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Dáil Speech on ABC Expert Group Report Friday 7th December 2012

It is very important to note that the debate currently taking place in the House is solely about the Report of the Expert Group of the European High Court Ruling on the Judgement in the A, B, and C versus Ireland case. Bearing this in mind we must be cognisant of what is in our constitution regarding the rights of both mothers and their babies, the findings of our Supreme Court with the regard to the 1992 X Case and 2010 European High Court Judgement.

I would firstly like by stating that I don’t believe that there should be sides in this matter, I do not agree with the labels Pro Life and Pro Choice, and these sides certainly have no place in this House.

In the past couple of weeks once again Ireland has been gripped by an abortion debate. This was re-ignited after the tragic death of Savita Hallapanavar, the loss of this mother and child in such circumstances has touched the hearts of everyone in this country. As with every member of this House, I have been inundated with correspondence from the public outlining their views on this matter. What I have found though is that a lot of the issues being raised fall outside the remit of what this report is about and any action taken will in fact not impact on such situations.

I firmly believe that after over 20 years of inaction, that this Government needs to legislate on the Supreme Court Ruling. I believe that this legislation will not only protect our medical profession in their decision making, but also give mothers and indeed fathers certainty of their rights. I am aware that this is an extremely emotive issue but it is vital that it is debated in the calm and measured manner. I don’t think there is anyone here who wants to see abortion on demand in Ireland; this is not what the Irish people have voted on during three different referendums.

What we must be aware of is that by legislating for the X Case we are merely maintaining the status quo with regard to the availability of terminations for medical reasons, but it is necessary because it will provide legal footing for doctors. I also believe that regulations must be introduced along the current medical guidelines to further assist doctors.

From a personal perspective I would also like to see the terms of the Supreme Court ruling extended to the health of the mother and not just the risk to her life. The European High Court Ruling found in favour of C, where there was not necessarily a real and substantial risk to the life of the woman due to the pregnancy but found that her health could have been affected by the pregnancy due to the cancer treatment she was undergoing. I believe this is something worth considering.

Having listened to my constituents, members of the public and indeed other Deputies who have spoken in the House on this matter, the element of suicide appears to be one of serious concerns. I can understand how these concerns can arise, but I would like to remind the House of what my colleague, Deputy Dan Neville, stated here yesterday. He stated that the risk of suicide decreases during pregnancy and therefore this risk, although very real in the sense that it can occur in very rare cases, in reality is not likely to increase the number of terminations undertaken in this country for the reason of suicide. Furthermore, I have to agree with Dan Neville that we must put our faith and trust in our mental health psychiatric services and their ability to correctly diagnose a genuine suicidal case over someone who dishonestly claims to be suicidal in order to obtain a termination. The Expert Group Report sets out a number of options in this regard I tend to agree with their suggestions regarding two psychiatrist and one obstetrician assessing the woman before a decision on termination is made. This issue of suicide has been put the people on two different occasions in 1992 and again in 2002 and we must listen to their voices.

As legislators I believe we need to put our personal, moral beliefs aside and act as legislators by correcting this anomaly which has existed for the past 20 years.

ENDS