Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 December 2018

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


1:35 pm

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 14, between lines 22 and 23, to insert the following:“(d) any information required to be included in the notification under section 14(4);”.

This amendment does not have to do with parental notification but with notifications. We are left with amendments that are consequential on an amendment that was pressed on Committee Stage but which has not been included for discussion here today. Therefore, I wish to reiterate first of all that what was sought on Committee Stage was something very reasonable, something that is essential for good health policy formulation, namely, information. The phrase "knowledge is power" is familiar to most of us. "Power" is a harsh word to use when one is talking about the welfare of women and their unborn children. Knowledge is competence. Knowledge is foresight. Knowledge is good planning. Knowledge is good citizenship. Knowledge is good patient welfare.

We argued, as colleagues may recall, that the information which must be gathered under section 20 is paltry. It refers to the Medical Council registration number, which is important, but far from exhaustive of what is necessary: the section of the legislation under which the deliberate and intentional ending of the life of the foetus takes place; the county of residence, which I do not find to be of particular relevance or importance, though I am open to being found mistaken; and the date on which the termination of pregnancy is carried out.

None of the other data which are required under the British abortion regime is included. We demonstrated briefly the other night just why some of that data could be very relevant. For example, an issue was made about the inclusion of the ethnicity of the woman. The attempt has been made to suggest that somehow there was racist intent. That did not happen so much in the Seanad as the Dáil. It was actually the equality people in Britain who sought the gathering of that data so as to ensure that women from different minority groups were able to access abortion at the same level as others.

There are all sorts of other reasons. One does not have to be able to foresee exactly why specific data could be helpful for health policy and legislative formulation. It should be enough to follow normal practice in this area, which is to gather information that researchers, medical experts and statisticians will need. I have pointed out that I believe, regretfully, that the deliberate exclusion, the deliberate opting for ignorance that characterises the Government's failure to include the categories of information that are sought in Britain, is ideologically motivated. The fear that underlines it is that if people knew more about what goes on with abortion they might be less likely to support it. That is to put the welfare of unborn children and the welfare of mothers in this situation beneath the ideological push of the abortion industry and abortion activists in priority. This industry has come to the heart of Government in this country. That is very irresponsible. It is very unjust. It is in breach of human rights. It is an abandonment of responsible policy formulation.

I greatly regret that the Government has not accepted it to date, but I foresee a time in the future when legislation will be brought forward to require the gathering of information of the same kind that is gathered in Britain. The Minister is bringing about a situation where his worst fears do not have to be realised. He was never willing to talk about whether abortion rates would go up as a result of the introduction of abortion in this country. The cat was never let out of the bag even though the figures were there. Between 4,000 and 5,000 Irish women travel for abortions every year. Scotland, with a similar population, has at least 11,000 abortions every year. There was no talk though, no willingness to explore the consequence of legalising abortion; future lives lost, for which the Minister will be very directly responsible and which would not have been lost otherwise. That also applies to his colleagues and all of those who worked with him to push for this unjust law.

Of course, one way to avoid publicly taking responsibility is to say that we do not have the information. In fairness, the information about how many abortions take place will be available. I have to correct myself on that and I willingly do so. However, we will not be able to look at how our situation has evolved by comparison with Britain, because a strategic and very cynical option of ignorance has been taken. In light of that, I foresee a day when legislation will seek to re-establish British-style gathering of statistics, no more and no less.

It is interesting the Government did not even do this much. Perhaps I should have tabled a more conservative amendment to this effect, although it would have been rejected anyway. Even if there were a category (e) to include such other information as the Minister may from time to time prescribe, it would have been a better and more responsible policy choice. It is a hell of a wonder with all of the people working with the Minister on bringing abortion into Ireland that there was not even that open-ended possibility of the identification of future categories of information that could responsibly and reasonably need to be gathered. That is very disappointing and an example of bad policy formulation in the name of ideology. It makes no sense, therefore, for me to press the consequential amendment No. 24.

I intend to press amendment No. 25 because this creates consequences for those who would certify the operation but not notify the appropriate information as is their duty. It would be easier to see why such offences need to be created for the full range of necessary and responsible categories of information to be provided for, as per the amendment proposed on Committee Stage. It remains the case, however, that it should be an offence not to notify information on foot of something as life-changing and destructive as abortion.


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