Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 November 2018

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


5:55 pm

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

I emailed the Chairman of the committee on the eighth amendment during its hearings to ask if she would invite an abortion survivor to appear before the committee. I had met one who had undergone practically the experience that is dealt with in the amendment. She was a grown woman who wanted to tell her story and was happy to do so to the committee. The Chairman said “No”. I approached another member of that committee and asked if he might make representations to the rest of the committee that this abortion survivor would make a presentation. He responded by asking whether there was such a thing. That individual had sat through the whole debate at the committee, had formed a particular view on the amendment, and was unaware that there are actually individuals who have survived abortions. That person made no effort to have that woman make her presentation. I would have thought that a committee such as that would have inputs from both sides of the debate which would help the members make up their minds. We have heardad nauseamfrom Deputy Durkan that he was at the committee and he heard all the information and was strengthened by it to make the decisions he made around the issue, yet people such as abortion survivors were denied access to that committee. It shocked me that would be the case but that is how politics works in this country.

Around the world, unborn children survive abortions. I do not like to talk about it in much detail as it is something that is difficult to discuss, but they survive in a very injured state. In most cases they are simply left to expire and they are not given comfort or medical treatment. Many people will say that does not happen and that I am talking baloney. It might make it easier for those people to have their opinions if they convince themselves that is the case. However, the statistics mentioned, which were produced by the departments of health in Canada and Britain, illustrate that it does happen. It happens in countries beside us and that have very similar values to us in many of these things. When one goes down the route of a competition of rights, that the primary and untouchable right is the decision to end the life of the unborn child, then resuscitating an infant which is about to expire becomes less of an objective.

I had this debate with the Minister at the committee. He stated that this would never happen here and how dare I even consider that a doctor would allow it to happen, as if to say that doctors in Ireland are somehow morally superior to their counterparts in Britain, Canada or anywhere else. The truth is that we have had a pro-life culture within the society and within the health services for decades. As a result, most doctors would find the type of situation we are discussion very difficult to deal with. It is one they would not allow to arise in the first instance. We know, however, that in countries where abortion is freely available, the culture changes. If it happens elsewhere, it will happen here. The Minister was vociferous on Committee Stage in stating that it would not happen here. The question I would ask is what it would cost the Minister to simply codify it in law. Again, why is there a difficulty in doing that?

There are many with older heads than me in this Dáil. Many Members have fought the Government in bigger battles. Everyone knows that sometimes, when a Minister just does not want to deal with an issue, he or she will think of a reason it cannot be done and why it is difficult to codify it in law. The Minister will not say, "I do not want this to be done", but will just give an excuse as to why it cannot be done. In that type of situation, most of us know it is transparently the fact the Minister does not want to codify it. My view is that we have a responsibility to do that.

This is one of those issues that resonates deeply with people. This is another amendment that does not seek to reduce access in any way. Even for people for whom access is the prime objective and ambition and those who are maximalist in the context of their wish for abortion to be made available on all occasions, this amendment does not interfere with their goals. What it does is reflect the humanity of the unborn child. I have spoken to many people who are pro-choice and who have similar views to some Deputies but they baulk at the refusal of the Government to codify this in primary legislation. The excuse is that somebody somewhere will do something about it at some point. They say that it is not our problem, not our responsibility. They say medical care for that infant is not a policy decision in some way. It is a policy decision; it is 100% a policy decision.

Anybody who looks at law will say that comparative politics is very important. We are not living in complete disconnect from the rest of the world. Obviously, some of the laws we are implementing are part of trends that have happened in other parts of the world. Logic will dictate that the way this legislation operates in Irish society is going to follow the general trends in other societies.

I again appeal to the Minister. This is a logical, humane response to a very difficult situation that does not seek to reduce access one iota. All it seeks to do is give confidence to people that if that situation were to arise here and if a clinician who had worked in the British system and was acting with regard to the cultural understanding he or she had of that system was in any doubt, he or she would know that in Ireland he or she would have no choice but to intervene to protect the life, where possible.


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