Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

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


11:42 am

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Members of the Dáil who contributed to the debate on this Private Members' Bill. The Minister and I recognise there are deeply held views on all sides of this Oireachtas on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 and we must respect them all. What Deputy Harkin said about the choice of language used on all sides is also very important.

The 2018 Act enables women who need it to have access to termination of pregnancy services in a safe manner in our own community, where possible, and to have this service free of charge. The legislation provides for termination to be carried out in cases where there is a risk of serious harm to the health of the pregnant woman, where there is a condition present which is likely to lead to the death of the foetus either before or within 28 days of birth, and without restriction up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Termination of pregnancy is a medical procedure. It involves a medical treatment. It is therefore best carried out by medical practitioners in a safe and regulated medical environment, which can ensure the best possible outcome for a woman's health.

The purpose of the legislation is not to regulate obstetric procedures which do not constitute termination of pregnancy, nor is it to dictate the practice of obstetrics or of medicine more generally. Medical practitioners are always required to maintain professional standards and to uphold medical ethics. They are bound through professional regulatory mechanisms to deliver medical services in accordance with the best medical practice. However, the detail of best medical practice is set out in clinical guidelines rather than in primary legislation. It is not appropriate to insert compulsory care pathways or treatment plans in legislation.

A review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 is under way. This review will assess if the termination of pregnancy services provided for in the legislation are being delivered and will identify any barriers or issues with the effectiveness of these services. Women who use the service, our health professionals who deliver the services, members of the public and members of stakeholder groups can input into the review and outline any concerns they have with the operation of the 2018 Act. The review will allow a detailed examination of the provisions of the Bill to be undertaken, receive expert evidence and make recommendations on the operation of the 2018 Act. When the review is concluded a report will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration. He plans to submit the final report on the review to the Government with a request it be referred to the Oireachtas for discussion.

Therefore, it is recommended by the Government to urge the House to decline to accept this Private Members' Bill to be read a Second Time and allow time for the review of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act to conclude.


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