment since it explicitly implements the pledge made by the Minister and by his party during the referendum?

Likewise, why not include a provision outlawing abortion on the grounds of gender? I gave the international context as to why that is a relevant issue, that it is quite close to home in terms of our nearest neighbour and so on. The Minister has trumpeted this legislation as a great victory for the equality of women, but what kind of victory is a law which would allow women to be selectively aborted for the sole reason that they are women?

Under equality legislation, which I will not go through as I did it yesterday, it is illegal to discriminate on any of nine grounds, but there is a clear possibility of discrimination on the grounds of disability. Any suggestion that abortion on these grounds would not happen here is a naive idea. It is important to say that because there has been a certain reliance on language that seeks to get into the mind of the proponents of these amendments to say that this is about their lack of trust and that people are not like that. Such charges are unworthy of a Minister. They are unworthy in a carefully functioning democracy which is about the scrutinising of legislation to avoid unintended consequences. We do not legislate for a society that is composed of saints because there are no saints in society. We legislate for something that may not happen but which could happen. Good legislation is legislation which prevents all foreseeable unwanted consequences and bad legislation is legislation that leaves open the possibility of unforeseeable, unwanted consequences. These amendments are not a judgment on anybody and I will challenge again any suggestion that that is the case. This is about reality. It is about a promise made by the Government. The honour of the Government and its credibility depend on its ability to show that it has kept its promise, which is that abortion on the grounds of disability would be specifically excluded.

There was an examination of sex selective abortions by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, a UK Government advisory body, which is roughly the equivalent of the National Advisory Committee on Bioethics established by Senator James Reilly when he was Minister for Health. It warned earlier this year that advances in technology around gender screening meant that the UK could become a haven for sex selective abortions. I quoted yesterday MPs such as Naz Shah.

We do not, nor should we assume, that we are morally superior to our UK neighbours. We are human beings, the same as everybody else. At the Joint Committee on Health, Dr. Clíona Murphy from the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, IOG, admitted in my presence, in general terms, an expectation that abortion trends in Ireland might roughly mirror those of our nearest neighbour, particularly Scotland. The cat was somehow let out of the bag a couple of months ago when there was a reference to there being 11,000 abortions in Scotland, which has a population similar to ours. That was the first time I heard - I certainly did not hear it before the referendum - an acceptance that there could be an increase in abortions as a result of this law. That was an unsayable from the point of view of the Yes campaign before the referendum but we are being allowed to contemplate that reality now. Dr. Murphy referred to it as evidence of an unmet need. It seems that all those abortions that did not take place in the past, the women who did not suffer abortion regret and the lives saved are not good news. They are just evidence of an unmet need up to now.

We should not pass a law which allows women to be discriminated against before they are ever born to the extent that they may not even be allowed to be born because they are women. That would be reprehensible. This amendment would remedy that. The sad reality is that the rights of unborn women are to be sacrificed in the name of the rights of born women, along with the right to life of unborn children generally, medical ethics and rights to conscientious objection.

On the subject of abortion on the grounds of disability within the 12-week limit, the reassurance given that this could not happen under this legislation was predicated on earlier and now defunct arguments that disability could not be diagnosed before 12 weeks. When the debate adjourned last night, I was coming to the conclusion that occurred during the campaign in the contributions of Professor Fergal Malone, Dr. Rhona O'Mahony and Dr. Peter Boylan on the question of whether disability could be diagnosed within the 12-week period. The fact is that screening is now offered in Ireland that detects abnormalities before the 12-week cut-off, making the non-existent ban very mute. Any arguments about it not being necessary because disability could not be detected prior to 12 weeks are rendered mute.

In the Rotunda Private, where Professor Malone works, the foetal DNA test is offered at nine weeks’ gestation and, to use his words on "Liveline", results come back typically in a week. These are screening tests with an accuracy of 99.9%. A further diagnostic test is advised in those situations, but one can imagine that people who would desire an abortion in such circumstances would not take a second test.

We have to legislate on the basis of a decision we must take about whether it is desirable that a decision to have an abortion could be countenanced and supported even where there is knowledge that the reason is for disability. Everything the Minister and the Government stated in the run-up to the referendum was to the effect that this would not be allowed.  Since the legislation clearly allows it, where is the integrity in claiming that this has been specifically excluded when the medical and diagnostic reality, combined with the openness and unamended form of section 12 abortions to date, provides for the exact opposite of what the Minister and the Government promised?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I fully understand Senator Mullen's wish to exclude abortions on the grounds of sex. I think we would all agree that it is a horrible practice. While it certainly exists in India, I was not aware of any threat of it in Ireland. However, as Senator Mullen says, it is important in legislation to contemplate the possible, even if it is unlikely. The same is true of the race of the foetus.

  Where I am in some difficulty and find myself in a dilemma, is on the question of disability. I have several friends with Down's syndrome and they are wonderful, warm, affectionate people who love music. They are a difficulty but also a joy to their families. No one would wish them out of the way and I am sure the Minister does not wish them out of the way either. I do not think this Bill contemplates abortion for the purposes of disability. However, I will say, as I believe in being honest, that I can understand circumstances in which a mother would find it impossible to cope with a disabled child. For example, if she had another disabled child or there were already two disabled children in the family, I can completely understand that she would find it impossible to cope with yet another child with disability. I say that although I have a sensitivity towards the disabled and understand that people who are disabled have a great nervousness and fear that people in their situation could be just eliminated. However, there is also the human factor. People may be in a situation where they cannot afford financially to look after another child, cannot afford to give the overwhelming amount of time involved in caring for a disabled child, or may find that their obligations to their existing children mean they do not wish to contemplate a future in which they have to divert a large part of the family resources to looking after a disabled child. I know that it is a very unpopular and controversial thing to say but that is what I think. We must look at the human reality. Although I am quite certain this Bill does not contemplate abortion for people who are threatened with disability, in human terms one must be able to understand the attitude of those who decide they cannot take any more or cannot afford another disabled child in emotional, financial and family terms. In my opinion, that is human.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I support the amendment and will add to Senator Mullen's remarks. The amendment seeks to ensure that unintended consequences are mitigated and that the legislation could not in some way be used for an unintended objective outside that which the legislation sets out to achieve. Technology is advancing and continually evolving in Ireland or elsewhere. The legislation before us will potentially define our stance on this issue for a generation or two. Technological advances in that timeframe will be much greater than they are today. Therefore, the detection capability that arises from that will also change. It would be regrettable if one of the unintended consequences of the Bill were that abortions could for some reason occur due to the sex. I am not saying that will occur but it could be an outcome and no one can argue to the contrary because we cannot predict what will happen.

  The area of disability concerned many people during the course of the referendum campaign and subsequently. I agree with Senator Norris. We all know people with disabilities, including people with Down's syndrome. I have some very good friends with Down's syndrome who make an exceptional contribution to their local community. We all know people who have done that. This legislation is not framed in a vacuum and we must learn from what happens in other jurisdictions.

  In 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities published a report on abortion and the rights of persons with disabilities. The committee's criticism of the UK Government for the lack of progress on a range of disability rights issues made headlines. The report also contained an argument around a controversial issue related to the UK's policy on disability selective abortions. It stated:

The Committee is concerned about perceptions in society that stigmatize persons with disabilities as living a life of less value than that of others and the termination of pregnancy at any stage on the basis of fetal impairment.

The Committee recommends that the State party amend its abortion law accordingly. Women’s rights to reproductive and sexual autonomy should be respected without legalizing selective abortions on the ground of fetal deficiency.

This is not a new or unexpected development. The United Kingdom is merely the latest country to feature on a list that includes Austria, Hungary and Spain to which the committee has recommended reforms on conditions that allow for later term limits in abortions relating to disability. The UK's Abortion Act 1967 prohibits most abortions after 24 weeks' gestation. However, section 1(1)(d) of the Act provides that where the child would be seriously handicapped - this is Ground E in official UK abortion parlance - the limit does not apply. Therefore, in the UK abortions can theoretically take place up to birth. In 2016, 3,208 Ground E abortions were carried out in the UK, comprising approximately 2% of the overall abortion figure. Of these abortions, 225 happened at 24 weeks' gestation or over, that is, over the limit for children without disabilities. Between 1995 and 2016, the incidence of Ground E abortions carried out in Britain after 24 weeks' gestation increased by 263%.  In its 2016 abortion report, the National Health Service in the UK warned that these figures should be treated with caution as it was likely that there was a significant undercount; therefore, the data may not be fully representative of the rate of abortion on those grounds.

  In 2014, it was discovered that half of the ground E notifications to the National Health Service were missing. Despite some improvement, the pattern continues today as I understand it. These figures include what Irish abortion activists would term as abortions for fatal foetal abnormalities such as anencephaly, contradicting arguments that the concepts of fatal abnormality and disability are never conflated.

  An examination of some of the other conditions that count as abortion-worthy disabilities in England and Wales is revealing also. For instance, in 2016, the figures available from the NHS indicate that nine abortions were for cleft lip and cleft palate and that 706 abortions were carried out in the case of Down's syndrome diagnosis. Only a few hundred of these were late-term abortions, not worth reporting on according to the NHS. They were not worth recording. My answer to that is that to turn a blind eye to discrimination is often to collude in it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris On a point of order, I do not mean to be rude but I understand this is a matter that is simply not contemplated by this Bill at all, whatever the situation in Britain. There is a situation in Britain where disability is a ground for abortion but as it is not here, we ought to get on with the real Bill. With the greatest of respect to my colleagues, we have ventilated this to a certain extent, which is reasonable, but we should not go on about it because it is not part of the Bill and it is not contemplated by the legislation.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone That is not really a point of order. I ask Senator Ó Domhnaill to conclude.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I understand from where Senator Norris is coming and intend to get to the point where I will refer directly to the Bill but giving this context is important because it is setting the contextual picture on what could happen. We are trying to mitigate unintended consequences which can come with all legislation. We are trying to support the Minister in mitigating them. We are trying to provide the context from the United Nations report which looked into the situation in Britain because we do not want the same findings in the United Nations report on the rights of persons with disabilities castigating Ireland because of our abortion laws and those unintended consequences which we are trying to mitigate with this amendment.

  The United Nations body recommends that our closest neighbour changes an abortion law, and that is worth noting. Not one advocate on the pro-choice side noted, welcomed or referred to this United Nations report. Perhaps if the report was leaning the other way I am sure it would have got great coverage all over the media but it was not reported at all, which raises its own questions. When we turn to the Irish context, a major issue here and the purpose of this amendment is around the potential impact or effect the Bill will have on the abortion rates of unborn babies with non-fatal abnormalities or diseases. Several very senior doctors seem to have no objection in principle to the law allowing abortions in such cases. That is fine, that is their right and they have stated so publicly.

  These abnormalities can now be detected before the 12-week cut off, as was pointed out by Senator Mullen, and that is where it becomes relevant in the Irish context because that is when terminations can take place for any reason. Three of the doctors, including Professor Fergal Malone and Dr. Jennifer Donnelly of the Rotunda Hospital and Dr. Rhona Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital, outlined their views on this. Talking at an event organised by Together for Yes, Dr. Donnelly called for the repeal of the eighth amendment at the time, citing what she called complex fatal abnormalities, which would include conditions that would not necessarily lead to death soon after birth. Dr. Mahony stated on the RTÉ "News at One" days before the referendum that non-invasive prenatal testing, NIPT, is offered in her hospitals. She stated that the purpose is to prepare families for the risk that their children might suffer some disabilities, but she admitted that when anomalies are detected, an abortion often follows. During the interview, Dr. Mahony pointed out that the update of the test is increasing and that in her opinion, most women now avail of the test for reassurance purposes. She also stated:

Given that Down's syndrome is quite rare, most women will be reassured. I think it is very important to note that where we have antenatal diagnoses, for example in the Rotunda figures 50% of women would choose to continue a pregnancy knowing their baby has Down's syndrome - 50% will choose not to continue.

Again, no principled objection was offered by the doctors concerned. On the other hand, Professor Malone, the master of the Rotunda Hospital, spoke on "Liveline" about the foetal DNA testing offered in his hospital. I listened back to the clip late last night and like the other two doctors, he did not raise any principled objection to abortion in this scenario.

  Those who defend the Bill before us claim that abortion will not be allowed on the grounds of disability. However, under the Bill, abortion is allowed for any reason before 12 weeks. Therefore, what happens if disability can be detected before the 12-week gestation period? This is the crucial question which has not been answered.

  As has been outlined in this House, in the other House and by the advocacy groups, screening is now offered in Ireland that detects abnormalities before the 12-week cut off, making the apparent ban moot. In the Rotunda Private Hospital, where Professor Malone works, the foetal DNA test is offered at nine weeks gestation and results come back, according to Professor Malone, typically in one week. He further stated the test was 99.9% accurate. A further diagnostic test is advised, but not necessary. One can imagine that some couples who are keen to have an abortion in such circumstances will not take a second test, particularly if the 12-week limit puts them under time pressure in that regard. The same test, known as panorama, is offered in other Dublin clinics such as the Beacon Hospital or the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Additionally, in the Merrion Fetal Health clinic, where Dr. Mahony also works, the harmony test is offered at ten weeks and results arrive within seven days.

  In addition, in Cork, a new company called P4ML was set up in 2017. It offers non-invasive prenatal testing, the NIPT test, at nine weeks gestation and results are available within two to four business days, confirming my argument on the technology advancing all of the time. On the P4ML website, Professor Louise Kenny appears as a testimonial. She was one of the most vocal doctors campaigning for the removal of the eighth amendment and advocated her position on television and radio debates before the referendum. P4ML also supported the repeal of the eighth amendment. I wonder if economic reasons were attached to it.

  Clearly, there is a grave danger here when we have such advances in testing or scanning. We all welcome that-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator needs to be careful about what he says about certain doctors in this House.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I did not refer to any doctor. I referred to a private company.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator did refer to doctors and the transcripts will show same. He needs to be very careful as he is treading on dangerous enough ground.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill The transcripts will show that I referred to a private company named P4ML based in County Cork which, as I mentioned, campaigned to support the "Yes" campaign in the referendum and presumably there would be economic advantages in doing so.  That is a fact.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik No, it is not.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Yes, it is.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Can we try to stick to the amendment?

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It is an economic fact.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin It is speculation. It is outrageous.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Dr. Malone-----

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik On a point of order, speculation as to motivation is spurious speculation. It is not a fact.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Hear, hear.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I request the Senator to continue on the amendment.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Technically, my point is correct.

  I listened back to the doctor. I have the utmost respect for all of these doctors. They have their own opinion and are entitled to it, just as I am entitled to mine and the Minister is entitled to his. I know the Minister has a difficult job to do and this is not an easy legislation to steer through both Houses. We all have an opinion. I have the greatest respect for those who stand up and have a pro-choice argument to make. At least they are here and making the argument. They are exercising their right. I am not trying to make political points. I am trying to articulate facts. The facts are important.

  If there is a loophole in the legislation or an unintended consequence, where one can have screening at nine weeks, a result back in two or four days, confirming whether that baby may or may not have Down's syndrome with a 99.9% accuracy rate, would the Minister not concede that some babies who have Down's syndrome will be aborted and the legislation will actually facilitate this? If that is the case, that is a loophole in the legislation. It is a shortcoming that needs to be addressed. The only way of addressing it is by way of accepting this amendment. To do otherwise is to do a disservice. We are willing to sit down with the officials between now and Report Stage, if the Minister is willing to work with us on this. Otherwise, we will have to press this amendment, which we do not want to do. We are trying to be helpful. I understand the Minister has a job to do, but we have a job to do also. We will try to do it in a respectful manner.

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I think the first thing we have to do when speaking about this issue is to speak in a sensitive manner. I am not suggesting that colleagues to date have not done that but obviously there are people watching this debate who have a disability, or are the parents of children with a disability. During the course of the referendum campaign it caused me significant concern that there was an implication that the only reason some children were born with a disability in Ireland was because of the eighth amendment. I think that the mothers and fathers whom I know - we all know them - who raise their children with such love, compassion, dedication and care for them more than anything else did not do that because of a line in the Constitution. Whether the Senator or I think it is a good or a bad line, they did it out of love. We need to be very careful that we do not suggest that anything we do in here or the Bunreacht would determine the decisions those parents make. We debated this issue at length in the other House and it is right and proper that Senators can table it in this House also, but I will not be accepting it for the same reasons that I outlined in the Dáil when a very similar amendment was put forward by Deputies. It is important to state that the Bill, as drafted, does not provide for terminations of pregnancy to be carried out on the grounds of sex, race or disability.

  We need to be very careful in going down this rabbit hole of suggesting that because the Bill does not state it means that it is allowed. That would be a very peculiar legal precedent. The Bill does not mention hair colour but it is not a ground for termination. By not including things in legislation, we are excluding them. This Bill sets out very clearly what is allowed and what is not allowed is excluded. It is illegal. We will be getting to a debate later and I know I will disagree with some of my colleagues on this, but there are serious criminal sanctions when one breaks the law and carries out a termination, above and beyond those grounds also.

  The Bill does provide for a termination of pregnancy to be carried out only in cases where there is a risk to the life or serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman, where there is a risk to the life or serious harm to her health in an emergency, where there is a condition present which is likely to lead to the death of a foetus either before or within 28 days of birth or where the pregnancy has not exceeded 12 weeks. Ending the life of a foetus otherwise than in accordance with these provisions is an offence which may be prosecuted.

  My starting point in the drafting of this legislation and then publishing a general scheme that the people of Ireland could consider before they voted, was what the all-party committee had looked at. The all-party committee made a very conscious decision and I have no doubt from watching those debates and reading the report that it was a conscious decision to exclude disability as a ground for termination. The decision of that committee was to exclude it.

  The committee also made another very important finding. It made a recommendation that we should allow termination in early pregnancy up to 12 weeks without specific indication. My very honest assessment of this amendment is that it would intentionally or unintentionally make that early pregnancy head of this legislation inoperable. People have said already that people did not vote on the heads of the Bill. Maybe that is true and maybe it is not, but whether one was in favour or against the referendum, the issue of 12 weeks without specific indication or very crude and offensive language such as on demand was put on posters and debated the length and breadth of the country; therefore, the people of Ireland were very much aware of it.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris People knew.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris People thought about it very carefully and long and hard. It was not an easy decision for many. They teased through the issue of 12 weeks and why the figure was set at 12 weeks. This was a big feature of the referendum debate also.

  As a people, we have decided on repealing the eighth amendment in the knowledge that if we do so, the Government will bring forward legislation that will allow for termination in early pregnancy up to 12 weeks without specific indication. To amend the legislation in the way the Senator is endeavouring to do today would make that inoperable because his wording is actually saying is, "a termination of the pregnancy concerned is not being sought because of...". How does one prove the "not being sought?" Are we going to psychologically assess the woman, look into her deepest darkest thoughts? How are we going to determine that thought process?

  We made a conscious decision to trust women in obtaining medical advice from their doctors to access early termination in this country without specific indication. To do anything else would be to deviate from that. I need to be clear. The Bill does not allow termination on the ground of disability, race or sex. The race or sex ground I find even more spurious in terms of the early pregnancy issues but it does not allow that. What the Bill does allow is that a woman not be second-guessed, judged or asked to give a reason pre-12 weeks. To alter that in any way would be to substantially divert from what we told the people of Ireland we would do and what has been in the draft Bill published in March and every version of it published ever since and was a key finding of the Oireachtas committee's report.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I completely agree with the Minister. It was perfectly clear that this 12-week period was envisaged. I said in the House that I thought the Government was foolish to do so because I thought it was too honest. I thought it would frighten people off. One would have to be deaf, blind, dumb and batty not to know that this period was 12 weeks. Everybody knew and that is what they voted on. I have not the slightest doubt. I cannot prove it statistically but that is what they voted on. I said the Government was foolish, but I was wrong.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There are one or two things that the Minister has said that need a very specific working out. I might start with the last point and I am happy to go through it with the Minister, if he is happy to go through it with me.

  The Minister says that he finds the grounds that the Bill might permit without specifically providing for abortions on grounds of sex and gender more spurious. Why does he say that?

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Does the Minister wish to respond directly to the question?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am not going to do a back and forth response as if I were in a courtroom but I will answer that question. When a pregnant woman goes to her GP in early pregnancy, that pregnant woman often has not obtained any information on the sex or race of her child. What the legislation is endeavouring to do is to trust the woman to make the decisions that are best for her and her family at that early stage of her pregnancy.  I do not think there is any evidence to suggest this legislation is attempting to do anything other than that. The Senator is attempting to put in place further hurdles and measures that would make the pre-12-week part of this legislation inoperable. I respect the fact that the Senator fundamentally, vehemently and sincerely opposes this ground. I fully accept that, but I fully support the ground. I am not going to do anything, or amend the legislation in any way, that would make one of those key grounds inoperable.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Nobody is trying to put the Minister in a courtroom. Specific questions were put and answered on Committee Stage in the Dáil. Sometimes that is the only way to get clarity. Each time the Minister says something, he puts words in my mouth that have not been said-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I do not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----or he makes allegations about the amendment or the intent of the amendment that simply are not true. For example, it would not make-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is about the effect of the amendment.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Can we hear the Senator without interruption? Can we stick to the amendment?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The specific exclusion I am proposing would not make section 12 inoperable. My proposal would, in line with the test that is already provided for in section 12, ensure a doctor would not provide certification if it was his or her "reasonable opinion formed in good faith" that the abortion was being sought on the grounds of disability, gender or sex. That does not make section 12 of this legislation inoperable.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris It does.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It would simply imposes a specific duty on a doctor in circumstances in which certain knowledge had come to his or her attention. The Minister cannot twist that.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I do not need to twist it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Words have ordinary meanings. The Minister brought out the contradiction in the joint committee's aims when he rightly mentioned that it wanted to see abortion legalised without reason up to 12 weeks and also wanted to see a specific exclusion to be provided for in the case of abortion on the grounds of disability. Those two aims are incompatible where information arises that causes disability, sex or gender to be the reason for the abortion being sought. The Minister has an opportunity to adjudicate between those two situations. I understand very much what Senator Norris has been saying. I went over it to try to establish clearly in my mind what he meant when he said that the Bill does not contemplate abortion on the grounds of disability. I am not going to put words in the Senator's mouth.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris No, that is fine.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen He will confirm that I asked him whether he meant that the Bill does not contemplate it in the sense of not intending abortion on those grounds, or that the Bill does not contemplate it in the sense of not even permitting it by omission.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I said both.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Senator has told me that his view is that it is not contemplated in both senses. That is where the Senator and I have an honest disagreement. I think it is very obvious, in the light of the evidence that Senator Ó Domhnaill and I have put before the Minister again, that circumstances can arise in which there will be knowledge of disability prior to the moment when the permitted time limit for the section 12 abortion without reason has elapsed. That is fact. As I have raised previously in the context of later-term abortions, the provision that is being made for abortion on the ground of health does not distinguish between physical and mental health. In light of the evidence that mental health is not improved by abortion situations - I referred to this evidence yesterday - the Minister's Bill is not protecting against a situation where the tragic or challenging discovery of disability, if one wants to use such words, could be said to trigger a mental health challenge for the person involved.

  It is true that the law being proposed here is different from the law in Britain, as Senator Norris has said. Britain's very cruel provision on disability expresses no time limit whatsoever where disability is diagnosed. As Senators will be aware, abortion is criminal in Britain but is not prosecutable under various exceptional headings. The one in relation to disability is particularly cruel and unjust. We have heard about late-term abortions for disabilities as simple or as uncomplicated as a cleft palate. The Minister's Bill is cruel and irresponsible in its vagueness because it provides for abortion without reason up to a 12-week limit without insulating against the possibility that a vulnerable person in such a vulnerable situation might seek an abortion on the grounds of disability. Before the referendum, the Minister gave a commitment to provide for a specific exclusion in the case of disability, but he cannot deny that it is not specifically excluded. He may claim that his Bill does not intend to legalise abortion on the grounds of disability. He can truthfully say that and I cannot challenge him, but I can question the honesty of the Government when the Minister tells me that this Bill does not specifically exclude disability because he has failed to specifically exclude the invocation of disability as a ground under section 12, section 9 or even section 10. At the bar of history, this will not be a difficult one to resolve. The words have clear meaning.

  Senator Norris has reminded us all of something that is important - how difficult it is for families who find it impossible to cope, including and perhaps especially families that already have a child with a disability. Those who are seeking to exclude abortion on the grounds of disability can only do so with integrity, in my view, if they are on board with extra support and care at taxpayers' expense for families that deal with this challenge. I hope that in my ten or 11 years here to date, I have been on the side of the angels in that respect. We can never do enough in that regard. The point of legislation is not to pretend that people do not find themselves in vulnerable situations; it is precisely to deal with what happens when people find themselves in vulnerable situations. The difference of opinion in this Chamber is about what constitutes compassionate care in this situation. For some Senators, compassion in this situation points to acceding to a request for abortion. For me and for some other Senators and for many people in this country, the only way one can be compassionate is if one is consistently and inclusively compassionate. This means that no child is left behind, not even an unborn child. We have a greater obligation to be supportive of people and families when disability is diagnosed in pregnancy. It is precisely because of the vulnerability that this situation brings about that the law needs to be especially clear. That is exactly what this legislation is not - it is not clear.

  The Minister has rightly said that we need to talk about these matters in a sensitive manner. He took umbrage at the implication that the only reason some children were born in the past was because of the eighth amendment. He paid tribute to those families that give life to their children out of love. With the greatest of respect, that is seeking to obfuscate the issues by reference to an emotive argument. Nobody even disputes the love that parents have when they find that they cannot cope, even if they make a choice with which I would disagree. It is an indisputable fact that our constitutional protection for the unborn coincided with dramatically lower abortion rates, according to the best information available, than those in the parts of the world where abortion is legal - especially, but not exclusively, our nearest neighbour. There was a radical difference in the incidence of abortion of children where conditions such as Down's syndrome had been diagnosed in utero. It can be claimed that the difference was love - that the Irish were more loving than other people. I would like to think that was the case. I can even agree that it may have been the case. However, it is not a basis for making law.  No responsible Minister for Health would make law on the basis that the people of one country were more loving and kind than the people of another. We all know that the reason we have laws is because laws help to shape choices. They signal the community's desire in respect of certain choices and so as not to be hypocritical, they must be backed up by extra support and resourcing for people who we ask to make a particular choice. The Minister suggests that the issue of hair colour is on a par with the issue of disability. He says it is no more inappropriate that the Bill does not specifically exclude abortion on the grounds of hair colour than on the grounds of disability. To suggest-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Senator Mullen is twisting it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It is a very irresponsible comment to make, because the reality is that abortion is associated with disability throughout the world. There is a vulnerability that this Bill is not currently addressing. The Minister made a particular promise to the electorate that he has not kept, namely, the specific exclusion of abortion on the grounds of disability. The Minister promised to be specific. The best claim he can make is that he does not intend for his vague, open provision for abortion to be used in response to a diagnosis of disability. The Minister may not intend it but he has absolutely no control over how laws will be interpreted or applied in a particular context. I suggest to him that it is at best extremely irresponsible not to follow through on the commitment he gave to explicitly and specifically exclude abortion on the grounds of disability.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am watching the clock. We have spent one hour and 25 minutes on this amendment. I will allow some more debate but I will not allow it to go on for another hour and 25 minutes, in case Senators think I will. Senator Noone wishes to make a comment. I hope it is helpful and she is not antagonising.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I sat here for the entire day yesterday and did not make one comment. It was very difficult to do so when I heard a lot of the comments made. I will be very brief. The committee, which I chaired, specifically excluded disability as a grounds on which abortion should be allowed. That is not for debate. That is a fact and was in our recommendations. The committee's report underpinned this legislation. While there were certain changes, which the Government was quite entitled to make on the advice of the Attorney General and for other reasons, that fact remains. There is one fundamental point that certain Senators are missing. The Minister is being accused of not fulfilling his promise to the people. I firmly believe the Irish people were clearly aware of the terms on which they were voting. I agree with Senator Norris on this point. The Bill was discussed in detail by those on both sides of the argument, especially on this particular point.

  With such spinning and twisting of facts to suit a certain argument, it is like "Groundhog Day" here.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Hear, hear.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We have had this debate. We want the legislation to be passed and no efforts to twist what has happened in reality are going to be effective. This is about trusting women and their doctors to make decisions that suit them. At the end of the day, most pregnancies are very much wanted in this country, like in every other country in the world. To be honest, it is very hard to sit in this Chamber and listen to this prevailing distrust of women, minute after minute and hour after hour.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Does the Minister have anything further to add?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Minister has completed the discussion. I will allow Senators to continue a little further, but I will not let this go on for another hour and a half. I will put the amendment to the House. I will give Senators a few minutes but the Minister has decided that he has given a sufficient response and he is not contributing again. I ask Senator Mullen to be wary of this.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I understand that and I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach. As I said yesterday, I do not want to repeat myself in any way and I have tried to avoid doing so. However, everything that is important has to be put on the record because lives are at stake.

