Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) (Foetal Pain Relief) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


11:22 am

Photo of Seán CanneySeán Canney (Galway East, Independent) | Oireachtas source

What we have here before us is simply a Bill for the prevention of cruelty. I will, therefore, appeal to all Deputies, including those who support legal abortion, to join in voting for this Bill, which merely shows a measure of compassion for unborn children at a relatively disadvantaged stage in their prenatal development. I can see no legitimate ground for objecting to it. In fact, some will say the Bill does not go far enough. It only requires pain relief where, first, there are reasonable grounds for believing the pregnancy concerned may have reached or exceeded 20 weeks or, second, it is likely that pain could be caused to the foetus arising from termination of pregnancy. I wholeheartedly support this Bill because I recognise it seeks to achieve what seems achievable in the House on the issue of pain relief. Most of all, I support it because it is a positive and unimaginably important step for every unborn child who needs the protection of its providers.

Most of us will know the joy of seeing ultrasound pictures of a son, a daughter, a grandson or a granddaughter of 20 weeks or younger. Just as we cannot deny the humanity of that child, visible before our very eyes, equally we cannot deny how visible and clear is the humanity of another child when seen at the same stage. A 2016 review of the evidence concludes that from the 15th week of gestation onward, the foetus is extremely sensitive to pain stimuli and this fact should be taken into account when performing invasive medical procedures on the foetus.

In answering a parliamentary question I asked in October, the HSE confirmed that dilation and evacuation abortions are happening in Ireland. The gruesome details of those horrific procedures are too graphic to describe during this debate. The use of such procedures only further underlines the urgent need for pain relief.

Some in this House will say this matter should be left to the doctor to decide. They will see the flaws in this view if they consider it. If a doctor were about to perform a procedure intended to take such a Deputy's life without his or her consent, would he or she think the same doctor is well placed to decide whether to give pain relief? Does the Animal Health and Welfare Act leave it to veterinarians to decide whether to give pain relief to animals? It does not. The law does not stop at the hospital door. Doctors are subject to legal duties and prohibitions of many kinds. The past three years of complete failure to ensure pain relief to unborn children have shown that this cannot be left to the medical profession and must be addressed through statute. I call on Deputies to take this opportunity to address it now for every unborn child who desperately needs the protection of this Bill.


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