Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018: Report and Final Stages


11:20 am

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I will be very brief. I know the Minister will be able to respond in greater detail regarding most of the issues. There are so many inaccuracies that I will not attempt to address all of them. One that is key is the fact that it was made clear that it was intended to be publicly funded. I saw a billboard attacking the Minister for that very proposal during the campaign. At the time, I remarked on it as being an extraordinarily negative billboard.

It was very much part of the scaremongering at the time that this was going to be a hugely profiteering industry. In fact, the exact intention of the provisions of section 25 of this Bill, which directly prohibits profit in this area, when taken with the universal access provisions, is to ensure this service is provided on the basis of need and no inappropriate incentive is attached to it for any company. It is very important that these services are publicly delivered. The many people who campaigned in favour of the repeal of the eighth amendment made it very clear that they were doing so on the basis that there would be free, safe and legal access to these services. I believe most people share those aspirations for all aspects of our health service. They believe it should be free, legal and safe. In light of the deep and cruel inequities in the American system, where people are having contraception removed from their cover, it is extraordinary to hear similar measures being proposed as some kind of alternative here. Such proposals are disrespectful to a country which has a national health service, and where people know the value of having a national health service which is a national health service.

I remind those who have spoken about the taxpayers of Ireland that it is clear from all surveys of Irish taxpayers that people want public services. They want a health service that is delivered publicly. I applaud this positive aspect of the Bill. We should not be challenging it in any way. In that context, I would like to note briefly that there is a rebranding attempt in section 12. It is not a matter of what is elective. Senator Mullen has used the word "elective" in respect of section 12, which relates to the period of early pregnancy when people access these services on the basis of need, for example following rape or incest. We are trusting the woman to know it is necessary. The committee found that it is neither possible nor feasible to determine rape or incest within the applicable time period, and therefore we are not seeking to provide for that. I remind those who are concerned about safety - again, the phrase "free, safe and legal" comes to mind - that this approach is being taken because these matters are time-sensitive. We do not want to move into a time period that might cause people to unnecessarily have procedures or surgical interventions that are less safe. An attempt has been made to add a layer of extraordinarily expensive, medically unnecessary and deeply distressing procedures to the proposed regime. This proposal is somewhat hypocritical because it would add not only to the cost involved, but also to the difficulty and distress of these procedures.


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