  My colleague, Senator Noone, rightly points out that the committee report undergirded the legislation. It is true. It was the springboard for the legislation. However, I was fair and accurate and was not doing any spinning or twisting of facts when I said that there is a contradiction between the committee's desire to exclude abortion on grounds of disability and its other desire, which I disagreed with, for abortion without reason up to 12 weeks. Moreover, "on demand" is not insensitive language, although it is slightly inaccurate language because there is a 72-hour window. That point I would concede but the language is far from being crude. It expresses in layperson's language a situation where one does not have to give a reason and is entitled to abortion on the basis of a demand. Again, accusing people of using crude language seems to be an effort to "emotivise" the debate, if there is such a word.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris There is not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will have to defer to Senator Norris on anything to do with words.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Mullen has coined it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen In regard to the suggestion of distrust in women, nobody distrusts anybody. Laws are about dealing with realities where people are vulnerable. According to that logic, a law that prohibits abortion in any situation means that we distrust women. That simply is not a basis for argument. The opposition to abortion springs from the fact that people, women, find themselves in vulnerable situations. The position I have been trying to advance is that the compassionate response is to care for both persons. That is not an issue of trust. It is not an issue of mistrust or distrust. It is an issue of recognising vulnerability and providing for what the community wants to happen in those situations. As I have said, I am very disappointed that the Minister has not been open to the necessary clarification that we have requested. As I have said, there will not be much doubt at the bar of history about what the Minister promised and what he is delivering by its absence in this legislation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I will give Senator Ó Domhnaill the final word. I remind him that the Minister is not contributing again.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I thank the Cathaoirleach. I appreciate the opportunity. I appreciate that the Minister has spoken and respect that. I want to attach a personal story to this issue before we conclude on the area of disabilities.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Is the Senator speaking to the amendment?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Ó Domhnaill may do so if it is relevant to the amendment. Senators cannot presume it is not.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It is. Perhaps some would deny me that right.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone He would have said it by now.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Ó Domhnaill is entitled to establish whether it is relevant. I will referee that decision.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I am extremely grateful for the objectivity of the Cathaoirleach and thank him for that protection. What we raised were facts. It is a fact that the three doctors to whom I referred stated that screening can be carried out at nine weeks. There is the technology. It is also a fact that the results can be back within four days or a week. That is well within the window of 12 weeks. I know of one particular hospital in Dublin where a screening was provided for a pregnant woman, a relative of mine. The screening showed that the unborn child had a very high probability of being born with Down's syndrome and that she should consider an abortion. Thankfully, she did not take that route and today Simon is three years old. He is a bundle of fun. The reason we are raising this particular amendment is to allow children like Simon the opportunity to live and breathe among the rest of us. It is wrong to shout us down because we have that conviction. It may not rest easy with some Senators' position and that is fine. I acknowledge that Senator Noone did an awful lot of good work, as did all the members of the committee. It was not an easy issue to deal with. She is absolutely right; the committee excluded disability. That is fine. She is right. I agree with her. The Bill does not make reference to disability.  By being indefinite on this the Bill creates the potential for children to be aborted on disability grounds because the legislation is not otherwise prescriptive. That is why we are tabling this amendment. I feel passionately about it. Any one of us at any point in our time before we were born could find ourselves in the same position.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane We would not know. It would not make any difference.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I have the opportunity to raise it today and I am doing so. I appeal to the Minister to close off the loophole because there is one. It is black and white. We have to agree on that at least. Not to agree on it would be to say the doctors, Rhona O'Mahony and Fergal Malone are wrong in their contention that they screen at nine weeks because it is a proven fact that it can be done at nine weeks. Would the Minister at least agree with me on that point?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Would the Cathaoirleach consider fining speakers for repetition?

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 32.

Níl
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
  Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
  Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
  Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.
  Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
  Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
  Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
  Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.
  Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
  Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Gerald Nash   Zoom on Gerald Nash   Nash, Gerald.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on Joe O'Reilly   Zoom on Joe O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Joe.
  Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
  Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin   Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.
  Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone..

Amendment declared lost.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 25:

In page 10, line 3, to delete “matter” and substitute “matters”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan If the question on amendment No. 26 is agreed to, amendments Nos. 27 to 29, inclusive, cannot be moved. Amendments Nos. 26 to 34, inclusive, are related. Amendments Nos. 27 to 29, inclusive, are physical alternatives to amendment No. 26. Amendment No. 29 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 28 and amendment No. 30 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 29. Amendments Nos. 26 to 34, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I move amendment No. 26:

In page 10, to delete lines 4 to 9.

The three-day limit imposes a harmful and unnecessary limitation. It will inhibit access for pregnant persons who will struggle to attend multiple doctors' appointments and it should be removed. If the mandated waiting period is not removed, the Bill should be amended to allow doctors to waive it where observing the waiting period would otherwise mean that the woman is denied access to abortion. Yesterday, there were several instances given, which I will not recite again, where because of the circumstances, a woman might be just over the period. I believe this should be got rid of, straightforwardly.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane We have tabled five amendments in this group which all relate to access to terminations in early pregnancy. My main concern is the three-day waiting period and the way in which pregnancies will be dated. Amendment No. 29 would allow the three-day wait to start from the moment a woman requests the appointment with the medical practitioner. Amendment No. 31 would allow for the three-day waiting period to be waived where the three-day wait would result in the pregnancy exceeding 12 weeks, making a termination on this ground thereafter illegal. Amendment No. 32 would provide for a woman living in a situation of domestic violence or where, as a result of her living circumstances, her life or her health are under threat, to have the three-day waiting period waived and access a termination. Amendment No. 33 would allow for the three-day wait period to be waived where the woman had already met a barrier to her care from a conscientious objection.

  The complete inflexibility of the three-day waiting period is a serious problem, one for which we cannot stand. I watched the Minister respond to this issue in the Dáil. He has consistently said that because the waiting period is in the draft legislation it must stay. I do not agree that this should be the case. This legislation was written before the referendum and before we became aware of the extraordinary appetite for change when two thirds of the electorate voted to remove the eighth amendment. This is a different landscape from the one we were in when the heads of the Bill were written. That cannot and should not be ignored. However, if the three-day waiting period is to stay, surely we can find some flexibility to allow it to be waived in extraordinary or extenuating circumstances. That is where the amendments come from.

  Conscientious objection is a barrier to care. The amendment would ensure that the three-day waiting period does not apply to a woman whose first appointment with a doctor resulted in an objection to her care. It is not enough to say that the helpline will direct women towards those GPs who will provide a service. The first port of call for any woman, especially women who are on medical cards, would be her GP. She would call her GP first for direction and care. Domestic violence should be grounds for a waiver of the three-day waiting period, and living circumstances in general should also be included.

  The three-day waiting period should start from the date the request is made, as happens in the Netherlands, which the Joint Committee on the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution heard. The three-day waiting period there is only acceptable if it begins when the woman first calls the doctor. All this three-day waiting period achieves is barriers and distrust. We do not trust women to make up their minds and think through their decisions before they make the call to the doctor. Surely where the pregnancy concerned will exceed 12 weeks, we can make an exception. The Minister has said that a woman under 12 weeks will have access under this section. However, if we do not accept amendment No. 31, a woman legally entitled to an abortion will be denied care because of the three-day wait.  I also support the Sinn Féin amendment, which would remove the three-day wait where it would be a barrier to care. The Minister has at all times said this service would be accessible to women and the section exists because the committee recommended that termination in early pregnancy be accessible to women who had experienced rape and incest. How can we possibly justify making a survivor of rape wait three days for no other reason than because it was included by the Department between our committee report and the publication of the draft Bill?

  The three-day wait and its particular effect on the poor and marginalised women worries me most as I sometimes feel that in most legislation, it is the most marginalised and those on the fringes of society who are left behind. They include women in addiction and homelessness, as well as those women with low educational attainment. Often self-advocacy, knowing one's rights and being able to access a provider can be limited. This is an issue for those suffering domestic violence, medical card holders and those in direct provision. For example, there is one bus going from Mosney per week. It is a major issue as there is usually only one or two doctors, some of them provided by Safetynet Primary Care personnel operating in the likes of Mosney. What if the doctor is a conscientious objector and a person might have to wait for five or six days before being able to leave Mosney and accessing another doctor? What will happen in rural Ireland if a local doctor objects and a person must travel to another town? What happens in the case of a woman pregnant due to sexual abuse and rape?

  The Abortion Support Network clearly outlines this in communication with the Minister and the rest of us this week. It speaks of real-life experiences that it deals with on a daily basis. Ms Mara Clarke notes the plight of homeless women and the network has been hearing from an increased number of people who are homeless but who need abortion services. A few weeks ago she had four homeless clients in one week, and many of those clients are homeless as a result of abusive relationships, while others have fallen on hard times. Where does the Minister suggest a homeless woman should go to experience the five to six hours of extreme bleeding and cramping that some people endure, not to mention the additional possible side-effects of nausea, chills, fever and diarrhoea?

  I have countless examples of women who are homeless in extreme circumstances. I remember working in a now-closed facility at Aungier Street in approximately 2000. One of the women I met was not only raped repeatedly by her grown-up son but her ex-partner, whom she left by leaving her house, waited outside the post office every week for the one day she would leave the hostel in order to take her money. She had an abusive man standing on Aungier Street stopping her from accessing her own social welfare so how is she meant to make repeated calls to a doctor?

  Speaking of women made homeless owing to abusive partners, the largest percentage of the Abortion Support Network's clients are in and escaping abusive relationships, often with men who will not use or who sabotage birth control. It can be impossible for these women to leave the house for one doctor appointment and two or three appointments could raise suspicion. In the past the network has arranged for these women to travel on days when their partners were on stag or work trips, or it has advised on how it may be possible to access safe but illegal abortion pills through friends. One woman with whom they had arranged travel disappeared and was unreachable. She contacted the network a year later to apologise for going missing but her partner had discovered her plan to terminate and beat her so badly she could not travel. When she got back in touch, she had a young baby and another pregnancy with which she needed help to terminate.

  When I read about this one set of circumstances I was reminded of and upset by the case of another woman I met once approximately eight years ago when I worked helping people with addiction. One service user came into the programme and said she had heard an already isolated migrant woman who lived next door screaming and it sounded like she was being beaten on a regular basis. We took the risk one day to call to the woman in the flat and she was absolutely petrified. She was not suffering addiction but I asked her if she wanted to join the programme to try to get some support. I am trying not to get upset but she looked really unwell. She had a bun in her hair and told us how she was not even allowed to have a hairbrush. She was not allowed to have sanitary products. Instead of her coming to us, she asked if we could bring some stuff with which she could wash herself while her husband was out. After a few days of calling to her and sneaking in sanitary products, we finally convinced her to come to the community centre while her husband was out. She was petrified. We had to hire a hairdresser who spent hours taking the knot from the top of her hair as it was so long since she had been allowed to brush it. She had two young children. After that one day of finally getting her to the centre, she never came back to us again and she stopped opening her door for us. I have no idea if my intervention stopped her being able to come back to us and leaving the house again. She could never make it to a doctor. Three days is not acceptable for women like that and this Bill does not legislate for such women.

  Amendment No. 34 would allow for otherwise appropriate medical principles to be incorporated in how we date pregnancies for the purpose of this section. It is drawn from an amendment by Deputy O'Connell in the Dáil. The principle of dating it from the first day of a woman's previous menstrual period is problematic. The Minister knows this and I do not need to elaborate on it. The time in which a woman is defined as pregnant should not be from the first day of her last period as this shortens the amount of time available. In some cases a pregnant woman might be seen as being 12 weeks' pregnant but has really only been pregnant for nine or ten weeks. If we are to keep the three-day wait for the majority of cases, we need to really look at those specific cases and carve out exemptions to that waiting period. Otherwise this will be another piece of legislation that is of no use to women in dire circumstances like the women I have worked with for many years. This three-day waiting period does not help them in any sense.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine These are prudent amendments to the proposed requirement in section 12(3) that three days must elapse between the date of certification and the provision of abortion care. Sinn Féin strongly holds that there should be no possibility of the waiting period acting as an arbitrary barrier to care. There should be nothing in the Bill causing a doctor to think about anything except a pregnant woman requesting help. If a decision is made to include reference to a three-day waiting period in legislation, it must begin from a woman's request for an appointment with a medical practitioner if it is to be at all workable in practice. Barriers in this instance would be damaging to women and further force them to travel abroad or procure abortion pills on the Internet. The referendum campaign touched on these matters and people were adamant that they wanted to stop forcing women to travel abroad or having to buy unregulated pills on the Internet in order to treat themselves. This legislation will only have served its purpose if the number of women travelling abroad for termination or the ordering of abortion pills goes down.

  Such a decision is all-encompassing and consumes women for much more than the three days that some politicians, for whatever reasons, obsess over with others in society. In most cases women spend weeks coming to a decision and they do it alone in most cases also. We must have common sense and the three-day period was never meant to mean there should be multiple visits to a GP on several days. It was meant to mean the service would be available three days after a person presenting at a GP surgery, over the phone, via email or on WhatsApp, if it is accepted in the clinic. The person would speak with the GP or secretary to make an appointment after making the momentous decision to attend a GP for this medical procedure. In order to ensure there cannot be unnecessary barriers we must change this unnecessary waiting period.

  With respect to amendment No. 30, there is a blind spot in the legislation with women under the 12-week limit if waiting for the three days would take them over the limit, resulting in an inability to access medical services.  It is sensible to insert a clause to the effect that if the three-day waiting period is overly burdensome for, say, a woman who is a prisoner of domestic violence, someone in direct provision or someone who finds it difficult to make that decision for one reason or another and eventually does but it is coming up to the 12 week barrier, as described eloquently and emotionally by Senator Ruane, it should be overridden.

  With regard to an emergency provision to waive the three-day waiting period in serious circumstances, the Minister appears to suggest that cases of domestic or intimate partner violence would be covered by the emergency provisions of the legislation. I am not sure if that is the case. The emergency provision is confined to cases where the woman's life or health is at such a risk that an immediate abortion is required. That is different from domestic violence. Only a small subset of cases of domestic and intimate partner violence can meet that criterion. This amendment would allow a waiving of the three-day waiting period where it would cause a significant barrier to access, including because it may contribute to the woman exceeding the 12 week limit. That would ensure that women do not unduly suffer from the three-day waiting period. I and Sinn Féin support the amendments to section 12.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor This is probably the only time I will speak on this Bill. I had looked for a section on which I could speak. I admire the contributions so far from Senator Ruane, but I am concerned about what is coming with the Bill. I have spoken to the Minister previously about the need for the wrap-around services associated with the Bill, which are equally important. There should be an integrated primary care contraceptive scheme to ensure contraceptives are made available free of charge. There should be an improved education programme which would see GPs visit schools to explain to students the process involved in the use of contraceptives and their availability. In addition to the issues we are discussing now, it is important that we try to prevent as many crisis pregnancies as possible, that as much education and knowledge as possible are provided on this issue and that we provide the necessary services with regard to this legislation. I would like to hear the Minister's response. How soon could those wrap-around services be put in place? We are talking about having abortion services available in January. Can those additional services be made available in January also?

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I am speaking in support of amendments Nos. 30 and 32. I have not spoken to a single community provider - a GP, the Irish Family Planning Association, IFPA, or Well Woman centres - which views section 10 on risk to life or health in an emergency as a mechanism they can use to waive the waiting period in certain scenarios or living circumstances. It will be interpreted as applying to urgent cases. The language in section 10 refers to immediate risk, which will take place in a hospital setting. I cannot understand the reason the Minister expects this provision to be compassionately interpreted by doctors when they are caring for vulnerable women to whom Senator Ruane movingly referred, particularly when there is a threat of criminal sanctions for any doctor who steps outside the provisions of the Act. I refer to someone living in direct provision. I know a centre in Cork where there is a bus service only once a week. If people cannot get the bus, they have to find money for alternative transport, but if they are living on €19 a week, they cannot afford that. The return bus fare from Cork to Bantry is more than €30. If someone is on limited income, a second visit to the doctor is not a feasible option.

  With respect to domestic violence, a woman might be living in an abusive, controlling environment but her life may not be at immediate risk when she seeks a termination. In practice, however, those women might encounter major barriers in trying to return for a second appointment after the waiting period has elapsed. There are issues with cost, lack of public transport from direct provision centres and the need to explain one's whereabouts. We passed legislation on the offence of coercive control. There is that problem. Women are often prisoners in their own home. They are terrified of their husbands and afraid to look after themselves. That happens. It would be compassionate to allow doctors waive waiting periods in such living circumstances. That would ensure that women can access the care they need. I do not believe section 10 allows doctors to do that.

  I would appreciate it if the Minister explained how he believes that will work in practice. If he can reassure us, we will listen to what he has to say, but I am concerned about that group of women in very difficult circumstances for whom a second visit to the doctor is a bigger barrier than it might appear on paper. I do not like the idea. I would welcome its removal. However, we need waivers to ensure we do not take away the power from doctors to make that call. Doctors will know the needs of women in those circumstances.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I welcome the Minister. I will speak briefly because the Labour Party Senators have supported these amendments and, in particular, signed up to amendments Nos. 29, 31 and 32.

  I echo the eloquent comments of Senators Kelleher and Ruane on these amendments and the problems with the mandatory three-day waiting period and our difficulty with it. I share their view that we should not have this and that it is an unnecessary burden. I accept it was in the text published in advance of the referendum, but it is not something that will in any way assist women's access to abortion.

  I acknowledge also that the Minister moved on this in the Dáil by inserting the new subsection (3)(b) into section 12. That is very important. It was in response in particular to issues raised by my colleague, Deputy Kelly, and others in the Dáil to try to reduce the onerous nature of the three-day period as a barrier for women. Our amendments are being put forward in the same constructive fashion seeking to mitigate in some way the difficulties that may well be posed for women and their doctors and the sort of scenarios Senator Ruane described because of the three-day period.

  We should also acknowledge that section 12 will be the section under which, as the Minister said, the vast majority of terminations of pregnancy will be performed in practice. Looking at the statistics from England and Wales for 2017, 90% of terminations of pregnancy are carried out at under 13 weeks. We know that, in practice, early trimester abortion will be the most significant for most women. That is the reason it is important to get it right.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I thank the Senators for tabling these amendments on what is an area that was debated extensively at the Oireachtas committee where many views were expressed and different testimony heard. It was debated extensively also during the referendum campaign and in the other House.

  I will start by outlining the importance of making sure that people who are being referred to in the House as vulnerable groups, and rightly so, can access the services. It is for that very reason that I made the decision that this service needs to be free and part of the universal health service. It is for that very reason that I am so determined that these services are introduced in the new year because it is a reality today in Ireland that some women can travel and that other women, especially marginalised women, cannot. That is why I am disappointed to hear comments such as those from the Coombe Hospital today that it will not be in a position to provide the services. We should remember that the overwhelming majority of these services will be provided in the community through a woman's general practitioner. We should remember also that maternity hospitals are already providing, albeit in a limited circumstance, access to termination under the 2013 Act.

  There is a time for leadership in these Houses of the Oireachtas but there is also a time for clinical leadership. I do not have any role in drawing up clinical guidelines. That is the responsibility of clinicians. I believe that if everyone puts their shoulder to the wheel, we can make sure that services are in place in January. They will have time to embed and evolve fully, but safe services can commence in the new year. That is the reason I do not believe legislation can be delayed.

  I have moved somewhat on this issue since the referendum. It might seem like a small point but it was an important one. The original general scheme referred to 72 hours rather than three days. It was pointed out to me by a number of doctors, and a number of women's organisations, the practical challenges that would have caused.  The difference between 72 hours and three days is not insignificant. Asking for the full 72 hours to elapse was going to place a further hurdle for the woman and cause further confusion and inconvenience for GPs. I made the change during the passage of the Bill through the Dáil to clarify that section 18(h) of the Interpretation Act 2005 dealt with how periods of time should be understood where they were included in legislative provisions. It states, "Where a period of time is expressed to begin on or be reckoned from a particular day, that day shall be deemed to be included in the period and, where a period of time is expressed to end on or be reckoned to a particular day, that day shall be deemed to be included in the period". As section 14 of the Bill provides that three days must elapse from the date of certification, in accordance with the Interpretation Act, the date of certification is also included in the three days. It lessens the time, but it does not address all of the issues highlighted by some Senators. However, the emergency does more than Senator Kelleher believes it does. I have taken medical views on this issues, including that of the Chief Medical Officer. There is no reason a doctor cannot use section 10 where it is an immediate and necessary step to protect a woman's health or life.

  We need to be careful to point out that the three-day period is only one of the provisions included in the Bill. There are others dealing with accessing a termination and that specifically relate to health and life that have no time period. There is also an emergency provision that has no time period and on which I will engage further with clinicians. If somebody is affected by domestic violence, she may only be able to get to the doctor once; therefore, we have to make sure that, if the doctor believes there is an immediate risk to the woman's health, he or she needs to be able to intervene. I will continue to engage with Senators on this issue.

  Senator Devine asked if the time period could start from the moment the telephone call was made. We do not have an electronic booking system, as they do in other European countries where a person makes an appointment with a GP by email or a logged phone service. Our 24/7 helpline will signpost where services are available, but it will not make the appointment for a person. We need to be careful not to allow a third party who is not a medically qualified health professional to interfere in the relationship between a woman and her doctor.

  The amendments refer to conscientious objection. I was more than a little frustrated that all of the talk about conscientious objection was from the perspective of the doctor because, while doctors have a right to conscientious objection, so do nurses and midwives and I defend that right. However, it also has to be looked at from the perspective of the woman. Nobody voted for the scenario where a woman would have to go from doctor to doctor in the hope of finding help. The 24/7 helpline will not just be a telephone line; it will have instant messaging in 2019 because it is a more convenient way for people to contact services. The website which will be launched and the MyOptions service that is being put in place will provide women with the information they need in order that they will not have to go to a local GP in the hope of finding help. Instead, a woman will go secure in the knowledge that the medical professional wants to help her and has signed up to provide help for women in such a crisis.

  Amendment No. 27 relates to the idea of an obstetrician certifying and carrying out the procedure. I have dealt with this issue extensively and clarified what is meant by the medical procedure and how it is different from aftercare. The outer limit for legal access to a termination is 12 weeks. Some amendments, although they are well intentioned, ask the House to waive that limit, but that is something we have to be careful not to do.

  I was also asked about dating the pregnancy. A number of female Deputies vociferously said they found it offensive to talk about menstrual periods in legislation. We looked at whether there was another way of doing this and I accept the medical advice that pregnancy is generally dated from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period. We are keeping the legislation under review, but we need to use language that is very clear and which doctors and women will understand. While there are different views on this issue and I understand why, I believe that, following the referendum campaign, people voted in favour of the 12-week period without a specific indication but with knowledge of the context and how it would operate.

  I have heard references, more extensively in the Dáil than in the Seanad, to the Dutch and other systems. This is not the only country in the European Union to propose a law with a waiting period. Many of the countries that do would not be defined by Members of this House as conservative nations but as bastions of liberalism. In the Netherlands there is a five-day waiting period which can be triggered by a woman telephoning the helpline, but section 3(1) of the Dutch Act states a pregnancy shall be terminated not earlier than the sixth day after the woman has consulted the physician and discussed her intention with him. The website of the Dutch ministry of health, welfare and sport states the law imposes a mandatory five-day waiting time in order that a woman can think carefully about her decision, but I do not favour this language. The committee heard from lots of very fine experts and there are waiting periods in many countries. We are bringing forward legislation in which I feel I am mandated to do what I told the people that we were going to do. I have tried to make it as operable and practical as possible, which is why we have made abortion services free and part of the universal public health service. It is why we changed the 72-hour limit to three days and set up the 24/7 helpline and the instant messaging service from 2019 in order that women can be signposted to services. There are also emergency and health provisions in the legislation which are separate and distinct from the early pregnancy section.

  I am glad that Senator Lawlor raised the points he did. Many Senators have raised the same issues on a regular basis.. We want terminations carried out in this country to be free, safe and legal, but we also want them to be rare. No woman wants to find herself with a crisis pregnancy. There are a variety of ways to deal with it, one of which is contraception. In 2019 we will increase the amount of barrier contraception, that is, condoms, available through the HSE. We will also bring forward proposals for how we can expand access to female contraception to make sure cost is not a barrier.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I oppose these sections generally. Amendment No. 26 would abolish the three-day waiting period on the ground of "any reason", contrary to the promises repeatedly given to the people before the referendum. Abortion supporters consistently talk about respecting the mandate given by the referendum result, but they want to scrap this core commitment given in the heads of the Bill. What was said before the referendum is subject to whatever the Oireachtas decides, as the Referendum Commission pointed out, and the people voted to give the Oireachtas full powers to legislate, however extensively, conservatively or restrictively for abortion. However, paragraph 12.2 of the Medical Council's guidelines for professionals on conduct and ethics offers strong material in support of waiting to obtain consent until the patient is less stressed and has had time to consider risks. The Minister says he wants abortion to be rare, but much in the Bill gives the lie to that stated intent. The existence of at least some waiting period moves in the direction of trying to create space for a woman who finds herself in this situation to have second thoughts, as many women do.  I count among my friends women who had second thoughts in time about having an abortion. We are greatly relieved that is what happened. Anything that puts people on an inevitable trajectory towards abortion adds to the terrible injustice of abortion itself. I will have other amendments that will seek to put flesh on the Minister's stated intent of creating circumstances in which women would be given every opportunity to consider a better alternative to their dilemma than abortion.

  Leadership can take many forms and the Minister spoke about leadership. It is a strange kind of leadership, however, that would add to the existing injustice of unborn children being killed under this law the possible injustice of women being endangered in circumstances in which hospital facilities have said they are not ready to implement this service. It is not good enough for the Minister to be hustling them on in the language he just used, raising questions about the Coombe Hospital. We are hearing a lot these days about the need to defer to medics on the basis that medics know best, and it is stated we are not going to write the script for medics. People seem to be very willing to do that when they want, however. Just now, the Minister spoke in very direct terms about what doctors do in this situation, about the timing of the pregnancy and so on. It is entirely unfortunate to be sending any ministerial political message to the Coombe Hospital or any other hospital. There is an inevitable injustice in the loss of innocent unborn human life but I would certainly never want to do anything that would create further risk. I certainly believe the Minister should be deferring to medical facilities on this instead of hustling them on for the sake of some kind of politically motivated time limit. That is entirely the wrong approach, not just in terms of having regard to the welfare of the unborn, which I am afraid is being completely disregarded but also in terms of the welfare of the women in question. I will leave it at that.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I will not be provoked during this debate but I will not sit here and be neglectful in my duties as the health Minister. I am perfectly entitled and duty-bound to have a view on the delivery of health services in this country-----

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Hear, hear.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris -----that we fund on behalf of taxpayers, staff whom we pay and facilities that we support. It is entirely appropriate for me to step up to the plate in ensuring there are free, safe and legal services available for women with a crisis pregnancy. While Senator Mullen and I are on our Christmas holidays, we will not be in crisis with a pregnancy. Our bodies will not be in crisis, God willing, but today three women will take the pill and nine will travel. Twelve terminations will take place every single day in January. It is not beyond this small country to step up to the plate collectively and provide safe services, 80% of which would be provided by general practitioners, hundreds of whom are signing up saying they are ready and want to provide the services. Fourteen maternity hospitals are bringing forward plans to state how they will implement the service. I, as Minister, and the Taoiseach have acknowledged that it will take time to fully embed and integrate services. We are introducing a new service. Clinicians are working extremely hard. We have to get this right. It is nearly seven months on from the referendum, with whose result the Senator fundamentally disagrees, which is fine, but the rest of the people, who voted "Yes", did not ask me to bring in services or whether I would mind. They gave me an instruction to do it. To use dismissive language to the effect that the deadline is political is not in order. It does not make any difference to my life whether the service comes into effect in January, February, March, April or May but it makes a hell of a big difference to the lives of Irish women. I am determined we will do it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I correct the Minister on the point on having to do so. First, he was not given an instruction to introduce abortion services. He is looping back to that language. It has been pointed out to him, not just by me, that what the Oireachtas was given was the freedom to legislate in this area. Certainly, people knew some opening up of the law on abortion would result from that but in no sense did they know about what is occurring. I really have to call Deputy Harris into question as Minister for Health in that he should know that it is not honourable, truthful or responsible to try to turn a freedom he was given by the people in the referendum into a direct mandate based on the view that he would be in breach of some sort of constitutional responsibility were he not to bring forward this legislation. It is important that we tell the truth to people.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The Senator put up posters about the legislation. His entire campaign was based on the premise of the legislation. I refer to the period of 12 weeks. Throughout the country he debated this. He worked extremely hard for his campaign on the content of the legislation, as did I, and now here we are.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It is true what the Minister said, that with others I warned about what the Government would do if it got the freedom-----

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The Senator can hardly blame the Government for doing it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen With others I warned about what the Government would do if it got the freedom-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am being criticised for doing what I promised to do.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The point I am making, which the Minister does not seem happy to allow me to make-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris My apologies.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----is that there is a difference between being given an instruction to do something that puts one in the wrong if one does not do it and being given the freedom to do something.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane On a point of order, are we still speaking to the amendments directly?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Yes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Chair will rule. The Senator should not worry. If she wants to contribute, she may do so. Does she want to speak next?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I am just saying we need to stick to the amendment. We seem to be going off topic.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We will have one speaker at a time. Senator Mullen to continue, without interruption, please. Can we agree to disagree without being disagreeable?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Of course we can agree to disagree but we should stick to the rules which involve speaking to the amendment.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan As the Chair, I will watch it. Senator Mullen should continue on amendment No. 26.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There was a lot of talk for long enough about why people thought it was inappropriate to have laws prohibiting abortion in the Constitution. Now it seems that every time the Minister refers to having been given some kind of instruction by the people, which he was not given, he wants to constitutionalise. We are being invited to believe that if the Government in any way rowed back from its very irresponsible and unjust heads of legislation, the Minister would somehow be in breach of a mandate given to him by the people. Only a very incompetent or untruthful person would hold to that statement. I invite the Minister to reflect on his position.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Whether I am incompetent or-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen What the people decided was that the Legislature, Oireachtas Éireann-----

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Minister is being called incompetent and dishonest. The Senator may be choosing his words carefully but that is not on.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I cannot allow interruptions. I will give the Senator and the Minister space.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris What he said-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I remind the House that this amendment is about a three-day waiting period.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Senator Mullen is not talking about that. I am surprised the Chair has not heard that he is not talking about the amendment. It is perfectly plain he is not talking about it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I remind Senator Mullen that, as I am now being informed, this is about a three-day rule? Am I right?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I was responding to an inaccuracy in what the Minister said. It is inaccurate. I did not say he was incompetent and dishonest; I offered alternatives. I stand by my position that it is either incompetent in terms of the position the Minister holds or dishonest to pretend in any way that the people of Ireland on 25 May instructed the Government to introduce this abortion legislation in full measure. They might have been aware that it was the Government's intent but they also expected that the 34% who voted "No" and the "Yes" voters who did not want to go as far as the Government wants to go would be represented, presumably proportionally, in Oireachtas Éireann. That has not happened. One reason it has not happened is that the Government has tried to claim the politicians elected to the Dáil and the Seanad were under some kind of instruction of honour to carry out everything the Government said it intended to carry out. That is simply not true. Nothing the Minister can say, accidentally or intentionally, can make it true.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are straying from the amendment. As the Chair, I must rule.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will finish with a question to the Minister. It relates directly to what he said about the three-day waiting period. He said he had changed it from 72 hours to three days. What is the significance of that?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The record of the House will show my answer. It is to comply with the Interpretation Act 2005, which deals with how periods of time should be understood when included in legislative provisions. I quoted directly from that Act.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I had not intended to speak on this issue but it is very important. I listened very carefully to what Senator Ruane had to say. There are difficult cases which she has described and which no doctor would be happy about if they were not accommodated. However, I have also heard the Minister's response, which makes it very clear that if, in the doctor's opinion, this represents a serious risk to life - domestic violence clearly represents such a risk - the doctor will have discretion. I am very much reassured by this. I have no need to point out in this House that hard cases make bad law. The fact that we have this question reassures me greatly. In general, given that Irish people voted in the referendum for this change and this legislation was published before the referendum and was in their minds as being what the result would be, I believe they would rightly feel deceived by the Government if it were to remove this clause.

