Thursday, 29 November 2018
Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report Stage (Resumed)
I thank Deputies for the debate. I am not in a position to accept this amendment which is indistinguishable from the amendment on the same subject put forward on Committee Stage. We had a long discussion and vote on that amendment then. While I can see that the amendment is proposed with the care of infants in mind - and I do not question the Deputy's bona fides in that regard at all - the purpose of the legislation is not to regulate obstetric procedures which do not constitute the termination of pregnancy nor is it to dictate the practice of obstetrics or medicine more generally. It should be borne in mind that the legislation bans termination of pregnancy once viability is reached, unlike other jurisdictions, including many referred to during the debate. Medical practitioners are bound to maintain professional standards and uphold medical ethics at all times. They are bound by their professional regulatory mechanisms to deliver medical services in accordance with best medical practice. Any Deputy who wishes to read the transcripts from the health committee to which representatives of the Institute of the Obstetricians and Gynaecologists gave evidence will see that this is already the practice.
Notwithstanding our differences on this legislation, I am very concerned that word might go out from this House that there is some question or doubt as to what a doctor would actually do if a baby were born alive. I agree with Deputy Ó Cuív that there is an obligation on all of us once someone is born. That is why we also have a ban on termination once viability is reached. I heard a reference to the idea that these might be pregnancies which are unwanted. However, in the situations we are discussing, there is a serious risk to the life of the woman or of serious harm to her health or there is a fatal fetal abnormality. This is a situation where a pregnancy has gone wrong and the medical profession is intervening to protect and save the woman. As Members have heard countless times, in doing so they will always endeavour, where possible, to protect the life of an unborn baby also. There is absolutely no question about that. It is also the case, I suggest, with the mother. The idea that a baby would be born and left in a corner of a hospital is not in accordance with what happens in the Irish health service. It is not what is allowed under Medical Council guidelines, regulatory guidelines and ethical standards. We cannot get into regulating obstetric practice which does not relate to the termination of pregnancy in a Bill which is about access to abortion services.