Seanad debates

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of Marie Louise O'DonnellMarie Louise O'Donnell (Independent) | Oireachtas source

Like Senator Norris, I thank the people on this momentous occasion. They are most sensitive and sensible when they have to be. They have decided to provide choice, protection and freedom to women. They have been outstanding. I also want to thank the Citizen's Assembly, the Minister and the team in the Department who handled the brief, which concerned life and the end of life, brilliantly. I thank colleagues across the Houses, in particular Senator Bacik, and the brilliant, almost saint-like, Christ-like Savita Halappanavar.

I also thank other countries, especially England, which I believe saved women. Women were tortured. I lived through all of this. Indeed I have a young son, born in the 1980s, so I know the pain, trouble and torture of this. Without places like England and other places further afield, many women might have ended up in the river. In those places they received some solace and some peace. It was tortuous, and the journey must have been awful, but they were still able to find somewhere to go, someone to listen to them and someone to give them back their lives. They were allowed to make a decision for themselves there.

I am bit disappointed with the Bill. The Minister spoke about women's health, which is something we need to discuss. There are regularly negative reports in the paper about maternity services in Ireland, especially concerning the new maternity hospital and Holles Street. The problem lies not just with this Bill. I am sorry that there is no general section on women's health. We also constantly forget that sex education has an awful lot to do with young men. We keep talking about women and sex education and women's bodies. It is not possible to be impregnated without young men unless one is travelling at warp speed. Sex education should generally begin with young men, and that aspect has been left out.

Sections of the Bill are highly problematic. Section 23, which concerns criminality and a potential penalty of 14 years, is highly problematic. I do not understand how the Lower House let this through or what happened in the argument on that section. I will have to read the Official Report. I do not like it. We will tease it out ourselves. I also believe that section 10, which concerns the risk of serious harm to the health of the woman involved, is problematic. Is this to be the only ground most women will be able to attempt to use if they miss the 12 week deadline? What is that about? I do not like it; it is very narrow and might criminalise doctors and push them to use it as rarely as possible. It needs to be teased out.

Generally speaking, however, I am delighted with it. It is a real privilege to be here. Like Senator Bacik, I was here in 2012 and had to listen to oral pornography-----


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