  I have always been of the view that these are ultimately matters for doctors and their patients. I recognise and believe that the medical profession tries to act with the best interests of the patient at heart. That is what doctors are trained to do. The reason many of us did medicine was to help and this legislation, as outlined by the Minister, represents the wishes of the majority of Irish people. I absolutely respect the opinions of those who take a different view and the fact that 34% voted otherwise. If we were to interfere with this legislation now, however, we would not serve women well. We would further delay, as I said earlier in this debate, its arrival on the Statute Book. Every day, eight women will leave this country and three more will get abortifacient pills over the Internet, the safety of which is anyone's guess. We have already pointed out the dangers this could present to them, and then there is the issue of women failing to present to a medical practitioner for fear of being in breach of the law and reported to the police.

  In summary, I hope the Minister's words and the provision allowing for the discretion of doctors to be applied will reassure the Senators who feel the need to remove this three-day clause.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does Senator Mullen wish to make a further point?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I wish to ask a brief question. I thank the Minister for his response about the Interpretation Act but I do not understand the implications of it. The Bill states that "the termination of pregnancy shall not be carried out by a medical practitioner unless a period of not less than 3 days has elapsed" from the date of certification or the date of the previous certification. What I am trying to establish, in light of the use of the words "3 days" instead of "72 hours", is what is the minimum number of hours that must have elapsed between A and B?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane On a point of order, we are now speaking to an amendment that arose in the Dáil. This is a change that took place in the Dáil. We are not speaking to my amendments or Senator Norris's amendment. It is not fair to backtrack and retrospectively have a debate about something that happened in the Dáil. It is not happening here.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is not a point of order but, with respect, we are on Senator Norris's amendment No. 26, which concerns a three-day period.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane No, I am sorry, it is not a wide open debate on a three-day period. These are specific amendments. We cannot just say "three-day period". We could be discussing anything.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are on Senator Norris's amendment. I will come back to him in a second.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane This is not about the translation to "72 hours".

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane No, you are out of order. As Chair, you need to be able to keep a handle on what is being discussed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Excuse me.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane No, I will not.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will not check the Chair.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Do your job.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order. If she has a complaint, she may make it to the Cathaoirleach or take it up with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I am keeping order for the moment.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane You are not, actually.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I want order. I do not want Senators to be argumentative. If the Senator wants to disagree-----

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane It is not a disagreement.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan -----she can do but she should do it without being disagreeable, please.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane It is about your job and why we voted you into it and ensuring we stick to amendments.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is out of order. Does the Minister wish to make a further point?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Very briefly, because I am conscious of what Senator Ruane said. I will take 20 seconds to clarify the matter. The Interpretation Act states - I am paraphrasing - that the day on which the certification takes place also counts as a day; therefore, if a woman were to see her doctor on a Monday, the Monday and the following Tuesday and Wednesday would be the three days and the termination could take place first thing on Thursday. The day of certification counts as one whole day.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is Senator Norris's amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I would like to bring the matter to a close. Does the Senator wish to press the amendment?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I will withdraw it, with a view to tabling it again on Report Stage.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher I move amendment No. 27:

In page 10, line 4, to delete “carried out” and substitute “initiated”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 28:

In page 10, lines 5 to 9, to delete all words from and including “from—” in line 5 down to and including line 9 and substitute the following:
“from the date on which the pregnant woman made arrangements to attend the medical practitioner for the purpose of the examination referred to in subsection (1).”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 29:

In page 10, lines 5 to 12, to delete all words from and including “from—” in line 5 down to and including “elapsed” in line 12 and substitute the following:
“from the date on which an appointment with the medical practitioner was requested”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I move amendment No. 30:

In page 10, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:
“(4) Subsection (3) shall not apply to a woman where it is deemed to constitute a significant barrier to access to a termination of pregnancy under this section, including because it may contribute to her exceeding the 12 week limit referred to in subsection (1).”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 31:

In page 10, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“(5) Subsection (3) and (4) shall not apply where the medical practitioner referred to in subsection (1) is of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that, if the time period referred to in subsection (3) were to elapse, the pregnancy concerned would exceed 12 weeks of pregnancy.”.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 23.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire. Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary. Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette. Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael. Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy.
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David. Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace. Information on Tim Lombard   Zoom on Tim Lombard   Lombard, Tim.
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall. Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn. Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Kieran O'Donnell   Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Kieran.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
  Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Colette Kelleher and Lynn Ruane; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone.

Amendment declared lost.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 32:

In page 10, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“(5) Subsection (3) and (4) shall not apply where the medical practitioner referred to in subsection (1) is of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that, during the time period referred to in subsection (3), the pregnant woman is likely to be subject to a threat to her life or health, arising from her living circumstances.”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 33:

In page 10, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:
“(5) Subsection (3) and (4) shall not apply where the pregnant woman concerned has been the subject of arrangements for the transfer of care in accordance with section 22(3) in respect of the pregnancy concerned.”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 34:

In page 10, line 16, after “period” to insert “or otherwise appropriate medical principles”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 33; Níl, 5.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.  
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.  
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.  
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Billy Lawless   Zoom on Billy Lawless   Lawless, Billy.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Michelle Mulherin   Zoom on Michelle Mulherin   Mulherin, Michelle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTION

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I move amendment No. 35:

In page 10, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:
“Protection of Infants born alive

13. (1) In this section “born alive” means the complete emergence of a foetus from the body of the woman, regardless of the state of gestational development, who, after emergence, whether or not the umbilical cord has been cut or the placenta is attached, and regardless of whether the emergence occurs as a result of natural or induced labour, caesarean section, termination of pregnancy or otherwise, shows any evidence of life including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
(a) breathing;

(b) a heartbeat;

(c) umbilical cord pulsation; or

(d) definite movement of voluntary muscles.
(2) In this section “infant” means a foetus who has been born alive as a result of the carrying out or attempted carrying out of a termination of pregnancy under this Act.

(3) A medical practitioner shall take all steps as may be appropriate and practicable to preserve the life of an infant.

(4) For the avoidance of doubt, the fact that the infant has been born alive as a result of the carrying out or attempted carrying out of a termination of pregnancy under this Act shall not be a relevant consideration for a medical practitioner when determining what constitutes an appropriate and/or practicable step under subsection (3).”.

The amendment would add a new section that would place an onus on a doctor to make every reasonable effort to protect the life of a baby born alive as a result of an abortion carried out or attempted. The amendment is similar to other amendments we have tabled in that it contains measures we would have expected to be present in the Bill from the beginning. It makes clear for doctors what is to be done when an abortion does not result in the death of an unborn baby, as intended in the procedure. It places responsibility on doctors in these cases to respect the baby that has been born alive rather than abandon him or her to certain death through neglect. It is not too much to ask for in these rare but real cases that occur. We should always err on the side of protecting the new individual who has come into the world in such awful circumstances. Manufacturing excuses for why a baby in these circumstances should not receive basic medical care and protection is the inverse of the social solidarity and respect that should be the mark of any civilised society.

  The amendment is careful not to set a singular approach to apply in all cases. It leaves room for medical practitioners to take the appropriate action depending on the circumstances. Such circumstances include the gestational stage of the pregnancy and the likelihood, based on that, of whether the baby stands a chance of survival and so on. The intent of the amendment is perfectly clear. It places an onus on medical practitioners to do their best to preserve life in these situations where practicable. The amendment is based on real-life experiences in other countries where babies born alive after botched abortions have been routinely left to die without receiving any medical care. Let us stop for a minute to think about this. In 2018, countries that pride themselves on their human rights records have allowed the inhumanity of abandoning a baby to certain death because he or she survived an abortion. This is not only tolerated but routinely practised.

  If the strategy of some colleagues is to ignore amendments seeking to make the Bill less extreme, I appeal to them to consider this amendment and ask themselves whether it is right that, in the rare cases where it occurs, we should turn away from a helpless baby that has just been aborted but has survived. I appeal to colleagues to concede that it is our responsibility as a humane society to rally to his or her aid. We may be uncomfortable with the reality placed before the House that babies survive abortion. Some may even regard it as extreme to even raise these issues. My response is that we should be uncomfortable and that we have no right to lightly dismiss the amendment, which is based on the horrific reality of what happens in other countries and what will happen here if we do not rule for these circumstances. We have to face uncomfortable truths. We cannot hide behind them. We were elected to face tough realities and not pretend that we do not exist.

  Official figures from Canada, for instance, show the prevalence of such cases over a ten-year period.  Starting in 2000, 491 babies who survived botched abortions were abandoned by medical staff and left to die alone without care in hospitals. In Britain the confidential inquiry into maternal and child health revealed that in 2005, 66 babies in England and Wales had been born alive and left unaided to die after failed abortions. The amendment we are debating would make sure such an outrage could not happen here. It would not interfere with access to abortion but ensure the outrageous human rights abuse of abandoning a baby that has just been born would not be allowed to happen here. If we dismiss the amendment, it is inevitable that babies will be born alive after botched abortions in this country and left to die unaided, just like what happens in other countries.

  This is not a time for denial or deflecting blame onto the sponsors of the amendment. It is a moment of truth for all of us. I plead with the Minister and colleagues not to dismiss the amendment out of hand. Research by Amárach Research conducted very soon after the referendum in May found that 69% of voters believed babies who survived the abortion procedure should be given medical care and not abandoned. Only 9% of the public disagreed, while other respondents did not know. The amendment identifies criteria such as breathing, having a heart beat, umbilical cord pulsation or movement of muscles that should be taken into account and a doctor would then be obliged to act to protect the life of a child. It is normal practice in countries in which abortion has been legalised that doctors in one part of a hospital are doing everything possible to save a premature baby born at 23 weeks, while in another part of the same hospital a baby at 24 weeks gestation is having his or her life ended by abortion. The only difference between the two babies is that one is wanted and the other is not. The amendment would make sure the horror we have seen in other countries of babies being left to die would not happen here. The amendment would not prevent access to abortion or stop a woman from availing of what was legal. However, it would be a terrible tragedy if we could not even unite on the idea that babies who survive an abortion should not be left to die without receiving medical care and aid.

  There is not much more I can say. To put it simply, the objective of the procedure is to end the life of the baby, but where it goes wrong and the unborn baby is born alive, the original objective ends and medical care and the intervention of the doctor should focus on saving the life of the baby. It is a very humane amendment. I appeal sincerely to the better consciences of the Minister and all Members to accept it. It would do nothing to deter the Minister's objectives. It would simply provide for more humane treatment. Its objective is to ensure, rather than leaving a baby to die on a sterilising tray, medical aid would be provided.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We must all imagine that this would be a very rare occurrence, but surely where a baby is born alive, we all believe the most basic fundamental right is the right to life. It is shocking to think a living human being would be left, as has been said, to die unaided. Surely that is akin to murder. I take a very serious view of this matter. I am entirely opposed to the thing, as the Minister appreciates. I find it hard to fathom how anyone would wish to extinguish the life of their own flesh and blood. I cannot countenance it. In these exceptional circumstances certainly everything should be done to save life.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It is clear to the Minister and colleagues from all of the amendments I have tabled with Senators Ó Domhnaill and Coghlan that we accept the reality that we cannot turn around this dreadful legislation. What we have sought to do in everything is to bring clarity and a modicum of humanity to what we regard as very inhumane. The forgetfulness of the dignity of the life of the unborn child that runs throughout the legislation should not be compounded by a lack of concern about what should happen in the event that the unborn child survives the abortion process, the termination of pregnancy or the process intended to end the life of the foetus, as the legislation defines it throughout. The amendment would require a doctor to take all appropriate and practicable steps to preserve the life of an infant born alive as a result of the carrying out or the attempted carrying out of a termination of pregnancy. In many ways, some of the issues refer back to ones we raised earlier about viability and the need to exclude a direct attack on human life after reaching viability. This provision should surely have been included in the Bill from the outset since it recognises inherent and basic human dignity, even if it is disregarded elsewhere in the Bill. The amendment would make it clear that in the rare circumstances where unborn babies survived an abortion procedure - it does occur, despite what Members of the Dáil would have us believe - there would be a duty to act to save their lives. It does not attempt to prescribe the exact measures medical practitioners should find appropriate in any given case. It would simply require them to take all steps that might be appropriate and practicable to preserve the life of an infant. We use the word "appropriate". This would not be an onerous requirement and would not interfere with the "rights" conferred in the legislation to access abortion in particular cases. It would give doctors leeway in exercising their reasonable clinical judgment, although, obviously, I question the clinical judgment involved in abortion, formed in good faith on what was practicable.

  I must work in imperfect situations and ask for mercy which is really what the amendment is asking for. It is asking for mercy. There is no future for most of the children that will be affected by this legislation, but the amendment asks for mercy where a child is actually born alive. It would not require "extraordinary measures" to be taken to sustain life for the reasons outlined previously as to why the decision to use this phrase in the definition of viability is a poor one. What is reasonable and practicable will vary with circumstances, including, in particular, the stage of gestation of the unborn child. Naturally, different considerations would apply if the infant was born alive after reaching the point of viability. All of these decisions would left to the clinical judgment of doctors, but there should be a requirement that where a child is born alive, as we define it in the amendment, to provide care.

  To me, it was unbelievable that in the other House, the directly elected Chamber, there were Members who disputed the fact that unborn babies ever survived abortion procedures. It was Deputy Kate O’Connell who referred in the Dáil last week to alleged survivors of botched abortions and anecdotes as fairy tales and stories that essentially had dubious sources.  The Minister is not responsible for what Deputy O'Connell said but he did not take exception to the comments made. It was a disgraceful insult, both to those who have survived abortion procedures and to parents of children who have survived the procedures and who have gone on to regret what happened but were grateful that the baby survived.

  In Britain, the confidential inquiry into maternal and child health revealed that in 2005, 66 babies in England and Wales were born alive and left unaided to die after failed abortions. I have not heard that statistic disputed. Nadine Dorries is a backbench Tory MP who is much in the news of late because of her position on Brexit. She is a trained nurse and has spoken about how she witnessed two botched abortions.

  In Canada, as has been said, official statistics show that from 2000 to 2009, 491 babies survived abortions, were abandoned by medical staff and left to die without care. This amendment asks for mercy.

  These are not anecdotes or fairy tales, they are the official government statistics from the UK and Canada. Colleagues will recall that last year, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, visited Ireland and raised the issue of abortion with the Taoiseach. It struck me at the time that, in fact, it should have been the other way around. It was the Taoiseach who should have raised this shocking abuse of human rights and human dignity with Mr. Trudeau and protested vigorously. An average of 50 babies are born alive after abortions and left to die in Canada every year. Perhaps if this was happening in a developing world country, we would be appalled, but when it happens in a wealthy First World country in the context of the provision of so-called safe and legal abortion, some of us manage to find it perfectly acceptable. We would never question what happens in Britain or Canada, but why is that so? Do we not seriously need to reassess our values if 50 children could be left to die every year and that is something which does not cause deep revulsion and people in high places do not seem to be bothered that nothing is done to prevent anything similar from possibly happening here? That is what this amendment is about. It does not limit access to abortion, it just avoids a shocking and incredibly inhumane outcome of an attempted abortion, as occurs in other countries.

  I accept that where it might happen, it will generate obligations on the State, perhaps in cases where the baby needs care in being brought up. There may or may not, depending on the specific situation, be a desire from the parents or mother to bring the baby onwards from there. I accept that life is complicated but it is not this amendment that makes it complicated. It is the cruel reality of this Bill, that generates the need for this amendment, which seeks to mitigate the injustice somewhat.

  Amárach Research recently found that 69% of adults believe that where an unborn baby survives the abortion procedure and is born alive, doctors should be obliged to give medical care to the baby to preserve his or her life. Only 9% disagreed. It must be wondered who those 9% are. They include several Members of the Oireachtas who deny that the issue even arises, which I greatly regret, but Senator Ó Domhnaill and I, among others, who propose this amendment, while facing defeat, stand on this issue for 69% of adults, according to Amárach Research.

  I also want to raise the separate but somewhat connected issue of the treatment of children who are born alive but with serious genetic conditions or terminal illnesses. Ispecifically raise the provision of perinatal hospice care. As the Minister knows, we are well behind the curve in the provision of such care and much remains to be done in the future. It is a sad reality that very little was done to offer such care to mothers and families who received the devastating diagnosis that their child had a terminal illness, although in some cases-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator is wandering from the amendment. It may be related but we have to stick to this Bill and to the amendments and sections because by diverting in the way that the Senator is doing, he is bringing in a totally different aspect, even though there may be some connection. With all due respect to the Senator, it would be unwise to pursue it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I respect the Cathaoirleach's position but I have to say that if a baby survives in this situation, it may be very much in need of what is called perinatal hospice care, although normally it does occur in the context of a situation where a tragic diagnosis of abnormality or disability is received and parents and baby need to be consoled and supported but it does arise in this case. I will not say any more than that at the Cathaoirleach's request.

  I have made the point but what is needed is what the Rotunda Hospital describes perinatal care as being for such children as are affected by this amendment, namely, "an active, total, holistic approach to care, focused on enhancing the quality of life of the baby" and, if applicable in this situation, his or her family, "while recognising potential or inevitable death, and should be offered from the time of diagnosis". The situation may vary depending on the circumstances because the baby may be born alive and may be in danger of death and unless helped, he or she will certainly die.

  It is relevant because of people such as Melissa Ohden who has been in this country and whose story is real and not a fairy tale. Deputy O'Connell asked whether she remembered the experience well or something chillingly insouciant such as that. In the same way the Deputy seemed not to understand what perinatal hospice care was all about and seemed to think it involved some kind of institutionalisation. I ask the Minister to distance himself from those attitudes and reaffirm the Government's commitment to perinatal hospice care and to accept that the amendment would not subtract from the provision of abortion under this legislation. It merely seeks mercy in real-life situations where abortion is legal.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I will not be in a position to accept this amendment proposed by Senators, which is, as acknowledged by Senators Ó Domhnaill and Mullen, virtually indistinguishable from an amendment on this subject put forward in the Dáil. While I can see that the amendments are proposed with the care of infants in mind and do not dispute the Senators' bona fides on them either, the purpose of the legislation is not to regulate obstetric procedures which do not constitute termination of pregnancy, nor to dictate the practice of obstetrics or of medicine more generally. It is not appropriate to insert compulsory care pathways or treatment plans in legislation and Senators will not find any example related to a woman or an infant child in that regard.

  I hope we can agree on the fact that there is no doubt that medical practitioners are always required to maintain professional standards and uphold medical ethics, as governed by Medical Council guidelines. Doctors, nurses and midwives are bound through professional regulatory mechanisms to deliver medical services in accordance with best medical practice.

  Similar to our previous discussion quite some time ago yesterday on the issue of viability and the supports that would be provided to a baby born at the point of viability, it is the same in this instance. Any baby born in a maternity hospital, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or how they came into the world, will receive all the neonatal supports that any other child born in that hospital, regardless of the circumstances, would also receive and of that there is genuinely no doubt.

  The Senator makes comparisons with other countries. I do not doubt his research, although I am not familiar with it but what I can say is that in this country, we are talking about terminations that will be provided in maternity hospitals. We are talking about maternity hospitals that look after hundreds, if not thousands, of newborn babies every single day and that is exactly what they will do in an indiscriminate manner, regardless of how a baby comes into the world.

  In summary, we do not legislate for compulsory care pathways or treatment plans in the Bill. There is no need to do this. Doctors, nurses and midwives are responsible to their own regulatory bodies and medical ethics. For the same reasons that I did not accept the amendment in the Dáil, I do not intend to accept the amendment in this House.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister's answer is very problematic. For the Minister for Health who is introducing abortion on wide-ranging grounds to say he is unfamiliar with research about where situations have arisen in other countries-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I cannot verify the information the Senator just given in the House.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister has had two years to familiarise himself with the stories and the documented evidence. He is the one who is introducing abortion, not me.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris We all are.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I would have thought that the Minister championing the introduction of abortion-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am not championing it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----would be interested enough to pursue the question of whether it ever occurs that babies survive abortion procedures and what happens to them in various jurisdictions. The Minister has a phalanx of advisers, a chief medical officer and the negligence of the situation, to put it kindly, that he would not be familiar with what happens to the point that he could in any way discuss whether what I am saying is a fairy tale or not is absolutely staggering and reflects very badly on him and the Government.

  We are talking about human beings. It is simply disingenuous of the Minister to say he is not going to get into regulating what medical personnel must do because it is for professional regulatory mechanisms to deal with best medical practice. He is changing the definition of best medical practice. Up to now, best medical practice was about protecting two patients, mother and unborn baby, and always protecting a mother even if treatment for her occasioned the death of her unborn baby while every effort was being made to preserve the life of the unborn baby. That was best medical practice.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No, it was not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister is changing it. That was best medical practice, under Irish law and under Medical Council guidelines.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris There was nothing "best" about it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There is absolutely no question it is why Ireland's maternal mortality rates were among the lowest in the world. It was clearly understood as a matter of law that there was a duty to preserve life that was always in situ, even if that resulted in the death of the unborn. That was best medical practice in this country and was underpinned by law, not just by Medical Council guidelines. The Minister has brought in a legislated right to carry out procedures which are intended to end the life of the foetus and he is telling this House that he is not changing best medical practice.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I am not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen He is causing a revolution in medical care of all the wrong kind. There would be no legislation if it was only a matter for medics. It would just be that abortion is permissible and it would be left up to medics to decide. This legislation is full of rules. The trouble is it is full of vague rules that leave open all sorts of dangerous, in some cases unforeseen and perhaps, sadly, in some cases foreseen, consequences. The Minister ought to be in a position to discuss with me whether, in current western world practice, babies sometimes survive abortion procedures. He should be in a position to discuss that with me.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No, I should be in a position to-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister is under a duty to know that.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No, I am not. I am under a duty to discuss the legislation before the House; nothing more.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The fact that the Minister chooses to have such a narrow interpretation and understanding of his duty is remarkable in itself. He has been instrumental in bringing about a situation where an unborn baby does not have rights, to all intents and purposes in all sorts of situations, and has left a lacuna where such a baby is born. He has created a right to carry out and access a procedure that is intended to end the life of the foetus and has not dealt with the possible unforeseen consequences of that, whether through negligence, accident, failure, or whatever one wants to call it, whereby that goal would not be achieved, as happens in other countries. The law is championing the intentional killing of the unborn and then staying silent about what happens if the baby is born and that goal has not been achieved by the time the baby is born. This is shocking negligence.

  I again appeal to the Minister to find some mercy. As I have said to him, this amendment does not take away the right to abortion, a right I oppose because I believe it is in breach of human rights and dignity and hurts women and their unborn. This amendment does not take away any of the rights that the Minister has chosen to give. It simply seeks mercy.

  I worry that the reason the Minister and the Government are not accepting any of the amendments is they have caved in to the abortion industry to the point that the Minister will not accept any amendment that could remotely hint at the humanity of the unborn child. It is only my guess, and the Minister can deny it if he wishes, as is his right, but I cannot understand why these very narrow amendments that seek to inject a modicum of humanity into a cruel situation cannot be accepted. This does not take away any right to abortion but it would at least treat a little creature who might survive that abortion with a bit of mercy. If there is a right to kill the child, there is probably no duty to show mercy and perhaps that will determine the Minister's thinking on the amendments on pain relief also. There is such a thing as mitigating the wrong that is done by introducing abortion by at least providing that mercy would apply in a situation where an unborn child survives the procedure.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill To add to what Senator Mullen has just said, the amendment or the addition of the new section is crystal clear. Part 1 provides the definition of "born alive". Part 2 outlines what doctors should do. The Minister outlined that the guidelines cover that and that best medical practice would cover that in any event. There is no reason not to accept this amendment if that is the case because it would be totally compatible with the Minister's assertion that the medical guidelines and best professional practice would cover it. There is no reason not to accept the amendment.

  The pro-choice view is that life begins at birth and, if you follow it through, an abortion can go wrong and a baby is born alive, despite the objective to abort the baby and terminate the pregnancy. There are figures available from outside Ireland because this is new legislation here. The figures from Canada are not a snapshot in time. They are indisputable figures collated from the Federal Department of Health in Canada over a ten-year period. They are not just a snapshot of one year, six months or two weeks. This is a ten-year period where 491 babies were born alive. That means that, over that period and rounding the figures off, 50 babies in Canada are born alive per year. How many babies will be born alive as a result of the introduction of this legislation in Ireland? We do not know if it will be one, two, five or another amount. We do not know. What we are trying to achieve with this amendment is to ensure that, if those babies are born alive, they are not left to die on sterilising trays as happens in other jurisdictions. The Minister should have no difficulty whatsoever in accepting this amendment if he is correct and it is covered under medical guidelines and by medical best practice. It is the most humane amendment possible.  Is it just that the legislation is before the House, the political commitments have been given and, come Hell or high water, we are going to rush it through? The logical assumption is that we are not willing to take on board reasoned amendments because to do so would delay the Bill from reaching the political deadline of 1 January.

  I know this amendment was raised in the other House but the other House can speak for itself. We are here to raise it in this House and there is nothing to stop the Minister from accepting the amendment. It would not delay the Bill as he could go back to the Dáil next week if he wanted but he should not put the political timeframe imperative ahead of an amendment such as this, which is the most humane amendment. If it is even possible, because of ambiguity in the Bill, that a baby could be born alive but left to die it would be horrific in the extreme. We are trying to clarify the ambiguity in order that it will not happen. We do not want what happens in Canada and in the UK to happen here. The pro-choice side should also unite on this, given that these babies are already born. They are human beings in maternity wards in hospitals and they would be left to die if this ambiguity is not cleared up. We are not sure of the number but we know it is 50 per year in Canada and the latest figure in England is 66.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Does the Minister wish to come back in on this issue?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan There is an impasse.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister should be open to this amendment, even from a precautionary point of view. We are no different from other countries now as we no longer have constitutional protection for the unborn. We need to be clear that there is now no obligation that will override the lacuna in the legislation. The very fact there is a lacuna in the legislation will cover any future instance of deliberate neglect to tend to the child in question. Senator Noone will remember the joint committee hearing evidence from Mr. Peter Thompson, a neonatologist from Birmingham, who described the optimum means of a late-term termination as one in which there would be one injection to stop the child from moving-----

Senator Colette Kelleher: Information on Colette Kelleher Zoom on Colette Kelleher On a point of order, we are going over the same arguments. The point is practical but we are going over the same ground.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Let me be the Cathaoirleach. I am trying to be as fair as possible. The Senator said he wanted to come back with a brief comment. We are now in the 39th minute of discussing this section. The Minister has concluded and I will allow Senator Mullen to conclude.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will conclude.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Some Senators are referring to statements made by Deputies in the other House and saying they are irrelevant while going on to quote liberally from them. They cannot have it both ways. I am slow to accept criticism of what Members of the other House say because we are two different Houses, though we are dealing with the same Bill.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen As I do not think I have referred to Mr. Thompson previously, this is new and relevant information that relates to the amendment. When pressed at the committee, this neonatalogist said the procedure was that there would be one injection to stop the baby moving or, as he said, to "paralyse" the baby. He said the second injection in the foeticide was an injection to the heart, part of the reason for which is to prevent the infant from being born alive. The Minister is not engaging at all with what actually happens, but it is relevant and the western world experience is that this does not always occur We have the Gosnells of this world, practitioners who through negligence or cruelty can do all sorts of things and it is for law to protect human dignity, even in the minimal respect for human dignity shown by abortion. I am asking the Minister for some mercy and had hoped he would at least have given the issue some thought or engaged with me on the facts of what happens in these dreadful situations.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 8; Níl, 29.

Níl
Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie. Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances.
Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
  Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
  Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
  Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
  Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
  Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
  Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
  Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.
  Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
  Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.
  Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone..

Amendment declared lost.

SECTION 13

Question put: "That section 13 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 8.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Robbie Gallagher   Zoom on Robbie Gallagher   Gallagher, Robbie.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Gerry Horkan   Zoom on Gerry Horkan   Horkan, Gerry.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.  
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTION

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Amendments Nos. 36 and 41 are related and may, by agreement, be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 36:

In page 10, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

“Administration of anaesthetic or analgesic to foetus
14. (1) A medical practitioner who carries out a termination of pregnancy shall take all steps as may be appropriate and practicable to avoid causing pain to the foetus.
(2) Where the medical practitioner who is carrying out a termination of pregnancy is of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that the gestational age of the foetus is 20 weeks or more, he or she shall administer or ensure the administration of an anaesthetic or analgesic to the foetus prior to the carrying out of the termination of pregnancy.

