Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

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


11:32 am

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I start by taking a moment to acknowledge and commend those who shared their personal stories and experiences of late-term abortions. I understand that, for many, dedicating so much unnecessary time constantly rediscussing this topic can be incredibly triggering. In reality, that is what this discussion and this Bill are: completely and wholly unnecessary. The best argument for this comes from Deputy Nolan herself. When introducing this Bill, she stated that doctors administer pain relief as a matter of course. She knows well, as does the whole Rural Independent Group, that doctors will administer pain relief when required. They do not need to be legally obliged to do so. Any suggestion this is not the case is completely disingenuous and Deputy Nolan herself has confirmed this is the case.

Most instances of late-term abortions occur due to high-risk or emergency situations, so this Bill is attempting to address an issue that does not even exist. It is a made-up issue and a made-up Bill with the sole purpose to mislead the public. Let us call this what it is. This is nothing but an attempt to rally anger and cause outrage. I am not naive enough to think that the Rural Independent Group does know what it is doing by introducing this Bill. This Bill has nothing to do with good medical practice. This is a blatant attempt to create confusion and upset and nothing more. I emphasise that technically this Bill does nothing. The sole aim of the Bill is to confuse and to divide the public. It is malicious, disingenuous and a massive waste of time, to be frank.

The Rural Independent Group is against all abortion at any stage or by any means, and while that is fair enough, I refuse to indulge in this hidden agenda to obsess over what women do with their bodies, dressed up as a Bill. Some 66.4% of this country’s electorate voted to repeal the eighth amendment in 2018, yet this group is still forcing conversations about abortion care. It is clear what our citizens want, and we would do well to respect this vote rather than trying to undermine it at every given opportunity.

Instead of participating in this time-wasting exercise, I would instead like to use my time to address the important issue of the repeal review. When abortion legislation was passed three years ago, we were told that issues with this legislation would be addressed in the repeal review. Yet now the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, has stated the review would look at its operation but is not intended to examine policy on terminations. This review is important and we must use it as an opportunity to address problems with this legislation. It needs to be a wide-ranging review that is not just limited to the procedure itself. It should address with the current system and ensure people do not have to travel to get their rights.

The Abortion Rights Campaign has stated that participants found the mandatory three-day waiting period demeaning and induced undue stress and anxiety. The three-day waiting period must be removed. It places extra barriers in the way of women, and the delay is medically unnecessary. I also call for the review to ensure free, universal abortion care for everyone in Ireland, including those without a PPS number and those in Northern Ireland. I commend the MLAs in the North who rejected the DUP Bill to stop terminations for non-fatal disabilities yesterday. Such a Bill would have been a massive step backwards for this island. I urge the Irish electorate to support those fighting for abortion rights in the North. We must make sure abortion is free, safe and legal across the island of Ireland and that nobody is left behind on this.

I strongly criticise the Rural Independent Group for its intention to deceive the public and rally anger. I ask its members to put showmanship aside for once and use their time to address issues that actually exist rather than using every chance they get to induce a shouting match for media coverage.


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