Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018

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


5:00 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

The amendment imposes a duty to minimise pain for the unborn child where appropriate and practical.

Yet, we seem to have some pushback with this. Most people would understand the scientific definition that an unborn child is an individual, living, human being. Science will tell us there is a physical and biomedical response to injury and research shows us that pain and stress may affect the unborn child in its development. What does it say about this country and this Chamber that anybody would have to fight for that? It is dumbfounding that anybody would have to fight any government to seek for pain relief to be introduced in that regard.

There is disbelief around the country with the stubbornness of the Government to move on this, even among those people who are solidly pro-choice, and that the humanity of this amendment is completely unrecognised by the Government. The stubbornness of the Government is preventing it from putting this measure into the Bill.

The nervous system develops at around six weeks. Sensory receptors, which allow pain to be felt, start to develop at around seven weeks and are across the body at 18 weeks. In 2010, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report, Fetal Awareness, inferred that the unborn child has the capacity to feel pain from 24 weeks. The further the research and investigation goes into this issue, that age understanding is falling.

Even if a person was unsure about this, would the Minister not, on the precautionary principle alone, instinctually say, "Let us make sure this does not happen"? On the precautionary principle alone, would the Minister's very nature not say, "I need to put this into the Bill"? The Minister will state it is not up to him to do this and that somebody somewhere sometime will do something around this. This Chamber of elected representatives of the South of Ireland are to stand back and say, "Okay, we trust you to do this" and to let it happen. During the Committee Stage debate, we went back and forth a rake of times around the fact that a measure in primary legislation is far stronger than if it is in guidelines elsewhere. I put it to the Minister that this is the place to put such a measure. What would it cost the Minister to put it into the Bill? Does he support the fact that there should be pain relief in all cases of abortion? If so, what is the cost to the Minister to do that?

I can think of absolutely no cost to any Member of this Chamber of including such a measure. This amendment does not seek to reduce access in any fashion. The only reason I can think of as to why the Minister would not want to include it in the Bill is that in some way it reflects a humanity to the unborn child in the womb. This is the only reason I can see that the Minister would be cautious about introducing this into the Bill.

I ask the Minister and the political parties in the Chamber to reconsider. Even those who are instinctually pro-choice and who feel in their hearts and souls that access is the primary issue in this abortion debate, that access is supreme and that nobody should even think about denying access, should have no reason not show the humanity to make sure this goes into the legislation.


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