(3) Subsection (2) shall not apply where—
(a) 2 medical practitioners certify that they are of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith that the administration of an anaesthetic or analgesic to the foetus would pose a risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman in respect of whom the termination of pregnancy is being carried out, or

(b) a medical practitioner proposes to carry out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 10 and it is not practicable to comply with the obligation in subsection (2) because of the particular circumstances of the case.
(4) Where—
(a) an anaesthetic or analgesic is administered to a foetus in accordance with subsection (2), or

(b) subsection (3) or (4) applies,

the medical practitioner who carries out the termination of pregnancy shall include this information in the notification forwarded or caused to be forwarded to the Minister under section 20(2).”.

Amendment No. 41 is consequential on amendment No. 36. It could be called the second "mercy" amendment. It has a very simple rationale. It is an expression of the compassion which we all ought to have for unborn children and the basic principle that no human being should have to suffer pain unnecessarily. This amendment puts a duty on doctors to minimise pain to the foetus, the unborn child, through the use of anaesthetics and analgesics where possible and appropriate. It places a duty on doctors to use such medications where the unborn child is at over 20 weeks' gestation. It does not apply in emergencies, as set out in section 10, or where it might pose a risk to the life of, or serious harm to, the pregnant woman. The Minister rejected a similar amendment on Report Stage in the Dáil and made the following statement, which I regard as extraordinary:

The purpose of this legislation is not to regulate or dictate the practice of obstetrics. That is not what we do in this House. There is a very thin line that we should not cross where we move from being policy makers to being doctors. We have to be very conscious of that.

It is true that we should not move from being policy makers to being doctors, although there are doctors who moved to being policy makers and one would have hoped they would have known better than to abandon the time-honoured principles of care in the policies for which they advocate. The line was crossed a long time ago in terms of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done in this House and the idea that the purpose of this legislation is not to regulate or dictate the practice of obstetrics is Orwellian in language, because the practice of obstetrics in Ireland will never be the same again as a result of this legislation. To be frank, I was struck by the lack of self-awareness in the Minister's comments. It is doublespeak and the entire rationale underpinning this legislation is the imposition of a radical shift in medical ethics through the introduction of abortion on request, under section 12 and in ill-defined cases in other sections. A core ethical value of doctors, that they owe a duty to protect the life of unborn children, is being abolished by this legislation. It is a time-honoured value that has come to be attacked in the western world only in recent times. Doctors are being forced to choose between carrying out an abortion, acting to deliberately end the life of a foetus or referring the unborn onwards to be aborted at the risk of being drummed out of the medical profession and with no protection from the law as things stand. In spite of this, the Minister has the audacity to have said on Report Stage that the purpose of this legislation is not to regulate or dictate medical practice. Such language is simply an insult to the electorate, no matter how they voted. The dictation, the regulation and the changing of medical practice radically, fundamentally, dangerously and cruelly are the entire purpose of this legislation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan This is more like a Second Stage speech. I ask the Senator to speak to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Understood.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan He is being very general in addressing what happened in the Lower House and the statements of the Minister. I ask him to speak to the amendment and afford the Minister an opportunity to reply, after which he may come back in.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I accept that the Minister may have revised his position or the language he uses in putting it forward since the matter was discussed in the Lower House. However, he has given no other reason for opposing the amendment similar to this one, which was tabled in the Lower House. That is why it is necessary for me to dwell on what is the Minister's objection to this humane and humanising, though somewhat minimal, amendment. It is very sad that anybody would object to measures which simply give limited protection to unborn children and have no consequences for the service that is being legalised.

  Although the Minister claims to oppose the idea of compelling doctors to use anaesthetics in medical practice, the Government has no objection to compelling the use of anaesthesia in other areas. Section 17(1) of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 states:

A person shall not, except in accordance with animal health and welfare regulations, perform an operation or procedure (with or without the use of instruments) involving interference with the sensitive tissue or bone structure of an animal without the use of an appropriate anaesthetic or analgesic administered so as to prevent or relieve any pain during or arising from the operation or procedure.

A failure to observe that section may lead to a fine and up to six months in prison on summary conviction or a fine of up to €250,000 or up to five years' imprisonment on indictment. In this respect and many others, animals will have more protections than unborn children after the passage of this legislation. Although I am a lover of animals and a passionate supporter of animal welfare, that is not acceptable. This is the sad face of the supposedly tolerant and liberal Ireland which we now inhabit. There is nothing tolerant or liberal about this aspect of it. In the light of the Minister having stated that the Oireachtas should not direct doctors as to when they should or should not use anaesthetics and analgesics, why does the Government think it appropriate to direct veterinary surgeons on when to use such medications? The Minister voted in favour of that requirement at the time. Is the professional judgment of veterinarians more suspect than that of medical doctors such that they are in need of Oireachtas instruction or are animals more deserving of proper treatment than unborn children? It must be one or the other.

   Abortion is a violent procedure for the unborn child. That will be unavoidable if this legislation is passed. However, if the legislation were to be amended, the possibility of unnecessary pain being felt by the child during an abortion procedure could be avoided. The amendment is precautionary, at least, and perhaps necessary, depending on the view one takes of the point at which an unborn child can feel pain during an abortion procedure. The aim of the amendment is to impose the duty to minimise pain to the unborn where possible. Irish people inherently recognise the humanity of the unborn and we need to acknowledge that humanity by obliging medical professionals to minimise the pain of abortion procedures.

  Several Deputies pointed out in the Dáil that surgeons use anaesthetics on babies undergoing surgery in the womb. Why should they not also be used in the case of surgical abortions? There is no logical reason to deny their use unless one argues that the unborn is to be denied its humanity by virtue of the fact that he or she has been selected to be aborted. I fear that once again an amendment is being rejected because it hints at the reality of what abortion involves and the humanity of the unborn and declares or proclaims the deprivation and rejection of human dignity involved in abortion and this legislation.

  Deputy Louise O'Reilly attacked a similar amendment on Committee Stage on the grounds that there was no evidence that unborn children could feel pain during an abortion procedure. On the contrary, there is increasing scientific evidence from around the world that babies in the womb feel pain before 20 weeks.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The Senator is reading from the transcript of Dáil proceedings.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Recent research from the United States indicates that they can feel pain as early as 18 weeks and that anaesthetics should be used from that point. We propose that they be used from 20 weeks. We have tried to avoid unnecessary ambiguities. As I stated, the amendment does not apply to abortions under section 10 or where there is a reasonable belief that harm might be caused to the mother. However, it has been shown that the human nervous system begins to develop at six weeks and that sensory receptors, which allow pain to be felt, develop at seven weeks and are present across the body by 18 weeks. These are established scientific facts. It has also been shown that as early as six weeks, babies recoil and try to get away from any invasive procedure in the womb. They also show signs of increased stress and hormonal response in such situations. Although it has not yet been proven that they feel pain at that early stage, it clearly shows an inbuilt biological reflex of some kind that we should not simply ignore. In fact, there is evidence that children in the womb have a greater sensitivity to pain than newborn babies or adults because it is now thought that the physical ability to regulate and withstand pain does not develop until approximately 35 weeks.

  One will notice that, as in other amendments, we have done our homework and seek not to obstruct but, rather, to bring basic standards of humanity to the legislation. The Government and its phalanxes of officials, campaigners, supporters, eminent doctors and so on have refused to engage on issues that are medically and scientifically relevant to the legislation and that is a scandal. In the United States, 12 states have laws which protect unborn children who have reached the stage at which they are capable of feeling pain. A Bill making its way through the US Congress would introduce such measures across all 50 states. It awaits the approval of the US Senate. Surely, what is good enough for some American unborn children should be good enough for Irish unborn children.

  At the Oireachtas committee on 29 November 2017 I raised this issue with the aforementioned Mr. Peter Thompson who is involved in carrying out late-term abortions in certain cases. I got the distinct impression that I was asking him questions he had never before been asked because late-term abortion has been so normalised in Britain, where the great and the good nod their heads sagely and say that it is sometimes necessary. It was very clear from Mr. Thompson's references to the document from the royal college that while he sought to allege it is less likely that there is foetal pain, he did not have the language of certainty and appeared to be a stranger to the available research. How can a man who is involved in late-term abortions not be concerned to engage in precautionary pain relief, at least? What is so wrong with the precautionary use of an anaesthetic, particularly in late-term abortions? The amendment clearly provides for situations involving potential risk to the mother's health. What does it say about the great and the good of medicine that people so directly involved in late-term abortions are inclined to hedge when asked a question about what would be appropriate in terms of pain relief?

  It has been regularly stated the question of the administration of pain relief post-20 weeks' gestation promotes a view that women seeking late-term abortions are heartless and insensitive to the welfare of their unborn child. It has been repeatedly stated that this is an attempt to characterise obstetricians as inhumane and to reinsert the view that abortion is barbaric and not the normal, routine procedure this legislation would like to make it. Deputy O'Connell repeatedly made the point that raising the issue of foetal pain is about the "historical contamination of not trusting women". That is the language of evasion and the refusal to deal with medical scientific human realities because this is not about judging anybody but, rather, recognising that this legislation legalises abortions, including late-term abortions in certain situations and without a time limit under one particular heading, and that, therefore, the idea that there should be a requirement to administer precautionary pain relief should not be controversial.  Whether pain relief is administered should not be a matter of how humane the doctor is. It is not a matter that touches on whether the woman is able to access an abortion. It is not asking much for a merciful adjustment to this legislation. It would require that, where a baby is believed to have reached the stage of 20 weeks of gestation, having regard to the emerging international evidence about foetal pain, no more and no less than what the science shows, there would be the requirement to administer pain relief, just as there would be if surgery was being done on an unborn child in the womb. That is what is being asked for, and sometimes specific pain relief for the child. Generally, I understand pain relief in the context of analgesia given to the mother. As I said, we have not had a debate about when pain is felt, or whether pain relief is ethically justified or required, because to do that is to go down what the Minister might like to call a rabbit hole. It is not a rabbit hole. It is a real human issue that flows from the injustice of this legislation.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I support Senator Mullen on both amendments in the area of foetal pain. The objective of these amendments is to create a duty to ensure that an unborn baby feels no pain during the actual abortion procedure where appropriate and practicable in the judgment of the treating doctor. The amendment would have the effect of ensuring that a baby who is about to have his or her life ended during a late-term abortion would not be exposed to the additional horror that he or she might feel pain during the procedure. Where the gestational age of the baby is 20 weeks or later, an anaesthetic should be administered prior to the termination taking place. The amendment makes it clear that this obligation would be necessary in an emergency case, where practicable, or where it is believed an anaesthetic or analgesic might introduce a risk to life, or of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman.

  Any society with the slightest respect for human life would amend the Bill to provide pain relief where an unborn baby may otherwise experience pain. It is disturbing that this provision would not be included in the Bill. Some abortion supporters argue that unborn babies do not feel pain, or at least not until well into the third trimester. These claims are well and truly contradicted by modern evidence and updated science.

  The Citizens' Assembly devoted very little time to this issue. In fact, there was less than an hour devoted to exploring the scientific evidence in this area. That is regrettable, given the wealth of scientific evidence available. It would be wrong for us, as Oireachtas Members, not to explore the available scientific evidence available ahead of rushing through this legislation which could have grave implications for pain. The public did not vote to deny unborn babies pain relief during late-term abortions. In fact, like so much else, it was never discussed in the referendum campaign in a way that gave voters an opportunity to consider the issue at all. It now falls on us to decide whether we believe babies should receive pain relief before their abortion. It would be unconscionable for anyone to vote on this amendment without first, in good faith, examining the facts and the reality of what happens in other countries where there are no provisions to ease the suffering of the babies in these situations. Babies in the womb are seen to have a physical and biochemical response to injury and research shows that pain and stress may affect foetal survival and neurological development.

  As stated, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest unborn babies can feel pain around 20 weeks' gestation. We know that if the advice were to be obtained from people like the master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Rhona Mahony, she would argue that pain is not felt by the unborn baby until somewhere in the region of 26 or 27 weeks. She said that when she addressed the students' union debate in UCD on 4 April this year. However, that is in stark contrast to the wealth of scientific evidence which is now available showing that newborn babies have a unique nervous system which makes them respond differently to pain than adults.

  In research that has far-reaching implications for the medical and surgical treatment of infants, scientists have found that newborn children feel pain longer and more sensitively. In premature babies the mechanism that allows older children and adults to dampen down the pain messages does not work properly. Until recently it has been presumed that a baby's pain system was too immature to function properly or that they reacted in a similar way to adults but less efficiently. Researchers at University College London have now discovered that babies' sensory systems have a unique pain signalling mechanism which disappears as they grow older. In the absence of confirmatory communication because of the inability of this foetus to tell us of his or her pain, medical practice and science judge that there is pain when anatomical structures necessary to pain sensation are in place and when physiological responses normally associated with pain occur. If there is the biological sensory machinery which science proves that there is, if something causes a response like that which pain can cause and if that something would elicit the same response from human beings generally, we can deduct that pain occurs.

  According to leading medical experts in the field of prenatal surgery, an unborn baby certainly feels pain at 20 weeks' gestation. I want to quote some of that research. In 2004, Dr. Robert White, a brain surgeon and neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University, testified in a US District Court that, by the 20th week, the unborn baby not only feels pain but has higher pain sensitivity than adults. I want to repeat that because it is the basis of our amendment. Dr. White, a brain surgeon and neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University, testified in a US District Court that, by the 20th week, the unborn baby not only feels pain but has higher pain sensitivity than adults.

  Dr. KJS Anand's groundbreaking study of foetal pain showed that sensory receptors begin developing at seven weeks. They spread to the whole face, palms and hands by 11 weeks, the trunk, upper arms and legs by 15 weeks, and the rest of the body by 20 weeks. Again, our amendments would cover it. The sensory part of the brain called the neocortex begins developing at eight weeks and is fully formed by 20 weeks.

  A prenatal anaesthesiologist at Vanderbilt Hospital noted that, under minimal anaesthetic, the foetus moved away from the scalpel and visibly flinched when touched by the knife. In consultation with a paediatric pain specialist, he raised the anaesthetic and has since assisted at 200 operations without observing any flinching and other signs of foetal pain. Again, that is further proof.  Further proof is provided by an Indian expert group study on foetal anaesthesiology, which identified and determined that the foetus feels stress and anaesthesia for in uterosurgeries. The unborn baby's nervous system not only feels but remembers pain and the same study showed that stress was being felt as early as eight weeks. The Journal of the American Medical Associationpromotes the use of anaesthetics for foetal surgery. It is also worth noting that only decades ago newborn and premature babies did not receive pain relief during surgery as doctors considered that their systems were too immature to sense pain. We know now from the scientific evidence that is advancing all of the time that that situation has moved forward. Data in the British Medical JournalandThe Lancetgive solid confirmation of such pain. I am sure that the Minister or his officials have consulted with both journals and, if not, they certainly should have. It is known that the foetal umbilical cord has no pain receptors such as does the rest of the foetal body. Accordingly, the tested foetal hormone stress response comparing the puncturing of the abdomen and of the cord observed that the foetus reacts, for example the liver needling with vigorous body and breathing movements but not to cord needling. The level of these hormones did not vary with foetal age. This goes to point again at the pain.

Another British study commented on this issue also. It was stated it could not be comfortable for the foetus to have a scalp electrode implanted on its skin to have blood taken from its scalp or to suffer the skull compression that might occur even with spontaneous delivery. It is hardly surprising that infants delivered by difficult forceps extractions act as if they had a severe headache. This underlines again that they feel pain. The American Medical Newshas reported that physicians know that foetuses feel pain in America because, among other things, nerves connecting the spinal cord to peripheral structures have developed between six and eight weeks. Adverse reactions to stimuli are observed between eight to ten weeks.

I am a mere Senator raising these points from my research. The Minister has the Department of Health and the Government research available to him. I hope he has consulted researchers in this area on foetal pain. I am interested in hearing whether he agrees with the results or findings of the research I have outlined. If he does not, he should give his rationale for same. If he does agree, why will he not consider supporting or accepting the amendment? This is a minimal amendment, which tries to provide a humane element to this Bill, despite the fact that the abortions will proceed, to ensure the unborn baby does not suffer in the process by feeling acute pain, as has been mentioned. I am not a scientist but if the scientific data state they do feel pain, we should be adhering to that position. To play devil's advocate, were the response from the Department of Health to be that it is not sure, should we not be erring on the side of caution, just in case? I would have thought a humane society had an obligation to do so.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I cannot accept the proposals to include a separate section in the Bill that provides for the administration of anaesthetic or analgesic to a foetus.

  Senator Mullen quoted extensively what I said in the Dáil regarding a similar version of this amendment which was submitted on that occasion. As I explained in the Dáil, the purpose of this legislation is not to regulate the practice of obstetrics but is to set out in law the grounds on which termination may be accessed. The regulation of obstetric practice is not done through this legislation. If it were done, I am sure the Senator would be coming forward with many amendments about how to care for the woman and how she should be dealt with in this situation, but he has not. He recognises that this Bill does not regulate obstetric practice. There is no treatment plan or care pathway for a woman in this legislation, nor for a foetus or, as we have discussed in previous amendments, a newborn baby, as can arise in some of the situations we discussed. There are, however, requirements in sections 9 to 12, inclusive, for medical practitioners to be of the reasonable opinion formed in good faith. This emphasises that doctors must maintain their professional standards and must uphold medical ethics. It is simply not appropriate to include compulsory care pathways or treatment plans in legislation, and we do not do this in health legislation. This type of detail is best set out in clinical guidelines rather than in primary legislation. I have previously assured the other House and I am happy to reassure this House, that in parallel with the service planning and expansion work, the clinical guidelines for medical practitioners in termination of pregnancy are also in preparation. Were I a man or a woman going into the health service, I would like to think those clinical guidelines were being drawn up by clinicians and not by politicians or people, including me, who are not qualified to make such decisions.

  As policy makers, we set out the grounds on which something should be legal. The clinical operation of those grounds belongs to clinicians. I really believe that this amendment, previous amendments and indeed some of the next amendments are the worst case of "let them deny it" politics. I already saw this in the Dáil, with claims to the effect the Minister voted against giving an unborn baby pain relief. No, I did not, nor will any Senator in this House who votes against this amendment. They will vote to trust that clinical guidelines and clinicians know a hell of a lot more about the administration of medication than do people in this House.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I can understand the ideas behind this proposal. I would be horrified to think, however, that a doctor would not take these circumstances into account. Any decent humane doctor and somebody who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology will be interested in the welfare of women and the child. I cannot encompass a situation where a doctor would willingly cause pain to a foetus. Although I understand the motivation of the amendment, I fully accept what the Minister says. I accept the principles but I do not think it is appropriate in this Bill.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I continue to thank Senator Norris for his very respectful disagreement with me and it is appreciated because many people regard it as an enormously tragic development in Irish life that we have abandoned the two-patient model and that we have lost empathy officially with unborn children. I am sorry to have to say that the Minister is back to the Orwellian doublespeak when he says that this Bill is not about regulating obstetric practice.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris It is not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I have pointed out to the Minister that there is legislation he supported that requires the administration of pain relief in certain situations to animals. I note that he did not answer that question.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris It has nothing to do with this legislation.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen There are certain phrases that are used in politics, a Chathaoirligh, which include "This has nothing to do with the amendment," "This is not appropriate for legislation," "This could have unintended consequences"-----

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I did not say that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----or "This would cause a charge on the Exchequer". Time and again, politicians bring politics into disrepute by hiding behind spurious, technical arguments. This amendment does not specify the "how" of pain relief, or which drugs should be used any more than this legislation does not get into the details of the care path and the treatment plan for women in this situation. For the Minister to compare the simple direction that pain relief be administered in the light of the best available evidence with getting into the detail of the appropriate clinical treatment of women is simply disingenuous. It is a false comparison and a false analogy.  It disrespects politics to engage in that kind of verbal wordplay. This legislation does not tell doctors how to do it - it tells them what they must do. In answer to my friend, Senator Norris, if Ireland was the first country to legalise abortion there might be some reason to assume that doctors carrying out abortions would at least try to administer pain relief where they suspected, even if they are not always certain, that pain might be felt by the child. One of the appalling realities of abortion in the western world is that it is tied in with ideology. That ideology refuses to countenance any aspect of the humanity of the unborn child. That is why I went into some detail - but not too much detail - about my engagement at the joint committee with the neonatologist, Mr. Peter Thompson. It was to demonstrate how shifty and uncertain he was when the question of pain relief was put to him.

  The Minister is trying to communicate without going into detail because detail is dangerous for him. As detail exposes the recklessness and cruelty of this legislation, the Minister avoids details by saying "I trust doctors". In reality, doctors who carry out abortions do not administer pain relief. If the Minister can show me the rules that apply in abortion regimes and jurisdictions about pain relief being administered to unborn children who are being aborted at a certain term of pregnancy, I would be very impressed because it would be more than he did in the Dáil. Internationally, in cases of abortion it is not considered necessary to administer pain relief. That is a hugely controversial judgment because it contradicts the emerging evidence that pain is felt. There is a political reason, rather than a medical or therapeutic reason, for not giving pain relief to unborn children who are being aborted. It is because it raises the question of whether it is right to abort human creatures who can feel pain.

  The Minister and I will both have to grow old and we will both have to look at the things we have done in life. He may feel he is doing some good but I doubt if he will look back on this as his finest hour, when he is not willing, in light of the emerging science, to give a simple direction to the medical profession that, although the unborn child no longer has the right to life and the ending of the life of the foetus - even in late-term situations - is permitted by law, the basic humanity of pain relief is to be given. It is not acceptable to say this is a matter for doctors because we know that doctors who carry out abortions do not give pain relief in these situations. The humanity of the unborn is being denied.

  Abortion is, in some situations, physically cruel and the Minister is being asked to at least mitigate the wrong of introducing abortion by insisting that, outside emergencies and where there is no risk to the mother's life or health, relief is administered where there is reasonable belief that pain might be felt. The least the Minister could have done is allow this merciful amendment through.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke It is wrong to portray the medical profession in the way it is being portrayed. Every doctor in every hospital in the country will do his or her best for their patients and perform any procedure in a proper and humane manner. To say otherwise in this House is totally wrong.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Minister has made his response, which is obviously not acceptable to the Senator and his colleague who proposed the amendment. There is something futile about pursuing the Minister on this because, even if the Senator speaks for another hour, he will not answer.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan If there was a question for the Minister, I would agree but he has said his piece. Note, it is p-i-e-c-e, and not p-e-a-c-e.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Maybe it should be p-i-s-s.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I do not want to tie the Senator up in knots but that is the practical situation. The Minister, on behalf of the Government, does not agree with the amendment but the Senators want to continue with a repetition of their points.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I will be very brief and will not repeat myself. I thank the Chairman because he has been very fair. Senators Colm Burke and Norris mentioned doctors and the Minister has a soundbite which is, "We should trust doctors". This is not about not trusting doctors - this is about supporting doctors by putting a public policy position in place which would be universally accepted across the State. It is not about administering pain relief prior to 20 weeks on some whim, or doing it one day and not another. We propose putting it in the legislation in order that it is universally available because the scientific information backs it up. We are making this legislation today but who is to say that in days, weeks, months or years to come, termination of pregnancy services will not be provided through public hospitals but will be the subject of tender processes to private providers through a service level agreement? This amendment would deal with that issue.

  There are many more points that I could make but it is very sad that the Minister is not willing to engage with, or even acknowledge, the scientific facts. I asked him two questions. One was if he would agree or disagree with the scientific evidence I have outlined to the House. The other was on which scientific investigations the Department carried out on unborn babies feeling pain at up to 20 weeks. Surely a scoping would have been done on the available research. If the Minister is not willing to accept the amendment I would like to know the Department's position on the issue of the pain a baby may experience at 20 weeks. Perhaps it knows something I do not know. It is bad enough to proceed on the basis that babies will be aborted, on which we have different views, but we should all be united on the basis that if we allow abortions to proceed, at least the aborted babies would not feel pain during the process. That is all we are looking for.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 6; Níl, 27.

Níl
Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
  Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
  Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
  Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
  Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
  Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.
  Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
  Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
  Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
  Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.
  Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
  Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
  Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Joan Freeman and Brian Ó Domhnaill; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone..

Amendment declared lost.

SECTION 14

Question put: "That section 14 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 7.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Joan Freeman   Zoom on Joan Freeman   Freeman, Joan.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Joan Freeman and Rónán Mullen.

Question declared carried.

SECTION 15

Question put: "That section 15 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 5.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.  
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.  
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Jennifer Murnane O'Connor and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

SECTION 16

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane  I move amendment No. 37:

In page 11, line 24, to delete "serious".

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell On a point of order, the time limits are too short. I walked about 60 yds to be here and was excluded twice. I object to this.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The last two votes were short because they were on top of one another. It was two and one.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell What am I to do? Should I loiter around outside the House?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes. Loitering with intent.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell No. It was a fair division and I was denied.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I will bear that in mind but when a vote is called, it is either a four and four or a two and one. I do not count the minutes. I take advice.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell All I am saying is the minutes were not properly counted.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan We will register the Senator's complaint.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 38:

In page 11, line 27, to delete "appropriate" and substitute "necessary".

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh I move amendment No. 39:

In page 11, line 27, to delete "avert" and substitute "mitigate".

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Section 16 agreed to.

SECTION 17

Question put: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 5.

Níl
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.  
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.  
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Ned O'Sullivan   Zoom on Ned O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Ned.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Neale Richmond   Zoom on Neale Richmond   Richmond, Neale.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

  Section 18 agreed to.

SECTION 19

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Amendments Nos. 40 and 45 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 40:

In page 13, line 36, to delete "or section 12" and substitute ", section 12 certification or section 22".

Should I move both amendments?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Amendment No. 45 will not be moved at this juncture.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen They are related.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator may speak to both amendments but amendment No. 45 will be moved and formally dealt with later.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I understand. I will take the opportunity to speak to amendment No. 45 which deals with the matter of parental notification. I stress that it relates to parental notification, not parental consent. Given that the age of consent for medical treatment in Ireland is 16 years in virtually all cases, surely this age of consent should also apply to this most serious matter of termination of pregnancy, which ends the life of unborn children. We cannot or should not allow a position to develop whereby children under 16 years could have a termination of pregnancy without, in the normal course, the knowledge or consent of their parents. We would not allow this for any other serious procedure and we should not allow it in this case.

  Parents have a right to know about such a serious matter as a crisis pregnancy arising in their children. It has potentially far-reaching consequences for those children from a medical and emotional perspective. Abortion is a life-ending event for the unborn baby but it can very often be a life-changing event for the mother. The Minister has not been willing to engage with the facts that underlie the proposal to provide abortion or with the different kinds of positions that can be involved other than to mention them for the effect of an emotive argument. He has not been willing to tease through the reality of what legalising abortion can mean in cases that are different from each other. With regard to abortion on the grounds of a risk to life or a risk of serious harm to health, the point has been made, though not engaged with by the Government, that where an abortion occurs as a response to a mental health challenge or crisis, there is no evidence to show that abortion is beneficial. That is according to the best available literature reviewed and analysed by objective scholars. The evidence conflicts on whether abortion can cause adverse mental health sequelae. What is true is that abortion is associated with elevated adverse mental health sequelae in particular cases where women are young, for example, or unsupported and so on.

  In speaking about parental notification we are talking about exactly the kind of position where there might be adverse mental health sequelae or where these are more likely than in other cases. Therefore, it should apply a fortiori that parents would be notified about this procedure because of their responsibility for the welfare of their child. We should not allow a position where children face into a crisis pregnancy alone and without the knowledge and support of their parents. I accept there are cases where parents will want their child to have an abortion and there have been cases where parents have forced their children to have an abortion. There are cases where parents have taken the view that abortion is the best thing for a child. I disagree with that view but I would never question the primary responsibility of a parent to see to the welfare of his or her child, supported and not replaced by the State. It is not right normally to provide for a position where a child could have an abortion without a parent's knowledge or consent. It is not at all right that this legislation should be silent on the matter of parental notification. I have confined my amendment to notification and I have not gone so far as to require parental consent.

  This is a limited amendment proposed in the knowledge that the deafening silence from the Government and its unlistening ear are a reality in our Seanad discussion on the Bill. Irrespective of whether people agree with me that parental consent should normally be required for abortion in the case of an underage person, most should agree that it should not happen without parental knowledge, unless there are exceptional circumstances that are provided for with our amendment.

  There are 21 countries in Europe with a requirement for parental notification for women under 18 years and 36 states in the United States have a similar law. These are jurisdictions where there is effectively abortion on demand. I have asked the question several times now with respect to other amendments and must ask it again. The very European countries that the pro-choice Members of this House have extolled for years or decades as being some kind of utopia for women's reproductive rights have provisions virtually identical to those contained in the amendment I propose; therefore, why is it being opposed? If it is good enough for women in countries with liberal abortion regimes, why is it not good enough for Irish women?

  There was a spurious and over-the-top objection to a similar amendment on Report Stage in the Dáil. Deputy Coppinger stated:

In many cases, it was being raped by their fathers that caused them to become pregnant. Essentially, this amendment would open the way for the rapist to have a veto over the right of a girl to have an abortion.

 The referendum may be over but comments like that show that hysterical scaremongering is set to continue.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane That has happened on many occasions. The Senator's comment is unfair.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Girls get raped.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is not relevant to this section.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask the Senator to speak to the section.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The notion that a rapist would seek to prevent a girl from having an abortion is a novel one. The Deputy making that comment should be aware that there is much evidence from the neighbouring jurisdiction and other jurisdictions that abortion is used to cover up rape and sexual abuse, with the guilty party putting a girl or woman under duress to have an abortion in order to cover up their crimes. That is the real issue, not the ridiculous scares raised for the sole reason of attacking a perfectly reasonable amendment.

  The Minister told the Dáil there was no need to put this in legislation. We have heard that many times. He also stated that we already have provisions for medical consent in the medical consent guidelines. However, the guidelines do not inspire confidence in this regard. Section 18 of the 2016 edition of the Medical Council's Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners states:

When patients under 16 want to make a healthcare decision without the knowledge or consent of their parent(s) or guardian(s), you should encourage them to involve their parent(s) or guardian(s) in the decision. If a young person refuses to involve a parent/guardian, you should consider the young person’s rights and best interests...

