Thursday, 29 November 2018
Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed)
There is increasing scientific evidence from around the world that babies in the womb feel pain before 20 weeks. The nervous system begins to develop at six weeks. Sensory receptors that allow pain to be felt develop at seven weeks and they are present across the body by 18 weeks. It is important that doctors who perform abortions must take all appropriate and practical steps to avoid causing pain to the foetus. This does not apply in an emergency case where it may not be practicable or where the administration of an anaesthetic to the foetus might pose a risk to the life, or serious harm to the health, of the pregnant woman.
Irish people inherently recognise the humanity of unborn children. We need to acknowledge this humanity by obliging the medical professionals to minimise the pain of abortion procedure. Surgeons recognise unborn babies as patients and anaesthetic is routinely used for babies undergoing surgery in the womb. Surely the same should apply in cases of surgical abortion. The Bill envisages surgical abortions in certain circumstances beyond 12 weeks gestation. Clearly, there is a possibility that some of these unborn children are capable of feeling pain, and yet the Bill as it stands has no requirement that unborn children are given appropriate protection from pain during an abortion. It would be horrible and unnecessary for unborn Irish children to suffer needlessly during an abortion. To prevent this the Government must accept amendments requiring that unborn children be given pain relief before an abortion procedure wherever there is a reasonable possibility of their experiencing pain. As I said during the Committee Stage of the debate, abortion by its nature is very violent and invasive. We must ensure that all unborn children are not subject to pain.