Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 December 2018

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


5:40 pm

Photo of Colette KelleherColette Kelleher (Independent) | Oireachtas source

We have waited 35 long years for this day where legislators are no longer hamstrung by our Constitution and can make abortion legal and accessible to women here at home in Ireland. While there are things I would have liked to have included or left out of the law, it is certainly good enough for us to proceed.

In this historic moment, I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of women who have travelled and made those lonely journeys to England and of the women who slept on my floor in London, as I did what I could in a foreign country to help my fellow countrywomen who made making difficult choices and decisions. I am thinking about the Irish Women's Abortion Support Group, my friends Janet O'Sullivan and Kate Norris and all the others who did what they could to help Irish women. I am thinking of the work of Senator Bacik and the students' union and their bravery. I am thinking of the tireless campaigners like Ailbhe Smyth and Dr. Mary Favier and people who are not so prominent, like my friends Aileen, Moggy and Deirdre who never, ever gave up the fight for this to be real in Ireland.

I am thinking of the Irish Family Planning Association, IFPA, which provided contraception in 1980s Ireland to people like me and which trained us to teach sex education in schools, and provided books and materials. One of the titles I remember was, "Hair in Funny Places" which I bought for my children and they never thanked me for that. I would like to particularly commend the work of Alison Spillane and Maeve Taylor and the role the IFPA has played throughout.

Above all, I am thinking of my daughter and nieces, their friends and their generation who will now have freedom, their reproductive rights and choices respected safely and legally. I remember the march to repeal the eighth amendment in March 2017. I stood outside this House and watched wave upon wave of mostly young women call on legislators to provide for their reproductive rights in their own country. I was so inspired by their passion and determination. I began to dare to dream that we could repeal the eighth amendment and legislate for abortion care in Ireland. After 35 years of waiting, we could pass on a better Ireland to our daughters than the one in which I came of age.

I thank the Minister and all the officials. I thank my colleagues in the Civil Engagement group and all the Senators of like mind. This is not an easy place for Senators Mullen and Ó Domhnaill, but they will now feel some of what we felt for all those years when what we believed in was not heard or upheld.

It has been an honour and privilege. I never expected to be in this House but it is wonderful to have been part of this really important change. I thank everybody.


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