It then lists a number of considerations, including their maturity and their physical and mental health, that are to be taken into account. The guidelines then state: "You should provide treatment for young people without informing their parent(s) or guardian(s) if, having considered the factors in paragraph 18.5, you consider that it is in the patient’s best interests to do so and the patient has sufficient maturity and understanding to make the decision." Clearly, the guidelines envisage circumstances where a girl under 16 years can receive medical treatment or a procedure - I quibble with legitimising the notion that abortion is medical treatment in all but very rare circumstances - under this legislation, without the knowledge of her parents or guardians.

  The Minister also referred in the Dáil to the HSE's document, Consent: A guide for young people, published in 2013, and indicated that it also deals with the issue. This guide states:

If you are under 16 your parents will usually also be involved in decisions about your health and their permission will usually be sought for your medical treatment or any care to be provided to you. The National Consent Policy recommends that in exceptional circumstances the doctor or other professional may decide you are mature enough to understand what is involved in your treatment and to make a decision by yourself. In those situations he or she may provide the advice or treatment to you if it is in your best interests but he or she will advise you that it is best to have your parents involved.

This HSE document takes a very similar approach to the Medical Council guide. Clearly both the Medical Council guidelines and the HSE guide to consent envisage a situation where a girl under 16 years can have medical treatment without the knowledge or consent of her parents. Presumably this would extend to an abortion under this legislation. With I am sure many others I regard this as hugely problematic. I was amazed that the Minister was so relaxed about it when the issue was dealt with in the Dáil. If a girl under 16 years is pregnant, in the eyes of the law she may well have been the victim of a sexual offence.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask the Senator to speak to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen That is what I am doing.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am giving the rationale for this amendment.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Senator is not doing that.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Please allow the Senator to speak without interruption.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Potentially in the absence of any statutory provision and relying on the Medical Council and HSE guidance, a circumstance could arise where a doctor becomes aware of some key information, namely, that the girl is pregnant and that this may be as a result of a sexual offence committed against her. How can we stand over a situation where a doctor does not have a legal duty to inform parents of earth shattering news such as this? Doctors should have duty in all cases, except where I have provided otherwise in the amendment, to inform a girl's parents or guardians of this. We have had too many investigations in this country to deal with the fallout of persons in authority failing to report important information. We have seen several situations where doctors and a range of other professionals were aware of the signs of abuse but did not act. It is incredible that in the wake of several such cases, there is still no absolute duty on doctors to notify parents of a pregnancy in a child under 16 years or any other evidence of sexual activity which may amount to sexual offences having been committed against their child.

  I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. If it is not accepted, I implore him to consider accepting a more narrowly drafted amendment on Report Stage that would deal solely with the issue of the age of consent. I ask the Minister to comment on that in his response. He indicated on Committee Stage in the Dáil that he might accept a narrower version of this amendment on Report Stage but none was forthcoming. It might be worthy of his consideration to indicate whether this can be achieved in the Seanad.

  Neither the Medical Council guidelines nor the HSE policy document on consent has the status of law. As I said, both allow exceptions if the child is mature, it is in their best interests and so on. As a familial abusive situation could arise, my amendment provides that the High Court, "upon application made to it by any interested party, and if satisfied that it is in the best interests of the minor concerned, may make an order dispensing with any requirement for service provided for under this section". The use of the word "service" means service of notification on the parent. The exceptional situation where it would not be appropriate to notify a parent is, therefore, provided for by reference to the role of the High Court. On reflection, I am not happy that the text of subsections (6) and (7) is clear. I have spoken to the principles of the amendment because I am anxious to hear from the Minister as to whether the Government is open to the principle or to the introduction of a narrower amendment on Report Stage. I will not press the amendment at this point but I will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage, which will depend on the Minister's reply.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell My view is very simple. I believe the vast majority of children who become pregnant will do so as a result of crime. The exact circumstances of that crime and whether the perpetrator was related to the child, connected to her, in a position of dominance or whatever else are irrelevant or simply a matter of casual connection. They are not matters of interest to me. I am looking at this simply from the point of view of a young woman or girl who is pregnant as a result of a crime. I am asking myself if we should accommodate in law a rule whereby her parents must become involved when she, in her own right, decides to defend herself against a continuation of a pregnancy which arises from a crime. I am against that. I am against the idea that there should be some mandatory arrangement whereby any young girl in that situation who takes the step of seeking help to terminate her pregnancy which has arisen as a result of a crime should be subject to some overarching arrangement in the law of the State that her parents much become involved as a matter of mandatory requirement in how this situation is dealt with. I am totally sympathetic to the notion that in the great majority of cases that would happen, however, in the greater scheme of things, it may not happen in many cases.  The fact that the parents of a girl in such circumstances must be informed might inhibit her from seeking help or an appropriate termination.

  Senator Mullen has included as a kind of safeguard the idea that somehow that the High Court could dispense with that requirement, but that makes an absolute mockery of the girl's right to defend herself from the consequences of a crime. The idea that a High Court judge should be involved in determining the circumstances in which a girl would terminate such a pregnancy is grossly excessive in terms of being a safeguard, as Senator Mullen is suggesting in good faith, and also utterly intimidating to the girl. If an 18 year old woman is to be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without cause shown, the same right must be extended to a child without the statutory requirement to involve her parents in that decision subject to the right of the High Court to abrogate such requirement.

  Let us be logical about this. Child pregnancies arise in many situations. I do not suggest that the perpetrator would be a father, brother, cousin, boyfriend or total stranger in any particular case, but a girl in those circumstances faces the same consequence, no matter how her predicament arose, the extent or absence of consent or her attitude to the perpetrator. I am totally opposed to the principle behind the amendment and the amendment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I oppose the amendment too. It is far too rigid. We have heard a great deal from Senators Mullen and Ó Domhnaill about the humanity of the foetus, but what about the humanity of the girl? My sympathy is entirely with the girl in such a situation. Unfortunately and very regrettably, rape by a father is not as rare as some people seem to believe. It happens relatively regularly. It is a shocking event and in such circumstances the father may wish to inhibit the girl from having an abortion or force her to have an abortion. He may intervene in either respect.

  I have no problem with the medical guidelines. Who could have a problem with them? A doctor treating the girl would, of course, ask if the girl's parents know and would in those circumstances, as rightly outlined by Senator Mullen, consider the best interests of the girl, which should always be to the fore. If the doctor decides that informing the parents is not in the best interests of the girl, that is fine. The idea that all parents would support their child in such a situation is not correct. Not all parents would support the child and there might be very bitter and unpleasant exchanges between the parents and the child.

  The amendment strikes me as being like sneaking behind the girl's back and telling the parents. I do not like that at all. Young women may have reasons not to involve their parents. Some of those reasons might be specious and the doctor might be in a position to talk the girl out of them and persuade her that it would be far better for her parents to be involved.

  I agree wholeheartedly with Senator McDowell that if a minor is seeking a termination, it is almost inevitable that a criminal offence will have been committed. I cannot think of a situation whereby one would not.

  I oppose the amendment because it is too rigid and violates the properly confidential relationship between the girl, as a patient, and her doctor.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The girl is a victim.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Yes, the girl is a victim. If a girl goes to a doctor and explains this intimate situation in good faith, it would be wrong for the doctor to unilaterally decide to inform her parents. The amendment amounts to compelling doctors to do so. It is wrong and I regret that it has been tabled because it shows a lack of sympathy for the girl in such a situation. I am sorry to have to say that, but that is my belief.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I wish to add to what has been stated by my colleague on amendments Nos. 40 and 45, which I support. I acknowledge that Senator Mullen outlined that the amendments will not be pressed today but they have been tabled for a reason. Amendment No. 45 requires parental notification in respect of an abortion performed on a minor under the age of 16 years except in circumstances where it is in the minor's best interests to dispense with such notification, such as if she was raped by her father, for example. We seek to give parents the right to know if their daughter under the age of 16 is having an abortion.

  As the Minister will know, the general age of consent for surgical, medical or dental treatment is 16 under section 23 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. However, in certain circumstances procedures may be carried out on children under 16 without consent. Any parent watching this debate or reading media reports on this issue would be shocked to learn that his or her child could undergo an abortion without his or her knowledge if the Bill is not amended. I have received representations from parents who are gravely concerned about this aspect of the Bill.

  Other Senators have referred to situations involving an already vulnerable child who may have mental health challenges. The needs of such children must be considered. There is rightly much discussion of improving the mental health of young people. However, surely not ensuring that a parent is notified when a child under the age of 16 years is accessing abortion means that parents may be in the dark about what is going on with their child and will not be sufficiently equipped to help her.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The parents obviously were in the dark if she got pregnant.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator Ó Domhnaill to continue, without interruption.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill During the discussion of this issue in the Dáil, the very exceptional situation whereby the father of a girl aged under 16 years is responsible for the pregnancy was raised. It was again referred to by Senator Norris. Some Members oppose the amendment on the basis that it could empower the rapist in such very extreme situations to influence the girl's decision. Such situations are unquestionably horrendous, but it must be borne in mind that the amendment concerns the notification of the parents about a termination, rather than their consent to it. The duty to notify may be set aside by the High Court in certain circumstances. We will streamline that aspect of the amendment for re-introduction on Report Stage. The amendment is proposed as an addition to rather than replacement for the current section of the Bill which provides that nothing in the Bill will affect any enactment or rule of law relating to consent to medical treatment.

  All Members will agree that parents should have an involvement in a procedure as serious as this being undertaken by a child. A 30-year longitudinal study carried out by Fergusson suggests abortion may have serious negative mental health consequences for some women. In the case of-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The author of the study challenged its use by the pro-life side.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It is a 30-year peer-reviewed study.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That may be so, but its author challenged its use by the pro-life side.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill The obvious immaturity of children means that the level of support and care provided after a procedure such as abortion should be even higher than that provided for an adult woman. If a child attends a doctor other than the usual family doctor, the treating doctor may not be aware of the particular issues or challenges the young woman might face. Parents are naturally better equipped to deal with their daughter and any psychological issues that could arise for her after abortion.  It would be shocking if the parents or guardians of a child were not informed of such a momentous event in the child's life. All we are asking for here is that the duty to notify parents is included in the Bill to give total clarity to this. Again, this is about notification, not about consent.

  Senator Mullen referred to the 21 European countries where this is provided for. In countries such as Germany, Finland and Spain, legal access to abortion is not available to girls under the age of 18 years without parental consent. That is information from the World Health Organization. This amendment is not even seeking consent. It is only seeking justification.

  During the Dáil debate, the Minister suggested this was already included in the Medical Council guidelines. There are a number of reasons that is not really good enough. The guidelines will change and inclusion therein is not a substitute for inclusion in primary law. The guidelines are equivocal and leave the decision up to the doctor. Section 18.5 of the guidelines states that if a young person refuses to involve a parent or guardian, the doctor should consider the young person's right and best interests, taking into account a number of considerations, which the guideline then lists.

  Under section 18.7 of the guidelines, a doctor can provide treatment for young people without informing the parents or guardians if, having considered the factors in paragraph 18.5, a doctor considers it is in the best interests of the parents to do so and the patient has sufficient maturity and understanding to make the decision.

  We have heard a lot throughout the debate about trusting doctors. I trust doctors but they are citizens and are subject to the law. To suggest they are less likely to be in breach of the law than people of other professions is absurd. The law is there to provide clarity, and clarity for doctors is something that the Minister has referenced repeatedly as this Bill moved through the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is clear that the Medical Council guidelines, in themselves, are not sufficient and, accordingly, I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to accept this amendment and give the much-needed clarity to doctors and let parents be parents to their daughters, as is the case across 21 other European countries.

Senator Gabrielle McFadden: Information on Gabrielle McFadden Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden If they are safe and comfortable, they will tell their parents.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will not be accepting the amendments as they are not necessary. As many speakers have alluded to, consent to medical treatment by minors over the age of 16 years is governed by section 23 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. Furthermore, consent to medical treatment for minors is governed by case law, for example, the Gillick principle.

  The issue of parental notification has been comprehensively dealt with in the HSE's guide to consent for young people, as has been referenced by previous speakers. The provision on consent in section 23 of the Bill does not make special provisions or requirements for any particular group on consent and I do not intend that this will change. While I am aware that a case is sometimes made for special provisions to be put in place around consent to termination of pregnancy for adolescents, I am of the view that issues around consent arise across medical practice and are not limited to this particular issue. Such issues equally arise regarding contraception, gender realignment, cosmetic surgery and, in fact, any and all other areas of medicine and healthcare which affect adolescents. That being the case, if they are to be examined, I believe these issues are of a sufficiently serious nature to warrant examination on their own merit and not to be relegated to a single clause in this legislation.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I thank the Minister of State for his response. I will have the opportunity to consider what he and Senators McDowell, Norris and others have said. I am loath to disagree with somebody of Senator McDowell's eminence, but I think the issues are different. The provision of abortion without cause shown is one thing. The requirement for notification does not interfere with the provision of abortion. However, particular circumstances arise where the girl is a minor. The compulsion here is not on the girl but on the certifying doctor. All sorts of applications are made to the courts on a daily basis concerning child welfare. It would be wrong to present that as a kind of spectre of an onerous burden on the girl involved.

  I say to my friend, Senator Norris, that it is not a lack of sympathy that underlies the amendment but disagreement about what is the appropriate way to show sympathy and compassion in this situation. I agree with my colleagues when they say the girl is a victim. If she is the victim of a crime for which one of her parents or guardians is responsible, that situation is appropriately dealt with in this amendment by the possibility of an application to the court not to notify the parents. With the best will in the world-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Does Senator Mullen think the parents would not find out?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will come to that issue. Addressing the comments of my friend and colleague, Senator McDowell, if it is another kind of a crime, I would have thought that the balance of advantage lies with this requirement for notification of parents. Unless it is believed that the parents are somehow complicit in the crime, it would surely be wrong to contemplate notifying various civil authorities, such as the Garda and health authorities, but not to require notification to the parents, particularly in circumstances where something with such potentially far-reaching consequences for a young woman as abortion which is final not just for the unborn child but may also have far-reaching consequences for her. If it relates to non-criminal behaviour - here is where it comes to what Senator Norris rightly asks - parents who are reasonable and hard working, struggle at times and there are times when parents-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Not all parents are reasonable and hard working.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Indeed. There are times when even parents who are reasonable and would regard themselves as attentive will struggle to know about things. Every day we hear about the remarkable ignorance of parents about things that are happening to their children. I use the word "ignorance" in its non-judgmental sense.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell Unawareness.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Exactly. I thank Senator McDowell. Parents can be unaware of things that are happening to their children. All of those point to the appropriateness of parental notification, not to the opposite. I stress again that it is not a lack of sympathy. There have been cases of exploitation of under-age women and the very people who exploit them are often the ones who arrange for the abortions to happen. This requirement of parental notification is one aspect of erecting some kind of a safeguard in that situation.

  With all of that said, I will consider what my colleagues have said in the preparation of the amendment for Report Stage.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Question, "That section 19 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.

SECTION 20

  Amendment No. 41 not moved.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Amendment No. 42 is in the names of Senators Mullen, Ó Domhnaill and Coghlan. Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 42:

In page 14, line 23, to delete “out.” and substitute the following:
“out;

(e) the address at which the termination of pregnancy was carried out;

(f) the age, marital status, ethnicity, gravidity and parity (including the numbers of any previous pregnancies resulting in live births, stillbirths over 24 weeks, spontaneous miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and previous terminations of pregnancy) of the pregnant woman in respect of whom the termination of pregnancy was carried out;

(g) the length of the pregnancy at the date on which the termination of pregnancy was carried out;

(h) whether the pregnancy was singleton or multiple (specifying how many);

(i) the date and the method of foeticide, if used;

(j) the dates, methods and medical agents used to effect termination of pregnancy,

(k) where the termination of pregnancy was a selective termination, the original number of foetuses and the number to which they were reduced;

(l) where a termination of pregnancy has been carried out under section 11, the condition affecting the foetus and the method of and grounds for the diagnosis of that condition;

(m) whether a live birth followed the termination of pregnancy, and, if so, the care given to the baby and its outcome;

(n) if the death of the woman occurred as a result of the termination of pregnancy, the date and cause of death;

(o) such other information as may be prescribed.”.

This amendment is one I regard as essential. It is an amendment to section 20, which concerns reporting and notification of information.  Section 20 which provides for notifications states that where a termination of pregnancy is carried out in accordance with the relevant sections, the medical practitioner has various requirements to keep records, in the prescribed form and manner, and to forward them to the Minister. The information specified in the section is limited to the Medical Council registration number, the section under which the termination of pregnancy was carried, the county of residence for some reason and the date on which the termination of pregnancy was carried out.

  The aim of the amendment is quite simple. It is designed to apply the same information gathering and reporting standards to the Irish abortion regime as those that apply in the UK. For decades, the UK has been portrayed as some kind of utopia for reproductive rights, so-called, yet now, when proposals are made to mirror key aspects of the UK system in terms of reporting requirements, supporters of the Bill have competed with each other to denounce the measure as being too restrictive, an insult to women and so forth. Last week, this was brought to a ludicrous new depth when Deputy Joan Burton attacked the proposed reporting requirements, stating that the kind of language used struck her as being from the school of the deep south of the United States.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik She is right.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The measure was, she said, "really designed to extract information from women that will shame them." If that is the Deputy's view of what has been going on in Britain since the legalisation of abortion-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask the Senator to stick to discussing the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Yes. This amendment is about bringing the notification requirements in Ireland to the same point as applies in Britain.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Again, we are speaking about the other House. It would be great if the Senator kept on point.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The point is that it is simply wrong to suggest an amendment that seeks to mirror an aspect of the UK regime somehow shames women. I think that shows how much the goalposts continue to move on this issue. These restrictions apply not just in the deep south of America but have been introduced in many US states in recent years but that is a debate for another day.

  Each of the categories outlined in this amendment are part of the mandatory data collection on each abortion carried out in the UK. I will make a key point. Such information was considered vital to addressing health inequalities and improvements in public health policy, as well as maintaining consistency-----

(Interruptions).

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Can we have only one person speaking in the House, please?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----and continuity in healthcare data.

  Supporters of the Bill will be familiar with the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that is bankrolled by an organisation called Planned Parenthood, which is the largest and most profitable abortion business in the UK. Planned Parenthood made $100 million last year and its CEO is paid just shy of $1 million. Last year, representatives and affiliates of the Guttmacher Institute were invited to give evidence to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, as so-called independent and impartial witnesses. Even the institute accepts that it is hard to assess the impact of abortion laws on safety and so forth where data collection is inadequate.

  As everybody will accept if he or she is being honest, the ultimate intention at some point in the near future is that abortion services in Ireland will be provided by private clinics operating for profit. That is my belief. It is the logical extension of the reality that the public system will struggle badly to cope with the sudden introduction of this service from next month. Dr. Boylan and others have more or less admitted this. This is another key reason data collection needs to be of a high standard from the outset and the law must be prescriptive with respect to the data that are required to be recorded. We cannot allow for the development of a situation where self-regulation or self-assessment of this kind of information is permitted in the case of private clinics or abortion providers which may have a service level agreement with the State.

  We know from analyses conducted elsewhere by groups, including the Guttmacher Institute, that this may lead to circumstances in which reports on the level and type of abortion that result are disparate and inaccurate. The Guttmacher Institute has stressed the need to obtain baseline and follow-up estimates of a range of indicators that help to assess the impact of an abortion law. These vary from abortion incidents, related morbidity and its severity, mortality due to unsafe procedures, the circumstances under which women terminate pregnancies and the characteristics of women using legal services. This is exactly the kind of information that the amendment requires. If that is good enough for the Guttmacher Institute, the representatives of which were invited to Leinster House last year, why is it not good enough for the supporters of the Bill?

  The amendment also represents best international practice beyond the UK. Since 1969, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published annual reports on the incidence of abortion in the United States. We know that 46 US states require hospitals, facilities and physicians providing abortions to submit regular and confidential reports to the state. I repeat that 46 states in the US require the collection of similar data. The requirement extends far beyond the deep south, as it was referred to pejoratively in the other House. We must have robust, statutorily protected data measures. If, at some future point, it can be proved that these measures are onerous or overly prescriptive, the legislation can be amended to reflect that position. We cannot simply airbrush the difficult or challenging statistics that confront us with the practical day-to-day reality of what abortion involves. Those who support the Bill do not want women to be shamed or abortions to be hidden away or covered up. In that case, why do they not want the fullest information to be gathered on the practice in Ireland and presented in a completely anonymised fashion? By setting the recording requirements at an absolute minimum, that is exactly what will be done. What we will also do is send a message that the manner and circumstances in which the lives of unborn children end is of real consequence and deserve to be of some statistical consequence at least.

  In an attempt to deflect from this amendment, or a similar amendment, and in search of reasons to oppose it, the Opposition focused on the reference to ethnicity, one of the issues that would be required to be reported. Again, ethnicity is included because it is the standard followed by the national health service, NHS, in the UK, which adapted it from the set of 16 ethnic categories developed for the population census by the UK Office for National Statistics, in conjunction with the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. From that point on, it has been a required part of the data recording with respect to abortions carried out in England and Wales.

  Reference to ethnicity was also considered important because the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it was appropriate that those people accessing abortion should have the right to self-identify with a particular ethnic group. Opponents of this amendment surely cannot claim that the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission is subtly encouraging ethnic profiling or racism. Such information was considered vital to addressing inequalities and improvements in public health in commissioning functions. It has long been acknowledged that in Ireland those from certain ethnic backgrounds and members of the Traveller community, for example, have poorer health outcomes in society as a whole. Surely we should gather these data on abortion. Otherwise we will have no way of knowing if there are disparities of care within and between ethnic groups, we will have no knowledge of facts that will be relevant to providing for the welfare of citizens and we will have no access to knowledge that could identify problems in particular subgroups in society and so on.

  It would be a perverse irony if the Bill was about importing everything from the UK, except the requirement to keep statistics. Good policy and health planning systems depend on people being able to know what is happening. Medical and statistical experts crunch information and policy decisions flow from the good and accurate collation of information.

  The amendment would extend the requirements of information to be notified. It would not in any way interfere with a service being legalised. Instead, it would provide important information on which future policy decisions could be made.  Surely it is not the Government's intention to keep people in the dark on how abortion services operate in Ireland, or perhaps it is. I hope not and that the amendment will be accepted.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris This is by far the nastiest amendment of the lot. I am absolutely horrified by it. I express my disgust that it has been tabled and do not give a damn if it reflects the law in England. This is an independent country and we should not slavishly follow what happens in England. Plenty of mistakes have been made there and this is certainly one of them. What on earth has a woman's marital status got to do with the price of eggs? It is rubbish. The provision on ethnicity is also rubbish. I have no idea what gravidity is. The amendment continues, "including the numbers of any previous pregnancies resulting in live births, stillbirths ... spontaneous miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies". It is so horribly intrusive and utterly disgusting. I do not know what a singleton is. It sounds like an American coinage. The word "foeticide" is also used. Why not use the word "abortion" as that is what it is? This is emotive language. That is all I will say. I am appalled that such an amendment has been put before the House. It is just dreadful and I ask my friend and colleague Senator Mullen - if he is still a friend after what I have said - to withdraw it.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I will not accept the amendments that propose to make a range of detailed medical and personal information the subject of notifications to the Minister for Health. The Bill already provides for notifications of termination of pregnancy to be forwarded to the Minister to allow the application of the legislation to be monitored. However, the minimal amount of data will be collected to fulfil this function. This is to ensure data protection obligations under the general data protection regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 will be met. It is simply not necessary or appropriate for the detailed medical information set out in the amendment to be notified directly to the Minister. While it might be useful for further data to be collected to allow, for example, trends in termination of pregnancy to be analysed, it would not be appropriate to include a provision in the Bill for it to be done. In line with its usual practice, the HSE will collect data for the procedure which could be published or made publicly available in a similar way to reports published on other aspects of the health system.

  It would not be appropriate to make it an offence not to forward a notification of termination of pregnancy. To do so would be to implement a stricter regime than under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I have heard what the Minister of State has had to say and respectfully disagree with my friend Senator Norris on the issue. I have looked at the abortion notification form in the United Kingdom and read section 20 of the Bill. Subsection (2)(c), for instance, refers to the need for the county or place of residence of the pregnant woman to be recorded. Let us simplify the matter a little. From a public policy or economic standpoint, the HSE spends taxpayers' money. If termination of pregnancy procedures - I do not use the word "treatments", but it has been used on the pro-choice side - are to be carried out in public hospitals, as in the case of every other procedure, surely there should be financial accountability. We should know that there is financial oversight and transparency in the expenditure of taxpayers' money, just as we do when Beaumount Hospital or Letterkenny University Hospital, for instance, carries out hip procedures. We know how much those procedures cost because there are data to follow. I do not understand from where the requirement to record the county of residence of the pregnant woman comes because it does not follow any demarcation line associated with the HSE which is divided into regions and subdivided into hospitals. Therefore, it really does not make sense to me. I do not know from where the provision was plucked.

  I have with me a copy of the notification form for England and Wales. The information - postcode, name and address - is sent from the facility to the chief medical officer as part of a data collation exercise. That is the way good public policy is made. Students of public policy learn at university how to make good public policy. One does so through the collation of intelligence that is factually correct. The Bill, as drafted, will not allow this to happen because the information collected will be so sparse as to render it almost useless. This is not about the infringement of anyone's rights but about collecting relevant and useable information. The proposed amendment follows what is provided for in the United Kingdom, but it does not even go as far as what is done there. In fact, in several respects it much less comprehensive than the English regulations. For example, it would not require provision of the woman's address, postcode or date of birth. It is also important to recall that section 20(5) of the Bill clearly ensures reports under the section will exclude information that could lead to the identification of individuals. Accordingly, as in England, the information would be published annually in a manner that would not breach confidentiality.

  The amendment respects the principles of transparency and open government. It is plainly unacceptable to hide the facts of the operation of the Bill from the public because, ultimately, it will be a taxpayer-funded abortion system, a point we have not really discussed on Second Stage or Committee Stage. We will probably get to it on Report Stage. Section 20 provides for the publication of an annual report that will omit most of the information relevant to the operation of the Bill. Therefore, the information that will be collected under section 20 will be irrelevant and not specific. I presume this is being done intentionally. By contrast, the English regulations have a proven track record in consistently facilitating the publication annually of very detailed information, as is clear from the annual statistical publications. This information is important for sociological and research purposes and as a means of ensuring the formation of public policy in the future will be based on very reliable and accurate information. Both sides of the abortion debate should seek to have information that is accurate and reliable. One cannot make a charge against someone that the information he or she has is not reliable if one is not willing to support measures that would provide us with accurate and reliable information in the future. That is the purpose of the amendment.

  The Minister might address the issue by regulations, if he so wishes. The information sought is simply too important to leave the matter to a Minister because, obviously, Ministers come and go. Moreover, from consideration of sections 3, 19 and 20 of the Bill, the Minister does not seem to have the power under the Bill to address the issue. This is because sections 19 and 20 do not enable the Minister to prescribe additional information to that stipulated in section 20 for inclusion in the notification to be sent to him. It is these notifications that will provide the basis for the report to be published under section 20. Even from the point of view of the collection of information, for the Minister for Health to know how the system is working and have accurate information, it is important for him to have this information. The public is also entitled to know how the law is operating and the associated trends in the carrying out of abortions in the aftermath of this massive change in Irish social policy. The State cannot credibly withhold this information from the public; it should be readily available to it. It is not good enough that it might be made available under regulations at some future date at a Minister's choosing.  The purpose of the amendment is really to improve the information gathering.

  On the rationale for the introduction of abortion here, many on the pro-choice side were using the argument that an Irish woman had to leave these shores to obtain an abortion. That fact will mean that if an Irish woman wants to obtain an abortion in Manchester or London, she will have to provide all the information in question in the form prescribed in England, but if she wants to obtain an abortion in Ireland she will not have to do so. We will, therefore, be depending on the British system to provide us with more accurate information than we can collect here. It does not really make any sense. I just cannot understand it. That is the relevance of the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will not delay other than to say that ignorance as a matter of Government policy is reprehensible. I cannot think of a single medical circumstance that is as important and far-reaching as abortion where it would not be considered good public policy to gather information. That is why I say a policy of deliberate ignorance as to what is going on is bad.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It has been done for 35 years.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen If it is a policy of ideologically motivated ignorance, on the basis that knowledge might produce facts that might cause us to have discussions about things we need to change, it is really bad. The fact is that Ireland is becoming an abortion regime. A big change is taking place. Even in our nearest neighbouring jurisdiction, where abortion is freely available, with nearly 200,000 abortions per year, it is considered appropriate to gather information on what is going on because there are certainly public health issues involved.

  I am certainly not going to fall out with my friend Senator Norris but I ask him to consider carefully what we are proposing. We are proposing a mirroring of what is going on in Britain. Neither he nor anybody else in this House has, to my knowledge, criticised the data collection in Britain. The presumption must be that it is happening for a reason. I gave an example of why the ethnicity criterion was appropriate. The British perspective was that they wanted to ensure ethnic minorities had equal access to abortion.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Does the Senator think the British are not racist?

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator should stick to the amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am explaining the rationale for my amendment. I stress to colleagues, including Senator Norris, that what is sought is not intrusive on the person. Anonymised data are sought. They are data that would presumably have to be supplied to the certifying physician. The question is whether the certifying physician should be under a duty of law to pass the information on. There is such a disparity between the British requirement and what this legislation requires. It requires only four categories of information, with one at least seeming pretty pointless, namely, the county involved. I suggest to Senator Norris that if he agrees that even one of the categories listed in our amendment is potentially relevant, he will agree, in fairness to him, because he is a reasonable man, that I have made the case that this section needs to be amended.

