Tuesday, 7 March 2017
Protection of Life During Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill 2017: Second Stage [Private Members]
It would also be inequitable to have, as a matter of course, a significant penalty for the person performing a termination but none at all for the woman undergoing the procedure. The sentence to be applied in any particular case is a matter for the court.
Reference was made by Deputy Bríd Smith, in her contribution introducing this Bill in the House last Thursday, to the prosecutions in Northern Ireland of women for the procurement, supply or administration of abortion pills. The law in Northern Ireland is different from that of Great Britain. In the North, the law relating to the termination of pregnancy is contained in sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and in section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945. This means it is lawful to perform a termination of pregnancy only if it is necessary to preserve the life of the woman or there is a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent. In this jurisdiction it is also illegal to procure an abortion, whether by surgical, medication or other means outside of the circumstances specified in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.
While I understand the sentiment behind this Private Members Bill in terms of overall policy in this area, including further constitutional and-or legislative change, the Bill is premature. The Government gave a clear commitment on how it intended to examine the complex and important issue of the eighth amendment. Since our last debate on this issue in October 2016 that commitment has been well advanced. The Citizens’ Assembly established by the Government last year is actively engaged with the topic of the eighth amendment to the Constitution. Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, a justice of the Supreme Court, chairs the assembly comprised of 99 citizens randomly chosen from the population. The assembly is currently discussing the eighth amendment over a period of five weekends and only last weekend held its fourth meeting on the issue. A report with its recommendations on the matter is expected to be presented to the Oireachtas in June.
The Government has agreed to immediately refer the assembly’s report to a special Oireachtas committee which will be asked to respond to the deliberations and recommendations of the assembly by the end of the year. The special committee will bring the outcome of this process to the Dáil for further debate and decision.
I understand the inclusion of the Article 40.3.3oin the Constitution has caused much hardship and uncertainty for women-----