Thursday, 29 November 2018
Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed)
I listened to the debate last night and this afternoon. The issue of abortion and disability is difficult and complex. In Britain, abortion is generally available up to 24 weeks of pregnancy but it is also legal for any detectable disability for all nine months of pregnancy. There has been discussion about Down's syndrome. Some parents do not like that debate and do not like talking about these various conditions but they are a part of the debate and need to be addressed.
We need to investigate further when such conditions can be diagnosed during pregnancy. In Britain abortion is generally allowed up to 24 weeks, and these conditions can be diagnosed up to that time. Pre-natal diagnosis is improving all the time. 3D ultrasound scans and cell-free DNA testing are now more readily available. Diagnostic tests can now detect Down's syndrome at nine to 13 weeks, or the first trimester. Even if these tests are only available privately the technology is improving all the time. In Ireland we are proposing to allow for termination of pregnancy with no restriction as to the reason during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Anomaly scans usually take place at 20 weeks but we need to consider this issue much more carefully.
The Minister can say over and over that this Bill does not allow for abortion on the grounds of disability but that does not make it true.