  I suggest the following category is worthy of consideration because it relates to an amendment that we talked about previously. We were assured when I tabled the amendment that if a baby is born alive as a result of an abortion procedure, it is not necessary to impose a duty to care for that baby. I am not at all reassured. It is even less likely that doctors will do the right thing if they do not even have to notify the State whether a live birth follows the termination of pregnancy and, if it does, the care given to the baby and the outcome. If the Government is serious about reassuring us that this will all come under medical best practice and there is absolutely no need to provide for the duty in law, it is a strange way to go about it. I refer to not requiring in law even the safeguard that practitioners would have to provide information on what they are doing and what they have done.

  Let me refer to the amendments proposed on the need for pain relief. Questions on the date and the method and medical agents used to bring about termination of pregnancy are relevant. I did not know before I found out about British statistics gathering what words such as "gravidity" and "parity" meant. I apologise to Senator Norris if I have the wrong word. For the enlightenment of the House, I understand "gravidity" refers to the number of pregnancies and "parity" refers to pregnancies carried to a viable gestational age. I do not know why the British require details on marital status-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Exactly.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen -----but the point is that they do. They have 50 years' experience of abortion; therefore, there must be some reason related to policy. It is certainly not about restricting-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris It is not logic to state there must be a reason because it is there.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We will let Senator Mullen conclude his point.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Senator Norris would agree it is certainly not about restricting abortion, given the trajectory of abortion legislation in Britain.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Impertinent.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am not managing to convince Senator Norris but the balance of credibility must at least lie with the HSE. Let us say, for example, that the data were to show an extraordinarily high number of abortions among very young adult women, including women in college. That might be linkable with issues of pressure in college or other issues that are very much talked about these days, such as consent. It is just possible that public policy considerations might flow from the data that could be gleaned. Ultimately, what I refer to was not dreamt up in Ballygobackwards; it is the British system of information gathering. It deserves better consideration than it has been given by the Government. I will certainly be pressing the amendment on something so important.

Amendment put:

The Committee divided: Tá, 4; Níl, 29.

Níl
Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán. Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine.
Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John. Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid. Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm.
  Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.
  Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.
  Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.
  Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.
  Information on Rose Conway-Walsh   Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh   Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.
  Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.
  Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.
  Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.
  Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.
  Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.
  Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.
  Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.
  Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.
  Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.
  Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.
  Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.
  Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.
  Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.
  Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.
  Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.
  Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill; Níl, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone..

Amendment declared lost.

  Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Business of Seanad

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Notwithstanding the order of the House today, I am proposing the adjournment of the House shall take place at the conclusion of Committee Stage of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 and on the making of the order for Report Stage.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Is that agreed? Agreed.

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 43:

In page 14, after line 36, to insert the following:

“(7) A medical practitioner who wilfully or recklessly contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall be guilty of an offence.

(8) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a) on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both,

(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or both.”.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put: "That section 20 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 4.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy.  
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.  
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.  
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn   Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.  
Information on Michael McDowell   Zoom on Michael McDowell   McDowell, Michael.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell   O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.  
Information on Grace O'Sullivan   Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Grace.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTION

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 44:

In page 15, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“Information and informed consent

21. (1) Except in a case of an immediate risk to the life, or of serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman, where it is immediately necessary to carry out the termination of pregnancy in order to avert that risk, no termination of pregnancy shall be carried out without the voluntary and informed consent of the pregnant woman.

(2) Consent to a termination of pregnancy is voluntary and informed if and only if the medical practitioner who is to perform the termination of pregnancy or another medical practitioner assisting him or her—
(a) has informed the pregnant woman, orally and in person, of the following:
(i) medically accurate information that a reasonable patient in the position of the

pregnant woman would consider material to the decision of whether or not to undergo the termination of pregnancy, including:
(I) the proposed termination of pregnancy method;

(II) the immediate and long-term medical risks associated with the proposed termination of pregnancy method;

(III) the medical risks associated with carrying her child to full term; and

(IV) alternatives to the termination of pregnancy;
(ii) the probable gestational age of the foetus at the time the termination of pregnancy is to be performed;

(iii) the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the foetus at the time the termination of pregnancy is to be performed,

and
(b) in the case of a pregnant woman intending to avail of a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 11, has offered the pregnant woman in person a printed copy of the document referred to in subsection (5),

(c) in the case of a pregnant woman intending to avail of a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 9 or 12, has offered the pregnant woman in person a printed copy of the document referred to in subsection (6), and

(d) in the case of a pregnant woman who expresses a wish to receive the information contained in either of the documents referred to in paragraph (b) or (c) respectively but is unable to read the said document, has conveyed the said information to the woman in an appropriate alternative manner.
(3) Where it is intended that a termination of pregnancy be performed using abortion inducing drugs, the person who supplies the drugs to the woman intending to have the termination of pregnancy shall, orally and in person, inform the woman of the following:
(a) that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the abortion-inducing drugs should she change her mind, but that time is of the essence; and

(b) that information on reversing the effects of abortion-inducing drugs is available in the document referred to in subsection (6).
(4) For the purposes of this section, “abortion-inducing drugs” means a medicine, drug, or any other substance prescribed or dispensed with the intent of terminating the clinically diagnosable pregnancy of a woman, with knowledge that the termination will with reasonable likelihood end the life of the foetus, other than drugs that may cause such a termination, but which are prescribed for other medical indication.

(5) The Health Service Executive shall cause to be published in both printed and digital formats a document containing information as to—
(a) available medical and nursing assistance and care, including neonatal palliative care,

(b) available social and counselling supports and services, and

(c) contact details for public and private agencies and services,

which may be of relevance and practical assistance for a pregnant woman in a case where a foetus has a condition referred to in section 11, including a pregnant woman who does not wish to avail of a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 11.
(6) The Health Service Executive shall cause to be published in both printed and digital formats a document containing information as to:
(a) public and private agencies and services available to assist a pregnant woman through pregnancy, upon childbirth, and while her child is dependent;

(b) information as to available medical assistance, supports and benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care;

(c) information on the support obligations of the father of a child who is born; and

(d) the information referred to in subsection (3)(a) and subsection (3)(b).
(7) The Health Service Executive shall develop and maintain an internet website, which may be part of an existing website, on which the information referred to in subsections (5) and (6) can be viewed and from which the documents referred to in subsections (5) and (6) respectively can be obtained.

(8) The document referred to in subsection (6) shall also include the following statement:
“There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you to carry your child to term, and to assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place her or him for adoption. The law requires that your health care professional give you the opportunity to call agencies like these before you undergo a termination of pregnancy.”.
(9) Nothing in this Act shall operate to create an entitlement by a pregnant woman under the age of eighteen years to consent to medical treatment.

(10) A medical practitioner who carries out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 10 shall certify in writing in addition to the matters referred to in section 10(1):
(a) the nature of the medical emergency; and

(b) in cases where the voluntary and informed consent of the woman concerned was not obtained, the reason for its not having been obtained.
(11) The failure to comply with the requirements of this section shall provide the basis for:
(a) a civil action for damages (including aggravated and exemplary damages) by the woman concerned for breach of statutory duty;

(b) professional disciplinary action against the health professional concerned.
(12) In any matter referred to in subsection (11) the court shall, upon application by the woman concerned or of its own motion, allow a woman to proceed using solely her initials or a pseudonym and may make such other protective orders as it considers necessary and appropriate to preserve the privacy of the woman concerned.”.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane On a point of order, is it appropriate for one of the co-signatories of the amendment to be in the Chair when the amendment is being discussed?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I will not speak to it.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I was just wondering about the procedure.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am not aware of any rule against it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Amendment No. 44 is one I would have expected the Government or the pro-choice supporters of the Bill, or both, to propose. It tries to ensure full access to all possible information when a woman is considering having an abortion and that she will give full and voluntary consent to the procedure. Relevant knowledge is essential to give full consent. The amendment makes it clear that voluntary and informed consent would be necessary in all cases, other than where there is an immediate risk to the life of the woman or of serious harm to her health, as set out in other sections. As I made clear earlier, the amendment accepts the reality that we are not going to be able to divert the Government from the cruel course it has set. In that light and the light of our acceptance of the inevitability that these unjust procedures will be legalised as a result of the Bill, we seek modest, limited amendments, the support for which, we believe, goes far beyond the pro-life constituency.

  The amendment would compel the HSE to provide full information for women on the medical care and counselling support available, the obligations of the father of the child, adoption services and so on. It would also provide women with a statutory right to take action against anyone who breached their right to access such information and claim damages against them.  How can supporters of the Bill or the rights of women seriously oppose such measures? Why should a woman not be in a position to avail of relevant information?

  Thankfully, the Bill has retained the three-day waiting period, although, it would appear, by the skin of its teeth. That is the sole, single, solitary, token restriction on the abortion on request regime brought about by this Bill. During the referendum campaign, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, said the purpose of the three-day period was in order that women could receive the kind of information contained in this amendment. It seems strange, therefore, that his party colleagues are not willing to put his suggestion into action by voting for this amendment.

  There has been a disturbing tone running through much the debate on this issue and similar issues. There seems to be a suggestion that providing a woman with alternatives and knowledge about alternatives to abortion or offering support to her if she keeps her baby is somehow an attempt to demean her, cause shame or even attack her womanhood. In the Dáil, I heard everyone from the Minister for Health to Deputy Coppinger and several other Deputies parroting this kind of mantra. Deputy O'Reilly said of a similar amendment that the intention was to highlight the shame, judgment and all the other things that go along with this. How does it show shame or judgment to offer women information about every possible assistance to which they are entitled? It shows how far we have come and how willing we are to reject the notion that giving women the best possible chance to be mothers and giving babies the best shot at life are somehow bad things. That is the view taken, namely, that this requirement to give information that facilitates informed consent is considered to be a bad thing. It seems that abortion is to be treated as the first and only option.

  There was a time internationally when people like Hillary Clinton said abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Under pressure from the abortion industry, that became safe and legal because to suggest there is anything wrong or even regrettable about abortion offends the prevailing ideology. I think Nell McCafferty was quoted a number of years ago expressing the view that abortion was regrettable but necessary. Many people have moved on and do not want to allow it to be discussed as something that is regrettable, even though there is evidence that the consequences are not just terminal for the unborn child but can be very bad for mothers who suffer from abortion regret.

  The mere provision of information that there are alternative courses of action is now portrayed as an attack on so-called reproductive rights. This leaves women woefully short, underserved and badly served by the State and the proponents of this legislation. We can do so much more for women and families who find themselves in difficult circumstances as a result of crisis pregnancy. This amendment would put all of that on a statutory footing.

  This amendment does not apply to emergency grounds. It is about providing that termination of pregnancy - the procedure aimed at ending the life of the foetus - occurs with the voluntary and informed consent of the pregnant woman. It provides that the information to be given to the pregnant woman would be oral and in person, would be medically accurate in respect of the proposed termination of pregnancy method and the immediate and long-term medical risks associated with the proposed termination of pregnancy method, no more and no less than what the science and the latest knowledge provide. It would also provide information concerning the medical risks associated with carrying the child to full term. This is an even-handed amendment. However, the point is that it cannot just be a leaflet left in a surgery, negligently or carefully as the case may be. This is taken from Irish case law on informed consent. People who go on about paternalism and disempowering women should not object to treating women as rational, discerning persons who would benefit from being given information.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I support the amendment. It proposes to create a new section and does not deal with emergencies. It proposes to replace section 21 with detailed provisions relating to consent, providing healthcare professionals with a clear framework within which to operate. It ensures insofar as possible that the consent of a pregnant woman to an abortion will be true and fully informed. It respects a woman's right to know the facts relevant to her decision and ensures that she is aware of alternatives available to her. It also affords her avenues of redress through appropriate court and disciplinary proceedings where she is not given the information to which she is entitled under the amendment. As is clear from subsection (1) of the proposed new section, it does not apply to emergencies.

  The amendment is about nothing other than ensuring provision of information so as to facilitate informed decision-making. It does not limit access to lawful abortion in accordance with the Bill. Moreover, the amendment does not place any obligation on any woman seeking an abortion. Without this information, any consent obtained is not informed consent. Without this amendment, women who would elect not to have an abortion if they had complete information will instead go through with it. This must be unacceptable to all those who regard themselves as pro-choice and, accordingly, it is respectfully hoped the amendment can be agreed without undue difficulty.

  During the referendum campaign the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade assured people that the waiting period in section 12 of the Bill would involve counselling and offers of alternatives to abortion. This amendment goes some way towards aligning the Bill with what the Tánaiste promised at the time. It is clear that most abortions under the Bill will be elective procedures and the law requires that elective procedures require a high degree of disclosure. However, the scope of that very general obligation in common law is not always clear with regard to the given case. The kind of risks arising will vary from one procedure to another. As the obligation in common law is in nature a general obligation to disclose material risks, arguments sometimes arise in litigation as to whether a given risk was material. In addition, the disclosure obligations in Irish common law are not designed to address the added dimensions of abortion as compared with other procedures. Informed consent to an abortion requires more than just disclosure of risks.

  Amendment No. 44 reflects an understanding abortion decisions are more complex and significant than decisions about other procedures. Accordingly, in recognition of this, the amendment is immeasurably clearer than the general common law obligation and improves upon that obligation in terms of the range of information that it provides for. Amendment No. 44 is, therefore, essential to ensure a woman is given the information she is entitled to receive to make an informed decision. It is also essential to provide clarity for healthcare professionals, eliminating needless uncertainty as to what should be disclosed.

  Paragraph 11 of the eighth edition of the Medical Council's Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners from 2016 addresses informed consent. Section 11 is commendable in that it reflects a patient's right to know, even where the information in question could cause upset. It is understandably framed in very general terms that do not give rise to anything remotely approaching a definitive obligation to provide the comprehensive information referred to in amendment No. 44.  On a matter of such importance it would be improper and inadequate to rely on Medical Council guidelines as opposed to an Act of the Oireachtas.

  Essentially, when many women seek to obtain an abortion, they will do general scoping through a Google search, trying to inform themselves as best they can via the Internet or other means. This is about women who may not be in a position to do that and they deserve to know the full information and consequences also. This amendment is about providing the information. The proposed section 21(2)(b), for example, is about offering a leaflet and section 21(2)(c) is about offering a different leaflet as a source of information or having it conveyed in another way where there are literacy issues, etc. Either women will have checked this themselves or they deserve to know the information.

  Canada has been referred to by me and others and the concept of informed consent is applied. I know the Canadian abortion model operates within the structure of governance there, as there is federal government and the provincial legislative chambers also. As I understand it from the little research I have done, the private providers there ensure the woman is given information similar to what is contained in this amendment. It is to assist the woman and provide her with the full suite of information. Anybody going for a procedure of this nature should be afforded that consideration. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I thank Senators for their contributions. As I outlined in the Dáil on what was a very similar amendment, I will not accept the amendment because the matter of consent is already adequately addressed in section 21 of the Bill, which clearly states the provisions of the Bill will operate within the existing legal provisions with regard to consent for medical procedures. The Medical Council's guide to professional conduct and ethics for registered medical practitioners of 2016 provides thorough information on the appropriate process to be followed to obtain valid informed consent for medical procedures. Even the Senators' amendment mentions sanctions and professional disciplinary action against the health professional concerned. The methodology whereby health care professionals are disciplined or sanctioned if they do not comply with the rules comes from the regulatory body, which in this case is the Medical Council. It takes the law of the land and transposes it into a guide for medical practitioners before assessing any complaint about people not operating in compliance with the guide.

  In addition, the HSE has published a national consent policy that includes detailed information on what constitutes valid and genuine consent and how to obtain it. As I stated, the provisions in the Bill in section 21 on consent are not aimed at any particular group on consent and I do not intend for this to change. Perhaps we do not agree on this but I want the process to be treated the same way as any other medical procedure, with the same rules on consent for this as any other procedure. I am aware a case is sometimes made for a special provision to be made around consent to termination of pregnancy but I am of the view that the same issues on consent arise across a number of issues with medical practice, whether those are contraception, gender realignment, cosmetic surgery or a whole variety of others. The same rules on consent apply.

  I will reference the counselling issue. The Tánaiste was mentioned here and in the Dáil and his comments before the referendum appear to constitute a source that people wish to raise. The Tánaiste pointed out that counselling services would be available to people before they accessed a termination and the 24/7 helpline we have established, which will be called My Options, will go live on 1 January and be accompanied by a website. It will be operated by qualified and appropriate counsellors, unlike the people we sometimes see suggesting they are counsellors. Women will be offered counselling over the phone if they wish it or in person. Counselling is of course a voluntary matter and not mandatory. Anybody who requires counselling and wishes to have it on her range of options will have it available. The helpline will be non-directive; it will provide all the information for all the woman's options and any support required by that woman in accessing any of those options.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will speak to it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Please speak to the point.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am working very hard to be to the point.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I appreciate that. I do not want repetition if it can be avoided at all on any side.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen That is understood. It is interesting that the Minister drifted into the area of counselling, as it is different from the area of providing relevant information. This is not an amendment about counselling.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Senator Ó Domhnaill spoke about it at length.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister for Health knows exactly what this amendment is about. It is about informed consent.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris In the interest of clarity, I should point out that I was responding, as I thought it helpful, to a point raised by the co-sponsor of the amendment about the importance of counselling. I was endeavouring to be courteous.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Senator Mullen to continue, without interruption.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The comments were helpful to the extent that the Minister drew attention to the matter of counselling and had a side-swipe at people who would describe themselves as counsellors but who are not.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Yes.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister mentioned the Irish Family Planning Association, IFPA, in recent times and said he was in touch with the organisation. It gave dangerous information to women at a certain point in the not-so-distant past, as reported in a national newspaper.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik On a point of order, it is the custom of the House not to throw slurs or allegations that are utterly unfounded against organisations in that way.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That may not be a point of order.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Every time I have raised this matter in the Seanad or in national media, Senator Bacik has risen-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I would prefer if Senators did not refer to people or parties outside the House in their contributions.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It is relevant. The Minister referred to counselling being non-directive but when people were found to have told women, for example, that they should lie about their abortion and say they had a miscarriage, the advice was criticised by the then master of the Rotunda Hospital as being potentially life-endangering. We must be very careful about who we give credit to for being non-directive. When counsellors have been found to discourage women from looking at ultrasound images, we can see that a service holding itself as non-directive is sometimes more than suggestive in trying to encourage people along the abortion pathway. It is to prevent such negative activity and try to make sincere the aspiration expressed by the Minister that he would wish abortion to be rare that it is very important to offer correct and relevant information.

  Too often we have heard about women and parents who have said if only they had known about the hurt that abortion would cause or about the stage of development of a baby, they may have made a different choice. The provision of information in the way this amendment proposes is liberating and it does not subtract from the right that the legislation is giving to terminate a pregnancy. It is liberating in the sense that it might free women from making a decision that they would come to regret or that they would not have made if they had the information in question. The information required to be presented, both orally and in the form of printed literature, including in cases where families receive a diagnosis that a baby in utero  has a life-limiting condition, would be important as it could mention perinatal hospice care, for example. The information either would be redundant because the woman knows it already or it would be needed if she does not already know it, and she deserves to be informed.  Subsection (3) of the amendment states:

(3) Where it is intended that a termination of pregnancy be performed using abortion-inducing drugs, the person who supplies the drugs to the woman intending to have the termination of pregnancy shall, orally and in person, inform the woman of the following:
(a) that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the abortion-inducing drugs should she change her mind, but that time is of the essence; and

(b) that information on reversing the effects of abortion-inducing drugs is available in the document referred to in subsection (6).

Think about that for a moment. The Leas-Chathaoirleach is a businessman and knows that in all sorts of other areas of business people have a cooling off period.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I tried to be one time.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Very successfully. You know all about how, as part of the rights we all now enjoy as consumers or people who enter into a contract, we are entitled to a certain cooling off period. Let us say a woman is not aware of the fact that with regard to certain abortion-inducing drugs, should she change her mind, that process is reversible. Does the Minister think it is okay that a woman would not be informed of the possibility should she change her mind of reversing the process but where time may be of the essence? That is the kind of information we are talking about when we refer to informed consent. If the Minister is opposing this amendment it means he does not want to help people who might want to change their mind. To use a reference he used in the past, opposing the amendment would mean he would rather that people were scrambling around on the Internet looking for information that should be made available to them as part of this process.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does the Minister wish to comment?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No, thank you.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am afraid we are not going to have a meeting of minds on this issue. Members have made their positions very clear.

  Amendment put.

Senators: Vótáil.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?

  Senators Rónán Mullen, Brian Ó Domhnaill, John O'Mahony and Diarmuid Wilson rose.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan As fewer than five Members have risen I declare the question defeated. In accordance with Standing Order 61 the names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Seanad.

  Amendment declared lost.

SECTION 21

Question put: "That section 21 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 5.

Níl
Information on Catherine Ardagh   Zoom on Catherine Ardagh   Ardagh, Catherine. Information on Paul Coghlan   Zoom on Paul Coghlan   Coghlan, Paul.
Information on Ivana Bacik   Zoom on Ivana Bacik   Bacik, Ivana. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Frances Black   Zoom on Frances Black   Black, Frances. Information on John O'Mahony   Zoom on John O'Mahony   O'Mahony, John.
Information on Colm Burke   Zoom on Colm Burke   Burke, Colm. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill   Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Paddy Burke   Zoom on Paddy Burke   Burke, Paddy. Information on Diarmuid Wilson   Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson   Wilson, Diarmuid.
Information on Ray Butler   Zoom on Ray Butler   Butler, Ray.  
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry.  
Information on Maria Byrne   Zoom on Maria Byrne   Byrne, Maria.  
Information on Martin Conway   Zoom on Martin Conway   Conway, Martin.  
Information on Gerard P. Craughwell   Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell   Craughwell, Gerard P.  
Information on Máire Devine   Zoom on Máire Devine   Devine, Máire.  
Information on John Dolan   Zoom on John Dolan   Dolan, John.  
Information on Frank Feighan   Zoom on Frank Feighan   Feighan, Frank.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Alice-Mary Higgins   Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins   Higgins, Alice-Mary.  
Information on Kevin Humphreys   Zoom on Kevin Humphreys   Humphreys, Kevin.  
Information on Colette Kelleher   Zoom on Colette Kelleher   Kelleher, Colette.  
Information on Anthony Lawlor   Zoom on Anthony Lawlor   Lawlor, Anthony.  
Information on Gabrielle McFadden   Zoom on Gabrielle McFadden   McFadden, Gabrielle.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on David P.B. Norris   Zoom on David P.B. Norris   Norris, David.  
Information on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Zoom on Niall Ó Donnghaile   Ó Donnghaile, Niall.  
Information on James Reilly   Zoom on James Reilly   Reilly, James.  
Information on Fintan Warfield   Zoom on Fintan Warfield   Warfield, Fintan.  


Tellers: Tá, Senators Gabrielle McFadden and Catherine Noone; Níl, Senators Rónán Mullen and Brian Ó Domhnaill..

Question declared carried.

NEW SECTIONS

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 45:

In page 15, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“Parental notification

22. (1) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 9 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 24 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.
(2) In respect of a pregnant minor, a copy of the certification referred to in section 10(2) shall be served on a parent of the minor—
(a) before the termination of pregnancy is carried out, or

(b) where it is not practicable to do so before the termination of pregnancy is carried out, as soon as may be but, in any event, not later than 2 days after the making of that certification.
(3) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 11 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 48 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

(4) A termination of pregnancy in respect of a pregnant minor may only be carried out in accordance with section 12 where a copy of the certification referred to in that section has been served on a parent of the minor at least 72 hours before the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

(5) Service of any certification required to be served under this section shall be carried out in such manner as may be prescribed and shall be recorded in any notification required to be forwarded to the Minister under section 20.

(6) The High Court, upon application made to it by any interested party, and if satisfied that it is in the best interests of the minor concerned, may make an order dispensing with any requirement for service provided for under this section.

(7) An application under subsection (6) shall be made on notice to the parent or parents of the minor concerned, unless the High Court is satisfied that, in the particular circumstances of the case, it may justly proceed to hear and determine the application without notice to the parent or parents of the minor concerned.

(8) In this section—

“minor” means a woman who has not attained the age of 16 years;

“parent” includes—
(a) a guardian appointed under the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964,

(b) any other natural or legal person acting in loco parentis in respect of the pregnant minor under any statutory power or order of a court, and

(c) in the case of a minor who has been adopted under the Adoption Acts, 1952 to 2010, or, where the child has been adopted outside the State and that adoption is recognised by the State by virtue of any statute or rule of law for the time being in force, the adopter or, where relevant, the surviving adopter.”.

I am withdrawing the amendment and will resubmit it on Report Stage.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 46:

In page 15, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“Provision of foetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of foetal heart tone

22. (1) At least 24 hours before the carrying out of a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 9, section 11 or section 12 the relevant medical practitioner or a qualified person assisting the relevant medical practitioner shall perform ultrasound imaging of the foetus and auscultation of foetal heart tone.

(2) The active ultrasound image referred to in subsection (1) must be of a quality consistent with standard medical practice, shall contain the dimensions of the foetus, and shall accurately portray the presence of external members and internal organs of the foetus, if present or viewable.

(3) The auscultation of foetal heart tone referred to in subsection (1) must be of a quality consistent with standard medical practice.

(4) Before or during the imaging and auscultation services referred to in subsection (1), the relevant medical practitioner or the qualified person, as the case may be, shall offer the pregnant woman, orally and in person, the opportunity to view the active ultrasound of the foetus and hear the heartbeat of the foetus, if the heartbeat is audible.

(5) At least 24 hours before the carrying out of a termination of pregnancy the relevant medical practitioner shall certify that—
(a) foetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of foetal heart tone have been performed,

(b) the pregnant woman has been offered the opportunity to view the active ultrasound image of the foetus and to hear the heartbeat of the foetus, if the heartbeat is audible, and

(c) the pregnant woman either—
(i) requested to view the active ultrasound imaging and hear auscultation of foetal heart tone, or

(ii) opted not to view the active ultrasound imaging and hear auscultation of foetal heart tone.
(6) The relevant medical practitioner shall obtain the signature of the pregnant woman on the certification referred to in subsection (5) verifying that it is factually correct.

(7) A medical practitioner who contravenes subsection (1), (4), (5) or (6) shall be guilty of an offence.

(8) A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (7) shall be liable—
(a) on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both,

(b) on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years, or both.
(9) In this section—

“auscultation” means the act of listening for sounds made by internal organs of the foetus, specifically for a foetal heartbeat, utilising an ultrasound transducer and foetal heart rate (FHR) monitor or similar device;

“midwife” means a person whose name is for the time being registered in the midwives division of the register of nurses and midwives established under section 46 of the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011;

“nurse” means a person whose name is for the time being registered in the nurses division of the register of nurses and midwives established under section 46 of the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011;

“qualified person” means a nurse, midwife or medical practitioner who is competent to perform foetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of foetal heart tone services;

“relevant medical practitioner” means—
(a) in the case of a termination of pregnancy to be carried out in accordance with section 9 or 11, the obstetrician by whom the termination of pregnancy is to be carried out, and

(b) in the case of a termination of pregnancy to be carried out in accordance with section 12, the medical practitioner who has certified or is required to certify his or her opinion as to the matter referred to in subsection (1) of that section;
“ultrasound” means the use of ultrasonic waves for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, specifically to monitor a developing foetus.”.

Tabhair soicind amháin dom mar tá mé beagáinín míeagraithe agus tá fuadar fúm. Níl an fuinneamh chomh maith agus a bhí sé níos luaithe.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan It is impossible to hear the Senator. If Members want to delay the debate until the early hours of the morning, they should keep making noise.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen This amendment proposes to insert a new section entitled, Provision of foetal ultrasound imaging and auscultation of foetal heart tone. It provides that at least 24 hours before the carrying out of a termination of a pregnancy in accordance with section 9, 11 or 12, the relevant medical practitioner or qualified person assisting the relevant medical practitioner shall perform ultrasound imaging of the foetus and auscultation of foetal heart tone. The critical point of relevance to colleagues is that the amendment is not providing for this to happen on the section 10 ground. To ensure this is clear to colleagues, the amount places an obligation on the doctor but only to offer the ultrasound. It should be read in conjunction with what was said by me and Senator Ó Domhnaill earlier about the importance of providing information and respecting that a person who is a rational actor is entitled to be offered information that is relevant to the decision. When I criticised the Irish Family Planning Association earlier, I did so in the context of there having been documented evidence in the Irish Independent of cases where counsellors told women not to look at the ultrasound because it would upset them to do so.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I raised a point of order earlier which the Chair accepted that it was common practice not to name organisations or individuals in the House who were not present and could not defend themselves, especially in making this sort of unfounded allegation.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan If the Chair ruled on it earlier, I will not change my view. I ask Senator Mullen to be cúramach.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Beidh mé cúramach, a Chathaoirligh, ach is í an riail atá againn anseo ná nár chóir duine a cháineadh. I gcás rud atá tarlaithe, atá cruthaithe agus atá fíor a bhaineann le heagraíocht ach go háirithe, táimid i dteideal é a lua agus b'fhéidir go mbeadh sé tábhachtach go luafaí é. What I am saying is that if it should occur that there is factual evidence of something wrong that was done by an organisation, it is entirely appropriate to mention it because it may be relevant to the topic under discussion. Any other suggestion would be to engage in a form of censorship, which I would not have thought Senator Bacik would support.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Has it been proved? Having successfully sued it, I would not regard the Irish Independent as a bible of fact.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Please allow the Senator to proceed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I know Senator Norris is the libel king around here.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am. The Senator had better believe it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The malpractice of the counselling agencies in question was tape recorded and the subject of an article in the Irish Independent. It was also investigated by the Garda.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik The Senator is not speaking to the amendment.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I ask Senator Mullen to try to stick to the amendment.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Very serious words are being used in this context. It is not appropriate.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The more often Senators interrupt Senator Mullen, the more they prolong the debate. I am sure he will get back on track very quickly.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Right away. As I have made clear, the obligation is on the doctor to offer the ultrasound. As I said, people who support rational action based on informed consent should be supportive of this amendment. Paternalism occurs in cases where one hears about a screen being turned away so that the woman could not observe or a woman being told that she should not observe. This amendment does not provide for a woman having to see the ultrasound image against her will. It simply recognises that the offering of information is beneficial where it is done in a respectful way, having regard to the serious circumstances of crisis pregnancy, the need for sensitivity and the desirability, in the Minister's words, of helping to bring about a situation where abortion is rare. Knowledge might very well be the difference in the decision. As I have said, too many women have had to say, "If only I'd known and been told." The international experience, sadly, is of an abortion bandwagon that is so wedded to the idea of abortion as a social good, it holds back on sympathy and support insofar as it does not seek to provide information that might possibly lead to a change of mind. That is a sad reality within the abortion industry.

  The debate in the Dáil on the issue of the provision of ultrasound scans, as on many issues, bordered on the surreal at times. One was almost left with the impression that ultrasound scans were some form of invasive procedure or some kind of cruel and unusual punishment. The Minister, Deputy Harris, used the very unfortunate phrase "subjected to an ultrasound". Women who are mothers or expectant mothers generally speak of their ultrasound in part trepidation and part joy. There is trepidation because there is always a chance that the scan might show some unwelcome or sad news but joy that they get to see their baby with their own eyes. I accept and realise that crisis pregnancy is very different but I have never heard ultrasound spoken of as if it were some kind of painful, onerous or unwelcome procedure, that is, until the recent Dáil debates. That is another first, and all in the name of the introduction of abortion, where a perfectly normal ordinary part of the diagnostic process in pregnancy is now portrayed as if it were some outrageous burden.

  I stress again that this amendment is about requiring doctors to offer an ultrasound. Its purpose is to ensure a woman who wishes to view the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat can do so. It is as simple as that. It provides also for certain minimum standards in ultrasound monitoring to ensure clinical best practice. The section makes it absolutely clear that it is up to the woman whether she wishes to view the ultrasound. The notion of women being subjected to ultrasound, a perfectly normal procedure, is total nonsense designed to skew the issue. I hope it will not re-emerge in this Seanad debate on the subject.

  There would be no ultrasound scans required in emergencies unless it was deemed necessary for whatever reasons by the doctor handling the case. As with other amendments, this amendment does not restrict anyone's access to abortion under the Act. The fact that an ordinary, everyday scan for all women who are pregnant could be portrayed as a method of obstruction shows the depth to which the debate has sunk in many cases.

  According to the testimony of Dr. Clíona Murphy of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists at the health committee, it is thought that we should plan for a future in which the number of abortions will rise from approximately 4,000 now to 11,000, 12,000 or whatever figure was mentioned in the context of Scotland, which has a similar population to ours. We can also expect that approximately 30% of women will require a scan for uncertain dates if the Scottish experience is anything to go by.

  Dr. Boylan, the same Dr. Boylan who is apparently being employed by the HSE to advise on the roll-out of abortion services, spoke about the infrastructural deficits in the system and the need to have adequate ultrasound provision in place. Has Dr. Boylan been pressing this view with the HSE and the Department of Health? Based on the Minister's replies on this issue in the Dáil, it appears that is not the case and, if it is the case, he has not met with much success.

  Dr. John O'Brien of the Irish College of General Practitioners and Dr. Mary Favier echoed these concerns and said that, clinically speaking, the use of ultrasound was increasingly the preferred method of measuring gestational age as opposed to measuring based on the last menstrual period or LMP. I refer the Minister to a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology entitled, Routine ultrasound for pregnancy termination requests increases women's choice and reduces inappropriate treatment, by Catherine McGalliard and Marco Gaudoin.  Their study found clear evidence that ultrasound led to a far more accurate measurement of gestational age. Measuring with reference to LMP tended to overestimate the gestational age which, in turn, led to women being offered surgical abortions unnecessarily when they could have been offered medical abortions because they were not as far along as had been initially thought. All of these points, whatever one's point of view on abortion, underscore the necessity of introducing a legal obligation for ultrasound to be performed and that it would involve an obligation on the doctor to make the offer.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Before we proceed, do I hear somebody on a phone behind those shutters? I hear a voice in the background. The person should leave the Chamber and use the anteroom. I can hear a voice and if a Senator is using his or her phone in the Chamber, I will suspend the sitting for half an hour.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Cathaoirleach should at least suspend the sitting until we shame the person and find out who it is.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I will be extremely brief. Ultrasounds are an invasive procedure but there are many situations in which that invasive procedure is justified on medical grounds. This is why people have these procedures for medical reasons. This is covered by "examination" in terms of the Bill whereby an ultrasound is required as part of the examination.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Hold it for one second. There appears to be somebody using a phone in the Chamber.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I do not mind speaking over it while the issue is being resolved. In terms of the examination, ultrasound is already covered where it is medically required, but that is not what the amendment is doing. What the amendment is stating is there will be situations in which a woman may believe she has been offered an ultrasound by the doctor because it is medically necessary but in fact it is being offered by the doctor because he or she is legally obliged to do so. Ultrasounds will be brought in as a legal provision and doctors will be legally obliged to offer them. In terms of the relationship between the doctor and a woman, it is not an appropriate basis-----

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone No.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins -----on which the procedure would be offered. It is also deeply impractical because at present we have a situation where we know there are significant shortages in parts of Cork and other areas. Women are waiting until very late for anomaly scans that may be necessary in terms of perinatal care and ensuring the protection of a baby after birth. Ultrasounds should be medically necessary. They are not a legal cushion or a force of pressure to be applied to women.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Hear, hear.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I agree with Senator Higgins. The early use of ultrasound can be very invasive. When doctors carry out an ultrasound early they are very sympathetic and cautious with the patient because it can be quite frightening for women in a first pregnancy who might have had trouble. It is something doctors use with great care, skill, consent and explanation. Transvaginal ultrasound is used at a very early stage.

  I take great offence to the amendment, especially in situations where women might have been raped. The wording does not state "offer". The wording is very clear. It states a practitioner shall perform an ultrasound. That wording is very strict and forces a doctor to perform this type of ultrasound. I do not agree with it and find it abhorrent that it has been tabled.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I despair at this amendment. I find it offensive. On the only other occasion I spoke today it was about trusting women. This is about control. This is trying to control women and further traumatise people who are in very difficult circumstances already. This is the worst one yet and I categorically oppose it.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris The amendment would place a legal requirement on the medical practitioner to carry out an ultrasound. It is an offer as to whether the woman wishes to view it or not but it is a requirement that the doctor must do it. The difference between this and the other examples that Senator Mullen referenced in which a woman may go for an ultrasound during pregnancy is there is choice. What he is doing is stating a woman can access the service only after a mandatory ultrasound has taken place, which she may or may not choose to view. The Senator would subject - and I use the word “subject” because there is no choice in this - the woman to an ultrasound. He would direct doctors as to how they must use a diagnostic tool. It would be quite breathtaking for us as politicians to tell a doctor when it was appropriate to use a diagnostic tool.

  The point made by Senator Higgins is valid. We have a lot of work to do in this country to continue to improve access to diagnostic tools and ultrasound.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Hear, hear.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I assure people in the context of this legislation that great progress has been made in recent days to ensure there will be access to ultrasound where it is clinically appropriate. Let us be clear. There will be many occasions where a doctor will believe it appropriate for a woman to have an ultrasound and those resources and services will be in place. The difference is the doctor will make the decision as to whether the woman needs the ultrasound or the doctor needs it to obtain information. I am medically advised that a clinical assessment of dates in early pregnancy can be more accurate for estimating gestation than an ultrasound. Any woman who has been pregnant will be familiar with the process of going to the doctor and the doctor being able to date the pregnancy in discussion linked to LMP.

  We had a lengthy discussion over the course of many hours about access and how we make sure there are not barriers to access. There are different views in the House as to how this is achieved. Certainly an ultrasound would mean an extra visit quite potentially for a woman, thus making access to termination more difficult. It is important to point out that I am medically advised the international guidelines do not recommend routine ultrasound in early pregnancy. This is really the case, I respectfully suggest. It is the job of medics to decide when it is appropriate for an ultrasound to take place and it is my responsibility to make sure they are in place for when the doctor makes that decision but not for when politicians make that decision.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I want to make several brief points on the amendment. The amendment specifies that the ultrasound shall be provided but it does not in any way confer responsibility on the woman to view the ultrasound. That is entirely optional. This is what happens in other jurisdictions, for example, a woman undertaking an abortion in the state of Ontario in Canada, where it is compulsory that the doctor carries out an ultrasound but it is entirely of the woman's choosing as to whether she views the ultrasound. The amendment is reflective of this position. Senator Mullen reflected the benefits of carrying it out not just to the woman but to the doctor because of the confirmation it can provide on the gestational age of the unborn, which is very important when we are playing around with weeks and days. There is a 12-week limit. When Dr. Boylan came before the committee, he spoke about the nine to 12-week window where women would require hospital management. This highlights the need for better informed medical practice in terms of having the advantages of ultrasound evidence.

  There is also the opportunity that if a woman wishes to choose, we should not deny-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan There is a conversation going on and I am finding it difficult to hear the Senator.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Very often the argument on the other side is that the woman's choice is being levelled forward but that argument could follow through here also. We are actually providing for a woman's choice. The doctors shall carry out an ultrasound but it is entirely up to the woman to choose whether she wants to view the monitor. We are not making it compulsory in the amendment that-----

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone For God's sake. That is totally sound of the Senator. Thanks a lot.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Choice can be selective, it appears, when required to be.  This amendment follows through on the only detailed analysis carried out in the aftermath of the referendum. it was a field survey carried out by Amárach Research in August 2018 and published in October 2018. The gender breakdown of respondents was 49% men to 51% women. It was carried out across social classes, age groupings and regions of the country. Respondents were asked if they thought a woman seeking an abortion should be offered the choice of seeing an ultrasound before going through with the abortion. Some 1,000 people were surveyed. That provides an accuracy level of plus or minus 3%. The results of that survey indicated that 21% of all adults felt that an ultrasound should not be offered. However, 79% of adults surveyed said that the choice of seeing the ultrasound should be offered. Members should remember I am referring to the choice of seeing the ultrasound.

  Otherwise, the woman will presumably have to obtain an ultrasound herself. There may be an additional cost burden for her associated with it. That is the purpose of the amendment. It is grounded in survey analysis from Amárach Research, which is the latest survey analysis in the aftermath of the referendum. The amendment is grounded in an attempt to facilitate the voice of the people. It is a reasonable amendment and it is grounded in choice. To suggest otherwise is to do a disservice.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I wish to respond to what the Minister and others have said. The Minister persists in using a term that can only be designed to be emotive, namely, of subjecting the woman to an ultrasound.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris Senator Mullen is doing so.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister is subjecting the unborn child to death. That is the difference. Every abortion situation involves a conflict of rights. This legislation dispossesses unborn children of the most basic human right, just as we celebrate and mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I refer also to conventions and documents that flowed from that, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the preamble of which describes the special care to which the child is entitled "before as well as after birth" because of his or her particular vulnerability.

  I say to the Minister and colleagues that it is not, as Senator Ardagh says, abhorrent. It should not cause Senator Noone to despair and she should not find it offensive. This amendment does not in any way subtract from the right of the woman to make the eventual decision to have the abortion. Obviously I am opposed to that decision, but that right is not in any way reduced. It does not apply to section 10 situations. It is a very limited amendment. It does not require the woman to view the ultrasound. It takes as its starting point the fact that in certain counselling situations there has been so much ideology around the promotion of abortion that women have been discouraged from even looking at the ultrasound. These clinics carry out ultrasound scans routinely. It is a means of gathering information. It is entirely irrelevant for the Minister to suggest other tools might be more accurate. I would say "both-and" is always better than "either-or". The Minister talks about an extra visit. I ask him to expand on that matter. Presumably, two visits will be involved in the case of a section 12 abortion. The Minister says international guidelines do not recommend it. Again, this is more vague ministerial speak.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris No, it is not.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Do they discourage it or do they simply fail to recommend it? If they do discourage it, why do they discourage it? It is not rooted in a perspective on the welfare of the unborn child.

  The Minister says he wants abortions to be rare. As he is doing nothing in this legislation to help that to become a reality, frankly I must question the sincerity of that statement. If he really wants abortion to be rare, he will support amendments that involve accessing information and allowing women the freedom to receive that information. Dare I say it, he might even hope that in some situations that might cause a change of mind. What would be so wrong with that? Does the Minister really want abortion to be rare, or is it a matter of indifference to him as to whether it is? All of his actions in rejecting these limited amendments suggest the latter and that it is a matter of indifference to him.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke That is an unfair comment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen He is doing nothing to support the provision of positive information that could save a life without subtracting from the right to abortion which the legislation rightly or wrongly confers. An ultrasound can only give useful and positive information. Only a radical ideology of choice could cause people to excoriate its usage or discourage the imposition of a requirement on doctors to offer information. This information might be medically necessary from the woman's point of view and might be a life-saver from the unborn child's point of view. At the very least the Minister should see those things as different but equally valid goods to be achieved.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Does the Minister wish to respond?

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I have done so.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Minister has nothing further to add. Is the amendment being pressed?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen No. I will resubmit it on Report Stage.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

SECTION 22

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Amendments Nos. 47 to 52, inclusive, are related. Amendment No. 48 is a physical alternative to No. 47. Amendments Nos. 47 to 52, inclusive, may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I move amendment No. 47:

In page 15, lines 7 to 9, to delete all words from and including “Subject” in line 7 down to and including “or 12” in line 9 and substitute the following:
“A medical practitioner, nurse or midwife shall not be obliged to carry out or to participate in carrying out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with section 9, 11 or 12 ”.

On Committee Stage in the Dáil on 6 November the Minister stated:

The Medical Council regulates our doctors, not me and not the Oireachtas. It tells our doctors how they are to behave and also provides for serious sanctions if our doctors do not behave in that way.

That is an extraordinary statement, considering what section 22 does, as it stands. Under section 22 as it stands, it is the Oireachtas, or rather the Minister and the Government by diktat, which tells doctors how to behave. It is the Oireachtas which will compel doctors to choose between performing or participating directly in an abortion, or participating indirectly by referral onwards. This is explicitly what is provided for in the legislation.

  The Medical Council did not seek this provision. The Minister and the Government did. As such, for the Minister to say, as he did in the committee proceedings, that the Medical Council tells doctors how to behave is just doublespeak. I listened to the Minister's contributions in the Dáil on freedom of conscience. He seems to contend that the law on conscientious objection is not being changed here because there is a similar duty to refer where all other treatments and procedures are concerned. However, that conveniently ignores the fact that the procedures and treatments that are legal in this country are changing radically. It makes no sense to state the law on conscientious objection has not changed when the context in which it is to apply has changed hugely. We are no longer talking about medically beneficial procedures. We are talking about procedures that kill innocent human beings in the early stages of their lives.

  This is the first legal procedure by which a patient's life can be deliberately ended. In the words of the Bill, the procedure is designed to "end the life of a foetus", or the unborn child. This ends the two-patient model which has operated so successfully in Ireland for decades.  The 2016 edition of the Medical Council's Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners states, at clause 48.1: "You have an ethical duty to make every reasonable effort to protect the life and health of pregnant women and their unborn babies". This statement could not be any clearer. Doctors have an ethical duty to protect the lives of women and their unborn children. The Medical Council told the health committee last October that it is revising these guidelines in the light of the referendum and the legislation. I do not envy it that task.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The debate on the last amendment took 26 minutes, only for the amendment to be withdrawn rather than put. I am inclined to disallow debating an amendment for 26 minutes only to withdraw it, with a view to resubmitting it on Report Stage. One cannot have two bites at the cherry. Anyhow, I will let the Senator proceed. I will reflect on this but it is my view that if a Senator debates an amendment for almost half an hour and then decides to withdraw it with a view to resubmitting it, it does not comply with the meaning of moving and withdrawing. As the Senator is on another issue, I will allow him to proceed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen That is fine. I will be guided by the Cathaoirleach in regard to the procedures of the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am just giving the Senator my view.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I certainly will not be taking issue with whatever the Cathaoirleach decides other than that I would have hoped Senators would take on board the amendments and come to a more sober judgment on them, thereby affording them an opportunity to accept them on Report Stage. There will not, by definition, be a similar debate on Report Stage because Senators may speak only once on the issues. However, I will be guided by the Cathaoirleach.

  I do not envy the Medical Council in its task of revising guidelines. It has said the process will take some time. It will certainly take skilled draftsmen to amend these guidelines without making it obvious that a doctor's ethical duty to unborn children is effectively being abolished by the Oireachtas. Interestingly, the guidelines go on to point out that it is "legally permissible" to perform abortions under certain circumstances under the law, as it currently stands, but it makes no statement as to the ethics of this. Therefore, the Medical Council guidelines implicitly draw a distinction between what is ethical and what is legal. It is also worth noting that the section of the guidelines dealing with abortion, clause 48, is immediately followed by the section on conscientious objection, clause 49. The two issues were clearly linked in the mind of the Medical Council when it originally drafted the guidelines.

  The Bill seeks to abolish all of this. It drives a coach and four through the Medical Council's own ethical guideline by forcing the council to force doctors to say that what is now unethical is, in fact, ethical and that the unborn child is no longer a patient of the doctors, yet this legislation seeks to delete or abolish this ethical duty to the lives and health of unborn babies. I was on RTÉ's "The Week in Politics" last Sunday with a number of others Senators, including Senator Richmond, who raised the interesting point that in his view doctors have a right to conscientiously object but do not have a right to break the law of the land. This raises an interesting question, which I shall pose to Senators who support this legislation. Existing Medical Council guidelines contain an ethical duty to do everything to protect the life of an unborn child. This Bill now seeks to abolish that ethical duty on pain of criminal punishment for doctors. I ask those who support this Bill where we draw the line. What other principles of medical ethics can be overridden by legislation by a future Government and future Oireachtas? I ask colleagues to think very carefully about that. If one principle of medical ethics can be scrapped by the Oireachtas, then none of them is safe. There is no floor to how low we can stoop and nothing we cannot force doctors to do.

  We have heard a lot of talk about the right of women to choose but what about a doctor's right to choose? How can one person's right to choose become a right to force somebody else to take part in something against his or her will and become a cog in the wheel, however directly or indirectly? If the State is to have no right to tell women what to do, then why is it in a position to tell doctors what to do where telling them to do what it expects of them goes against everything they have always believed to be true and good, having regard to their deeply held beliefs and best clinical judgment? Just because the law no longer sees the baby as a patient does not mean good doctors will not still hold these beliefs, including where abortion is being sought. Therefore, it cannot be maintained that forcing doctors to refer that invisible patient, that less visible patient, that more vulnerable patient, although both persons involved might well be vulnerable, to another doctor to have their life ended is in accord with respect for conscientious objection. This aspect of the Bill, which forces doctors to refer, simply has to be amended. As there will be more than enough doctors who will be willing to carry out these procedures, what is the need to force others to refer? I gather at least 25% of general practitioners have said they are willing to perform the service. That is approximately 625. Assuming a worst-case scenario and 12,000 abortions per annum, as Dr. Peter Boylan and his colleagues suggested at the Oireachtas health committee, it would mean each willing general practitioner would need to perform a maximum of 20 terminations per year. These are shocking figures, of course, but they at least show that allowing those doctors who wish to participate to do so and equally allowing those who wish not to participate not to do so will still ensure adequate coverage of the service, if that is what the House wishes. I urge colleagues on all sides of the House to support these amendments to show solidarity with doctors around the country who, I am sure, have been in contact with them in regard to this most serious of issues.

  We are not just talking about the rights of doctors. We are also talking about the rights of medical practitioners, nurses and midwives. Senator Norris is proposing, as are we, the inclusion of pharmacists. I spoke to a pharmacist the other day who is terrified of the consequences of being required by law to prescribe a drug that would be used upstairs to terminate the life of innocent child. That person wonders whether he or she has a future in the organisation. He or she wonders whether there will be any reasonable accommodation for their position.

  It is important, however, to consider a perhaps even more significant issue than the right to refer. I call the relevant amendment the "Minister Harris amendment" because, on Committee Stage, he said a medical practitioner shall not be obliged to take part, but that is different from what is in the Bill. The Bill states nothing in the Act shall be construed as obliging any medical practitioner, nurse or midwife to carry out or participate in carrying out a termination of pregnancy in accordance with sections 9, 11 or 12 to which he or she has a conscientious objection. The difference is that the Minister said on Committee Stage that a practitioner would not be obliged. That can only mean there is protection or that he was claiming there was protection for a person who might be obliged by his employer, for example, to take part in abortion. The Minister's Bill, however, does not require medical practitioners, nurses or midwives to get involved but it does nothing to protect, in the new scenario he is bringing about, medical practitioners, nurses, midwives and pharmacists from being required by the rules, including the rules of the organisation with which they have a contract to work, to become involved. They could lose their job. The provision of limited protection for conscientious objection is effectively null. While the Bill will not impose an obligation, it does nothing to protect practitioners from the pressure that will be put on them under contract or by their employer. This is how the Minister's provision in this Bill differs from provisions on conscientious objection in other places. That is an important issue he should address.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I support the amendments. I vigorously opposed a number of Senator Mullen's amendments and believed they were shameful but I support these ones. I will not rehearse too much my support for amendment No. 47.  I stated earlier in this discussion that, although I believe abortion is necessary and justifiable and morally good in certain circumstances, forcing medical practitioners to refer was the equivalent of them being an accessory. That is my view. People should not be forced to violate their conscience in any way.

  It has been said the code of conduct for pharmacists covers the matter of pharmacists I raise in my amendment. My good friend and colleague Senator Bacik has shown me a phrase that she thought fulfilled this requirement. Having read it, I do not believe it does. I have had contact from a number of pharmacists who state that the code of conduct for pharmacists 2009 and the draft code published in June 2018 but not adopted clearly show that pharmacists' rights to freedom of conscience are nowhere mentioned or protected. One of these, who seems to be a rather distinguished woman with a PhD, quotes the Minister as saying that pharmacists are protected and they have their own legislation for a code of conduct. This person states the same could be said for doctors, nurses and midwives but they are not included. The person said the Minister stated that the conscientious objection clause does not refer to other personnel in institutions for the express purpose of clarifying that those staff in institutions are not entitled to conscientious objection. I wonder if the Minister could confirm that it is his view that other professional groups are not entitled to conscientious objection. That is rather serious, particularly in the light of the report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, recommendation 20 of which states: "The Commission recommends that the provisions of head 15 be made to apply more broadly than currently outlined in head 15(1), to provide for the possibility of conscientious objection by the broader range of health and social care profession with whom a pregnant woman or girl may come into contact". That is quite clear. It is explicit and makes the point that the commission is independent. It is not campaigning for or against abortion or anything like that. The commission is saying that head 15 should be made to apply more generally to cater for freedom of conscience and the conscientious objection of other professionals within this general range of expertise, and we must take this seriously.

  I understand part of the position taken by my friends with whom I do not agree because there is a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights that: "States are obliged to organise the health services system in such a way as to ensure that an effective exercise of the freedom of conscience of health professionals in the professional context does not prevent patients from obtaining access to services to which they are entitled under the applicable legislation". That freedom of conscience should not frustrate the operation of the legislation is an interesting and important point that must be taken into account but given the numbers of doctors who are prepared to be engaged and have no difficulty with it, I do not believe allowing doctors the complete freedom of conscience and extending this to cover pharmacists would inhibit the implementation of this legislation.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone How would it work in practice?

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris How would what work in practice?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Through the Chair, please.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I beg the Cathaoirleach's pardon.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am trying to prevent interruptions to Senator Norris's flow of speech.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I understand that.

  How it would work in action is by giving pharmacists the right of freedom of conscience, the right not to dispense these matters. I believe they would be very widely available, even in circumstances where it was registered.

  They are my views and I will stand with them. I will license my friend Senator Bacik to withdraw on my behalf my amendment about pharmacists with the intention of resubmitting it on Report Stage.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik I will be brief. All of us on this side have been brief and concise in our contributions in the 15 hours we have had so far on Committee Stage. Certainly, for my own part and for the part of others, we have sat in rather dignified silence and shown considerable self-restraint in the face of some language that was, unfortunately, disrespectful about women and our bodies.

  I fundamentally disagree with the amendments, in particular, with amendments Nos. 47 and 50, which effectively create a skewed balance between the rights of conscientious objection which are respected in this section 22, and the right of women to access medical services. Senator Norris is correct, of course, that there is European case law on this issue. There is a useful report, published in October this year, from the European Parliament on conscientious objection law and sexual and reproductive health rights which makes it clear that the right to conscientious objection is not absolute, it must not be a barrier to accessing sexual and reproductive health services, and that this is the case across the EU and also in Ireland.

  I support section 22 because it strikes that careful balance between respecting the rights of conscientious objection of medical practitioners, nurses and midwives, and students, as per an amendment in the Dáil, and the rights of women to access services. That is, as I say, a careful balance that is well struck and, of course, does not affect the duty to participate in a termination in accordance with section 10, which is the emergency section.

  Unfortunately, given how much debate there was on this issue in the other House, what we have seen is, as the Minister put it, not so much conscientious objection as conscientious obstruction being carried out in the shape of some of these amendments. Anyone who looks objectively at section 22 will see that it strikes this careful balance. In particular, subsection (3) ensures that there is an obligation to make arrangements for the transfer of care. It merely puts it at that. That is fair.

  In terms of the pharmacy point raised by my friend Senator Norris, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland has in its code of conduct for pharmacists an obligation that where they are unable to provide prescribed medicines or pharmacy services, they must take reasonable action to ensure those medicines or services are provided for patients and that their care is not jeopardised. That is rather similar language to the balancing act struck in the section.

  Much of the debate on the Bill and the provision of services focused on the medical practitioners, the doctors, etc. I was disappointing that the Coombe hospital, where I had a happy experience having my own babies, indicated that it would not be in a position to provide services from 1 January. It is unfortunate that the debate has been so focused on doctors, not on women.

Senator Marie-Louise O'Donnell: Information on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Zoom on Marie-Louise O'Donnell Hear, hear.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik It is important in our contributions, particularly on the issue of conscientious objection, that we bear in mind that the key aim in this legislation is to ensure women will have effective access to the services we so badly need.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill I support this group of amendments and acknowledge what Senators have said.

  As for the rationale for the amendments, first, amendment No. 47 endeavours to reframe section 22(1) in order that it provides positive and substantive protection of freedom of conscience. The current section 22(1) states nothing in the Bill obliges a doctor, nurse or midwife to participate in carrying out a termination under section 9, 11 or 12. However, the concern is that it leaves a serious gap in protection because it merely states the Bill does not force doctors, nurses or midwives to participate. It, therefore, does not prevent the imposition of such compulsion by an employer or professional body and that is where the difficulty arises.

  A situation, to which I referred on Second Stage, arose in Norway where a doctor who was not willing to perform an abortion was removed from his position by the public health service because of his conscientious objection. The individual concerned took a case to the Norwegian Supreme Court.  In mid October this year he won the case on the basis that he deserved to make a conscientious objection. If this matter is not addressed in this Bill, we run the same risk of exposing the taxpayer to a case. With other countries, we should learn from what happened in Norway. Accordingly, the amendment at issue improves the protection by closing the gap and ensuring no one can lawfully be forced into carrying out a termination other than in an emergency as provided for under section 10.

This amendment also reflects international best practice models for recognising the right to conscientious objection. It is based on section 46(1) of the New Zealand Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, which provides:

Notwithstanding anything in any other enactment, or any rule of law, or the terms of any oath or of any contract (whether of employment or otherwise), no medical practitioner, nurse, or other person shall be under any obligation —
(a) to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion.

The UK Abortion Act 1967 which has been referred to many times also provides for a substantive protection at section 4(1), which reads: "Subject to subsection (2) of this section, no person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has" [or she has] "a conscientious objection". There is a similar provision in US federal law. For instance, the "church amendments" ensure an individual or entity who receives a grant, contract or loan does not entitle a public authority to require the individual to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion if that would be contrary to his or her religious beliefs or moral convictions. In addition, it does not entitle a public authority to require an entity to makes its facilities available for the performance of any abortion if the performance of such an abortion in such facilities is prohibited by the entity on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. The "church amendments" also provide protections against discrimination in the context of employment and medical training based on whether or not someone has a conscientious objection to abortion. Additionally, there is international expert opinion in medical literature that supports the view that denial of conscientious rights is a cause of disillusionment and burnout in doctors and disengagement from particular areas of practice. I am sure that is something that the Minister would not like to see happen here.

  I shall read the prepared note that the Minister read on Committee Stage in the Dáil. He said the following about section 24 which was possibly numbered section 23 but I may be mistaken.

Where he or she has a conscientious objection, a medical practitioner, nurse or midwife shall not be obliged to carry out or participate in the carrying out of a termination of pregnancy".

In line with this confirmation of the intent of the section, this amendment revises section 24(1) so as to give it the effect that the Minister told the Select Committee on Health it would have.

  A conscientious objection goes further than just the medical practitioner or the doctor. It extends to those people who would be expected to assist or perform and I mean other healthcare workers, including midwives. I can categorically state the following. I have spoken to a large number of GPs and midwives who are extremely concerned and frightened at the concept of having to perform an abortion from 1 January. One of those midwives wrote to me and I assure Members that I will not identify her or the hospital where she works. The midwife is highly concerned, which will be evident when I read her letter. She explained everything from her standpoint. I shall not read her full letter, just the main parts. I confirm that I know the lady. She said:

Dear Brian,

I am a midwife at ... For the very first time in my 31 years of a nursing-midwifery career I am now facing the biggest moral and ethical issue to ever confront me in my professional practice. Like many of my colleagues, I have very serious concerns regarding the introduction of abortion services to Ireland which is currently going through the Dáil to be passed into legislation.

  I trained in the Irish healthcare system and I have never worked abroad. For the first time ever in Ireland, against their ethos of preserving life, nurses and midwives are now facing being told they must partake in the killing of unborn human life. I do appreciate the democracy of the society in which I live. However, I am now pleading with you, the legislator, to give consideration to my position as a midwife working at the front line in the Irish health service. No nurse or midwife would have a problem where the life of the mother is in serious danger. This is not the case with the proposed new legislation. Abortions will now be demanded and planned, and women will be admitted to hospitals for elective procedures. Given that 97% of terminations in the UK are on the grounds of mental health, this is a major concern. To date, in my midwifery career, I have not encountered such serious mental health issues in a pregnant woman as to require termination of her pregnancy.

  I am a conscientious objector from a moral, religious, ethical and humanitarian perspective. I cannot and will not take any part in any procedure that involves the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby. This includes any preparation leading up to the procedure or the transfer of care to my colleague. This must be protected in the upcoming legislation.

  Over recent weeks I have had discussions with various nursing colleagues working in the areas of gynaecology, theatre and also with nurse-midwife sonographers. They too have all expressed their personal and professional concerns with involvement in abortion services. Nurses working in gynaecology wards around the country are going to see their practice hugely impacted by legislation to introduce unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation. The severe expected [normal] effects of those abortion pills will undoubtedly result in women presenting to our gynae wards as walk-in cases or, indeed, as referrals from GPs who will not be in a position to manage the care themselves. There will indeed also be a number of these women who will require ERPC and will therefore require hospital admission involving a surgical procedure. [The acronym ERPC means the evacuation of retained products of conception].

  Many women suffering spontaneous miscarriage in this gestation range require to undergo this procedure. So those inducing their pregnancy loss carry the same risk for the need for such surgical intervention. In addition to the nurses in our gynaecology wards this then also impacts nurses working in our operating theatre departments.

  Aside from the issue around conscientious objection in a deteriorating work environment that is already putting huge pressure on staff, the public health service has neither capacity nor staff resources to facilitate such service. One of my midwife sonographer colleagues said to me at work recently "We are already struggling to provide a service to mothers who desperately want their babies" and that she does not wish to be involved in preparing a mother for a procedure to kill others. Personally, I have myself begun-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have listened very carefully to the Senator and thought that he would be selective in what he said or did not say.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik Hear, hear.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I take it from what Senator Ó Domhnaill has said, the midwife objects to the entire Bill, not the section. I do not dispute the sincerity of the person who wrote the letter. I understand the entire Bill does not suit her and she is entitled to her view. We are debating a particular section. When I allowed the Senator to read the letter I presumed that it would just be a few paragraphs. He has been reading for almost five minutes and I hope he is near the end of the letter.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill It is, a Chathaoirligh, and I thank you.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have to be fair to everyone. I was told earlier that we would probably be sitting until 2.30 a.m. I do not mind. I am quite happy to stay here, but others may not be.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill The letter relates to conscientious objection in its totality. The person who wrote it is setting out her views. I am trying to air them. I have received hundreds of letters about this issue. I felt this letter deserved particular attention by being read in the House. It will stand the test of time. I hope it will protect the unspoken voices of midwives out there who are concerned. The letter continues:

On the point often made of what happens in other countries, we are unlike any one of those other countries. We had a referendum - they didn't. The citizens were asked "Yes" or "No". I appreciate we live in a democracy, but surely those of us who voted "No" for the reasons we did cannot now be expected to be able to set those reasons aside and get on with it as some are telling us to do. I am concerned that among some political circles, including some who are members of the select committee, my colleagues and I are now being referred to as "anti-choicers". We are not; we are conscientious objectors. As I have said before, I respect the democratic result of the repeal amendment, but "pro-choice" was a term we became very familiar with during the campaign.

She is quoting it. She goes on:

I sincerely hope that midwives like myself and other healthcare professionals who are now pro-choice in abstaining ourselves from any procedure that will bring about the death of an unborn human life will have that respect reciprocated.

I think that is very fair. There is much more to the letter. I will not go on.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan With all due respect, a letter is a letter but that is like an epitaph. I have to be very careful in allowing it to be read because somebody else could come in and keep us here all night by reading ten such letters. As I said, with all due respect, the letter broadly says "No" to this legislation and does not refer exactly to the amendment before us. I cannot allow it. I have to be very fair.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill While I appreciate that, I would not like to devalue the authenticity or genuineness of the letter.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am not doing so.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Nobody is.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am checking everybody's time. Senator Ó Domhnaill has spent almost 12 minutes reading a letter. I presumed it was a couple of paragraphs. The Senator said he was reading "some" of it into the record It must be an awfully long letter. The Senator has made his point. There are three or four more speakers. I will let them in in due course.

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill: Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill Many members of staff in the midwifery section of Letterkenny General Hospital and many other hospitals have conscientious objections and are highly concerned about the introduction of this legislation. Like midwifery staff, pharmacists, who have been mentioned during this debate, have raised their conscientious objection to the provision of the services they will be expected to provide under the Bill. It is alarming that the Minister does not appear to be willing to concede to meet the doctors, midwifery staff and pharmacists who are advocating for conscientious objection to discuss these issues with them. I know for a fact that the Hospital Pharmacists Association of Ireland wrote to the Minister about the conscientious objection issue recently. The Irish Pharmacy Union wrote to the Minister to outline its grave concerns about the same issue on 28 February last. These concerns have not been addressed. The code of conduct of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, which has been referred to as a way of protecting pharmacists, does not refer to conscientious objection or freedom of conscience, religion or belief. It is worth noting that Principle 4 of the current code of conduct was updated earlier this year. It was completely rewritten in a way that allows the patient to have the choice and removes the choice from the pharmacists. The pharmacists are being left in a situation where they do not have a conscientious objection under their own code. They have no protection under the legislation. The code was rewritten quite recently. They have articulated this in writing to the Minister.

  The conscientious objection we have outlined is available in other jurisdictions. It should be available here. It is a reasonable request. It does not in any way dilute the effectiveness of the Minister's Bill from his point of view. It provides a way out to people who have a religious, humanitarian or moral conscientious objection. They should not be forced to partake in a practice about which they have such strong feelings of objection. It would be wrong to force them to do so. The Bill does not provide for conscientious objection. It relies on codes of conduct elsewhere. Conscientious objection is enshrined in the legislation in the UK and New Zealand and it should be enshrined in this Bill as the only way to protect GPs. There are GPs who do not have a conscientious objection and that is fine, but there are many GPs who do have a conscientious objection. There are hundreds of them up and down the country. They deserve the same respect. If we are talking about choice, they should have a choice also. One cannot level choice one day and then the next remove it. If one wants to purport that this is all about choice, one must accept that choice is a two-way street. If it is all about choice, so be it. That is great, but pharmacists, midwives and doctors must be given the same choice and respect. Choice must be reciprocated. That is what the amendments are about.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson I welcome the Minister, for whom I have great respect . However, I want to make it quite clear that I do not welcome the legislation he has brought before us. I will try to be as brief as I can, given the hour of the night. Like other Senators, I have to travel a long distance to go home before returning here early in the morning. I certainly have no intention of keeping people here any longer than is necessary. This is the first time I have spoken to the Bill and it will probably be the last time I speak to it. I assure colleagues that I am conscientiously obstructing nobody. I am merely making my points in a democratic fashion in this House.

  The legislation we have spent 15 hours discussing is about life and death. That is what I believe and some of my colleagues in this House share that opinion. In recent months we have been subjected to obstruction in the legal sphere. I refer to the legislation that proposes to change how judges are appointed. It does not affect whether they live or die.

  Like my colleague, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, I want to read an extract from a letter. The letter to which I refer was written by Dr. Fiona O'Hanlon who is known to me, Senator Robbie Gallagher and our colleague in the Lower House Deputy Brendan Smith. Rather than going off on a tangent, I want to read as clearly as possible an edited section of the letter which was published in a national newspaper.  It really states what I want to say myself:

It is worth exploring the implications for doctors, nurses, [pharmacists] and all healthcare professionals if their rights of conscience are not respected in law. Every person has a right to freedom of conscience whereby they cannot be compelled to perform or facilitate an action which they believe to be morally wrong. The right to freedom of conscience acknowledges the fact that we are responsible for our free actions and their consequences inasmuch as we can foresee them. It also acknowledges the fact that we cannot disclaim responsibility for our free actions simply because we are obeying the will of another person.

  Because freedom of conscience is respected in a democratic society, there is also the right to refuse to perform or participate in an action with which the person does not agree. Doctors, like everybody else, have the right to freedom of conscience. They are entitled to refuse to provide treatment which they consider to be morally wrong because to provide it would make the doctor responsible for the outcome. They are also entitled to refuse to facilitate access to that treatment because that too would mean the doctor shares responsibility.

  In the case of abortion, many doctors have profoundly held convictions about the right to life of the unborn child and they have the right not to perform any procedure which would deliberately end the child's life. They also have the right not to facilitate abortion by giving information about, or contact details of, abortion providers.

  Furthermore, doctors have the right to refuse to refer patients for abortion procedures. This is because, when a doctor refers a patient to another doctor for treatment, the referring doctor is agreeing that the treatment is necessary and in the patient's interest. This is usually because the referring doctor does not have the required specialist training and so has to request another doctor to look after the patient. In the case of abortion, however, the referring doctor may have the required training but still object in conscience. Referral for abortion would be asking another doctor to do something which the referring doctor believes to be totally wrong. It does not lessen the referring doctor's responsibility for the outcome and so goes against his or her freedom of conscience.

  Abortion legislation must recognise that doctors have the right not to perform abortions and the right not to refer or provide information. Abortion legislation must also acknowledge the right of medical students and trainee doctors to refuse to participate in procedures which they do not intend to perform as professionals because of conscientious objection.

I want to briefly refer to Baroness Nuala O'Loan, the former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, who is well known to all of us in this House. She recently gave a first reading of a piece of legislation in the House of Lords. Some of the detail that I have before me has already been alluded to by Senator Ó Domhnaill and I do not intend to repeat it. However, it is important to make three or four points from her contribution on that legislation. She points out that conscientious objection was first provided for in the United Kingdom in 1757. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War a couple of months ago. During that war, 16,000 men were excused from conscription to military service on grounds of conscience. They included Quakers who did not believe in fighting on religious grounds and others. This is most interesting for some of my colleagues in this House who are most anxious to get this legislation through. Baroness O'Loan says: "Others, such as radical socialists, did so out of political principle." These were conscientious objections. I suggest those radical socialists were every bit as well meaning in their conscientious objection as the radical socialists we have in this House and the Lower House.

  I also want to refer to what Senator Bacik mentioned about the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adoption of Resolution 1763. I think that is the one to which Senator Bacik referred.

Senator Ivana Bacik: Information on Ivana Bacik Zoom on Ivana Bacik No, I talked about the European Parliament.

Senator Diarmuid Wilson: Information on Diarmuid Wilson Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson This is the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's adoption of Resolution 1763, affirming the right of conscientious objection for medical professionals. The resolution is worth mentioning. It states: "No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion". That is Resolution 1763 which was recently adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

  We thank the Minister for listening to us. People who are fundamentally opposed to implementing procedures which will result in death should not have to beg for conscientious objection. It is a human right, the same as I believe it is a human right of a child to be born.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I welcome the Minister to the Chamber and thank him for his presence. I will be brief in my contribution.

  Following on from the comments of my colleagues, I think it is important that, when we discuss healthcare, we always keep in mind the person at the centre and in this case that is the young woman. We always have to keep that in mind.

  Having said that, it is important that we genuinely acknowledge that some people will have an issue with conscientious objection. A number of GPs have been in contact with me, particularly about the phrasing of section 22(3) and the inclusion of the phrase "make such arrangements". There seems to be a degree of confusion, I hope the Minister will agree, as to what exactly that means. It might be helpful and I would welcome it if the Minister could bring clarity to the matter. I understand there is a degree of urgency to push this through and everybody had 1 January 2019 in their sights as the date when they would like this to be up and running. It is important to put legislation through both Houses as quickly as possible but it is equally important that, when we do so, we tread carefully and try to bring as many people with it as we can. The phrase "make such arrangements" in section 22(3) deserves clarity that I hope the Minister will bring.

  We have constantly been told that there are enough GPs to do the necessary work and, if that is the case, I wonder if there a need for this at all. Perhaps it is something that could be revisited at another stage. We have to be conscious that all GPs throughout the country do magnificent work and that many of them are under severe pressure.  Many patients in places like the place where I come from in rural Ireland have to queue up to get access to general practitioners. Senator Bacik talked about the Coombe Hospital having difficulties in having the service in place by 1 January. As I said, it is important that we progress matters but it is important that we do so while ensuring that any step we take is sound.

  At a time when we are talking about choice and equality it is unfortunate that this impasse has arisen. I hope common sense will prevail and that we will strike a balance to accommodate the rights of all those who genuinely have reason for conscientious objection.

Senator Paul Coghlan: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Minister will know that I will be brief and to the point. I did not bring any extensive notes.

  I agree with what has been said by Senators Wilson, Gallagher, Ó Domhnaill and Mullen on these matters. Conscientious objection is fundamental, as are freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and a free vote. We recognise this in so many ways as politicians. It is important in our democracy that we follow through on it.

  Like many others in the House, I have had contact from doctors, pharmacists, nurses and midwives. I feel for them because they do not want to be locked in or to have to perform what may be required of them. No one should be forced or required by law to perform or assist in something that conflicts with his or her conscience. As I have said, I believe that much is basic. With me, it boils down to the point that I am totally opposed to any deliberate, wilful extinguishment of life in any make, shape or form. I will leave it at that.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly I will try to be as brief as possible. I agree with Senator Gallagher's contention that the patient has to be at the centre of this process. I will remark on other comments made by other Senators, although I will not name all of them.

  There are 23 sections to the Bill and only one relates to conscientious objection and those who must provide care to women in these circumstances. I staunchly defend the right of any medical, nursing, pharmacy or other professional who has a conscientious objection to performing a termination. That is their right and it is enshrined in the Bill. It is clear. Other Senators have talked about recent changes in pharmacy. I have the relevant changes before me. Point 5 of principle 4 on page 9 of the proposed code of conduct makes provision for conscientious objection. It is clear. The Bill provides for it too.

  On Second Stage I mentioned my concern about who practised in that regard. On the one hand, the Bill makes it easier for a doctor in a practice who conscientiously objects to refer the matter to someone else in the practice. Equally, we have to guard against the bullying of junior doctors by senior doctors who might have a different view. I am very much opposed to that.

  I will defend absolutely the right of medical and nursing professionals and others to be conscientious objectors. I see nothing in the Bill that does not enshrine or protect it. At the same time, the Bill is about patients and women in trouble who wish to have a termination and who are entitled to it. We have had a referendum on the matter. Women cannot be obstructed because people refuse to give them information on others who are prepared to act or help in the practice or in the town or village in question. A nurse's letter was read. She acknowledged that in an emergency she would act. Nowhere else in the Bill is there provision for an onus on her to do otherwise or to prevent her from being a conscientious objector or obliging her to act.

  People have views but the reality is that the Bill is clear. I commend the Minister on the Bill. Certainly, I will not support the amendments.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris I thank the Senators for their contributions. A total of six amendments to this section have been grouped. I too am a defender of conscientious objection. I believe in it. People have the right to conscientiously object. It is a long-standing principle in medicine and has long been enshrined in the way we run the health service.

  Senator Bacik and, to a degree, Senator Gallagher both hit the nail on the head when they talked about balance. It is about balancing the right of medical professionals to conscientiously object from this or other services in respect of which they have a conscience issue with the right of a woman to access a service that will be a legal part of the public health service from January. What we are trying to do here is attain balance. I believe we have achieved that balance because section 22 states that where a medical practitioner, nurse or midwife has a conscientious objection, he or she shall not be obliged to carry out or to participate in carrying out a termination of pregnancy. The provisions set out are in line with section 49 of the Medical Council guide for professional conduct and ethics for registered medical practitioners. The provision obliges doctors to enable patients to transfer to another doctor for treatment in cases of conscientious objection.

  Senator Gallagher asked the reasonable question of what that means and whether I could provide clarity. I am pleased to do so and I did so in the other House also. It is described on page 35 of the Medical Council guidelines. Section 49 of the document relates to conscientious objection and states:

If you hold a conscientious objection to a treatment, you must:

- inform the patient that they have a right to seek treatment from another doctor; and

- give the patient enough information to enable them to transfer to another doctor to get the treatment they want.

I am keen to make another point. No one wants a situation where doctors who are conscientiously objecting are coming into contact with women looking for a health service. That is not desirable for anyone. It is not desirable for the doctor and it is certainly not desirable for the woman. We have taken several measures. In particular, we have provided for the 24/7 helpline. The first port of call for many women in a crisis pregnancy will be to pick up the telephone. Later in 2019 we will have an instant message service. Women will be able to check out websites like www.myoptions.ie, which will go live when this law passes and is enacted. Women will be able to receive all of the information about all the services available to them in a crisis pregnancy that are legal in Ireland, including termination, in a non-directional manner. The helpline will be able to signpost a woman to where those services are available. This should minimise the situations that no one wants to see such as conscientiously objecting medical professionals coming into contact with women. It is not desirable and I have no wish to see women going from doctor to doctor in an effort to seek help, especially women who, by virtue of being there, are in a crisis pregnancy.

  Balance could completely go out the window and the situation could become completely unbalanced if a woman presents in a crisis – it could be difficult and traumatic for the woman – and is simply shown the door without being at least given the information to access the service. That is what transfer of care means. Everyone has acknowledged that it would be different in an emergency or in a situation where a woman is not in a position to transfer her care – perhaps she may be unconscious. The law is clear on this point. The Medical Council guidelines have been clear on it too. I am clear on this point. We need to avoid over-egging what is being done in the Bill. The bar is low. We are simply asking that women be actually given information to access legal services in the country, no more and no less. Similarly, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland code of professional conduct and ethics of 2014 states:

If you have a conscientious objection based on religious or moral beliefs which is relevant to your professional practice, you must tell your employer and, if appropriate, tell the patient as soon as you can. If you cannot meet the patient’s needs because of this objection, you must talk with your employer and, if appropriate, talk to the patient about other care arrangements. Even if you have a conscientious objection, you must provide care to a patient in an emergency where there is a risk to the patient’s life.

Others have alluded to the fact that in the Dáil I brought forward amendments to ensure it was absolutely clear that student nurses and midwives would have the right to conscientiously object also. Moreover, section 13 provides for a specific duty on a treating physician who refuses certification to inform the woman that she has a right to apply for a formal review of this decision.

  I have already mentioned that I have directed the HSE to put in place a helpline to help women navigate the services for termination of pregnancy. It is intended that medical practitioners will voluntarily consent to have their names released to women seeking the service in order that women ringing the helpline will be assisted in contacting medical practitioners who do not have a conscientious objection to termination of pregnancy.

  As I said, the Bill and existing medical guidelines make it clear that conscientious objection cannot be invoked in an emergency where there is a risk to a pregnant woman's life or health and where there is an immediate risk in that regard.  As stated by some colleagues, the current code of conduct for pharmacists states that pharmacists must, "Ensure that in instances where they are unable to provide prescribed medicines or pharmacy services to a patient they must take reasonable action to ensure these medicines/services are provided and the patient's care is not jeopardised". The council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, PSI, which is the regulator for pharmacists in this country, has approved a new code of conduct for pharmacists. Part five of Principle 4 on page 9 of the proposed code of conduct makes provision for conscientious objection subject to a referral of a patient to an alternative provider if a pharmacist cannot provide a professional service or a medicinal product so that patient care is not jeopardised or compromised. A footnote to Principle 4 also makes a specific reference to a pharmacist transferring the care of a pregnant woman availing of services in the termination of pregnancy; therefore, it has already taken action as the pharmacy regulator in this country.

  The approved code of conduct is required to be submitted by the PSI to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission for approval before being submitted to the Department for ministerial approval. Conscientious objection is in place. It is about getting the balance right between making sure women can access legal services and providing for medical practitioners who do not wish to partake and conscientiously object. It is also about making those rights respect each other. We have taken a number of measures outside the legislation in terms of the roll-out of services, most particularly the 24-7 helpline, to support women and medical practitioners in this new reality.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I did not want to speak but given my role as nurse and the role of Senator Reilly, we are very well aware that we are catered for in terms of conscientious objection. It is there and respected. The 24/7 helpline will contain a list of GPs to whom women can go because they will be willing to help them. Will it be the same for pharmacists? I remember the hullabaloo when contraception was legalised in this country. To this day, there are some pharmacists who refuse to dispense prescribed medication such as the contraceptive pill. Will a list of pharmacists be provided by the 24/7 helpline because it would make a woman's journey much easier and get them close to the GP they are visiting? I know we talked about nurse practitioners and their ability to carry out these procedures and prescribe under 12 weeks. Perhaps that is a discussion for another time in a review or an amendment later.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I wanted the Minister to hear that because I left him the last time.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris As is envisaged in this legislation, the GP will also dispense the medication, thereby lessening another journey or trip a woman may need to make. With regard to nurse practitioners, the law, as currently drafted, does not allow for that but the operation of the Bill will be reviewed in three years.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Minister presents it as a reasonable balance but it is not at all reassuring. How could it be when there was so little consultation? The Minister broke the news on radio to GPs that his abortion regime would be GP-led. Before his announcement, he never consulted rank and file GPs around the country about turning their surgeries into abortion clinics and forcing them to become facilitators of abortion through referral. Since his initial announcement, he has refused point blank to engage with ordinary GPs and is well aware that more than 640 GPs have signed a petition raising very serious concerns about his proposal and that nurses, midwives and pharmacists have done likewise. I find it extraordinary that the Minister would not afford these hard-working healthcare workers even one minute of his time, yet from 1 January, any GP who refuses to facilitate abortions in line with the Minister's extreme law runs the risk of being struck off the medical register and losing his or her job. There really are no words to describe this travesty.

  I know a doctor who felt under intense pressure to abort her daughter when working in England seven years ago. She has first-hand experience of what a conveyer belt abortion system results in - rushed decisions followed by immense regret - but her personal experience counts for nothing under the Minister's new law. From 1 January, she will have to get in line with his abortion law or face being struck off the medical register. I can assure the Minister that she has no intention of being coerced into going against her conscience and there are hundreds of healthcare workers just like her. They are not going to surrender their clinical judgment and lifetime of experience in assisting women with unexpected pregnancies in the sensitive, compassionate and non-judgmental way they do. They feel they are being bullied by the Government and the Minister to do something that goes against every fibre of their being. That should be enough to give the Minister concern, because they are right. They are being bullied. Calling doctors, nurses and midwives rogue practitioners simply because they disagree with the Minister and want to practise evidence-based medicine is outrageous and wrong. Forcing decent, hard-working and conscientious-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I do not want to go down this road again. The Minister has replied. Obviously, the Minister is not listening to Senator Mullen or Senator Mullen is not listening to the Minister because I am hearing totally different views on this issue of conscientious objection. I would like to facilitate and be fair to everyone. Nobody is withdrawing. This amendment will be put to a vote. I will insist on it. We will let Senator Mullen ramble on for a while but he is making very serious accusations against a Minister on an issue where the Minister believes he is correct. The Senator may disagree but we cannot allow this to ramble on. We have already spent one hour and 14 minutes on this section. I can be fair to the House also. I will let Senator Mullen continue but I ask him to understand the position I am in. I must be fair to both sides.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I understand the Cathaoirleach's position, but forcing decent, hard-working and conscientious healthcare workers to do something they find morally troubling, even abhorrent, crosses a line. They have received their own legal advice and know the freedom of conscience protections the Minister claims are in the Bill offer no meaningful safeguards. The Minister is putting many healthcare workers through hell through his refusal to listen to them. I dearly wish that he would amend his Bill, but if he does not, it will not end there. Peacefully but persistently, people will stand united against the injustice of what the Minister is trying to impose. I believe it will give rise to a civil rights and civil disobedience movement that this country has not seen in a long time because people will tolerate a lot of things but they will not tolerate their freedom to object conscientiously being trampled on. I do not think people will tolerate their doctors, who give them so much care, and other medical professionals being bullied in this way.

  The Minister says Medical Council guidelines are going to change in line with the legislation and we know they will. The same is true of the PSI's guidelines and all relevant guidelines because the law will shape what will happen in the future. As the power of the State is behind the provision of abortion, the Minister does not need to bully medical personnel to become a cog in the wheel, as they see it, by being required to refer or even participate more directly - not under pain of being punished by this Bill but of not being protected by this Bill from punishment by their employer. That is the point the Minister has either not grasped or has not been willing to engage with. Those conscientious objectors should not be seen as the awkward squad, nuisance people or doctors who would show women the door. They are caring professionals who, for whatever reason, be it a faith-based or philosophical reason or just their clinical judgment, believe they have a duty in justice to the unborn child as well as the mother before them. That is what actuates their concern. Asking them to be involved in transferring for a care they do not believe is care, for a procedure they do not believe is compassionate because it excludes one of the two parties they see before them albeit only one is immediately visible, is the injustice.

  It is so unfair because, as I said, the entire power of the State is behind the Minister's abortion proposal. He is going to spend an enormous amount of taxpayers' money making abortion available, including through the use of advertising telling people how they can access this service. He does not need to force doctors, midwives or anybody else to pass on information they believe will be fatal to the well-being of another human being.  All rights are, of course, limited and even the right to conscientious objection is limited where what is at issue is necessary medical treatment. I would not support the right of any person to object in conscience to bona fide treatment needed by another person. However, the whole point of the Minister's legislation is that it includes an abortion regime that is not connected with medicine, as under section 12 no reason is required to be given. I do not understand why the Minister wants to turn this-----

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I am listening to the Senator's comments very carefully and have listened to the Minister. I must be a referee and impartial as Cathaoirleach. The Minister disagrees with the Senator and the Senator does not agree with the Minister. I am not allowing this to drag on. We are nearly one hour and 15 minutes on the matter. The Senator's speech is more like a Second Stage speech. He has made his points cogently and as far as I understand, the Minister is unlikely to accept his opinion. There will be a vote on it and it is the way to resolve the matter.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly On a point of order, the Senator keeps referring to this as the Minister's Bill. It is a Government Bill and it is our Bill. Please do not personalise it. It is inaccurate to do it continuously.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan That is understood. I will be respectful to all sides but I ask that we try to conclude on this amendment.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am coming to a conclusion. I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach. As I said yesterday, I want to say what needs to be said, no more and no less, before addressing the points that are raised. That is appropriate on Committee Stage. The time we have spent on this matter is as nothing to the time I have spent on the phone and in meetings with good and ethically minded professionals who are terrified of what is in this Bill and the implication for their ability to give compassionate care. I have a duty, as do the other Senators presenting these amendments, to be faithful to those decent professionals. These are not the awkward squad, as I mentioned, but rather people who want to keep best medical traditions going where they see those traditions as being attacked by this Bill. I was urging the Minister not to want to turn this into a war between those who agree with abortion and those who disagree with it.

  Senator Ó Domhnaill referred to the case in Norway. It was very instructive that the Supreme Court of Norway found just weeks ago that Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz had acted within her rights when refusing to follow through with a medical procedure with which she had a moral objection. The court held that health clinics and hospitals could not fire staff who asserted such objections. It is interesting as this law will not require the firing of staff but it will allow it.

Deputy Simon Harris: Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris That is an untruth.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen That is the wrong and injustice in this. Senator Wilson referred to the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2010. I know about it because I was there and involved in the debate. I believe he was referring to the debate on what was known as the McCafferty report. It started as an attack on conscientious objection. Much of what we have heard in recent months claims that the right to conscientious objection inhibits the delivery of care but the report in question turned into a ringing endorsement of people's right to object in conscience to procedures they believed unethical. The buzz phrase in this area is "reasonable accommodation". When the power of the State is behind the provision of abortion and the Minister has access to the purse strings - essentially being able to advertise and provide information about the services that will now, tragically, be legal - the Minister can afford to be much more generous than he is being in allowing people to go their own way peacefully and respectfully.

  That is not, as I think the Taoiseach said, giving the cold shoulder to people. It is the continuation of a tradition of caring medicine that has the idea that two people are being cared for. It is about asking a practitioner to refer a patient to somebody who will take away the innocent life that is growing within the patient, and it asks too much of a caring professional. In the end, it is not for the Minister, Senator Reilly or anybody else to tell a person what ought or what ought not be in conflict with his or her conscience. That is with the exception of where there is bona fide medical care to which a person is entitled, as conscientious objection cannot prevail over it. Where we speak about elective procedures, it is absolutely wrong and unjust to say to a person that he or she does not have to carry out the abortion, at least not under this law, but it is not the case if the health service or professional organisation requires that person to do so. It is tough if that person does not like or want to be complicit in facilitating the injustice by passing on information about the service.

  I know of one case where a person resigned not because the person did not want to do something against their conscience but rather there was a reluctance to delegate it to another professional. That person was willing to take a step down in the organisation, allowing another worker to make the delegation. The person was not asked to provide the service to which there was a conscientious objection. It was the person's sensitive conscience and that person did not want to be a cog in the wheel. The trouble with the Government's Bill is that this has not been thought through, at best, and at worst it is pretending there is protection for freedom of conscience. It is only there in fig leaf form for the two reasons I have mentioned. It does not prevent a person from being disciplined-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys We have heard this nonsense over and over again. The Minister has answered the Senator.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly It is a personal attack.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys This is getting a little ridiculous.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator is anxious to conclude.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys He was ten minutes ago.

Senator James Reilly: Information on Dr. James Reilly Zoom on Dr. James Reilly There is none so deaf as those who will not listen.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Allow the Senator to conclude.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen This does not protect a person from being sanctioned. The legislation does not provide that a person will be sanctioned but it does not protect the person. Senator Reilly mentioned the less powerful people in an organisation, and, funnily enough, it is they who will come under pressure.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The women involved in this are less than powerful.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I say this as somebody who cares for those women and the unborn.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys The Senator has never shown it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Does the Minister wish to respond?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen May I finish the sentence, as I was heckled? The first problem is the legislation does not protect the person against being sanctioned from above. The second problem is the requirement for the person to be a cog in a wheel. That is not fair and it will be resisted, peacefully but persistently in future, regardless of whether the amendment is accepted.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan