Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Debate

First Page Previous Page Page of 2 Next Page Last Page

The Joint Committee met at 13:40

MEMBERS PRESENT:

Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne Deputy James Browne, Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Senator Jerry Buttimer,
Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers Deputy Lisa Chambers, Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Senator Paul Gavan,
Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Deputy Ruth Coppinger, Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Senator Rónán Mullen,
Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Deputy Clare Daly, Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Senator Lynn Ruane.
Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Deputy Bernard J. Durkan,  
Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick,  
Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Deputy Billy Kelleher,  
Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Deputy Mattie McGrath,  
Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Deputy Catherine Murphy,  
Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Deputy Hildegarde Naughton,  
Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Deputy Jonathan O'Brien,  
Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell Deputy Kate O'Connell,  
Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly Deputy Louise O'Reilly,  
Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Deputy Jan O'Sullivan,  
Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte Deputy Anne Rabbitte,  


Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone SENATOR CATHERINE NOONE IN THE CHAIR.

  The joint committee met in private session until 14.05 p.m.

Business of Joint Committee

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I welcome viewers who may be watching our proceedings on Oireachtas television to this meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

I wish to raise a number of issues about the workings of this committee, in particular a couple of difficulties that have become apparent as we have gone through our public sessions. I want this to be a committee at which everybody feels they can say what they wish to say without feeling any sense of nervousness or other feelings to witnesses or otherwise. It is quite reasonable for members of this committee to leave the room for a variety of reasons. It has already been indicated in private session that a couple of members must speak in the Dáil presently and there is no doubt certain members will have to speak in the Seanad on occasion. People must leave the room for a variety of reasons. The nature of our business in politics ensures that there is a very busy environment in Leinster House. The message must go out that this is a very important committee that has a very high attendance rate by members and it does happen, on occasion, that people need to leave for a variety of reasons. I just wanted to put that on the record.

If members have concerns, it is better to indicate. If a member has a concern about something another member has said please indicate and I will come to that person at the appropriate time. I do not want members interrupted, which is really important to note. Everybody has a certain amount of time with the witnesses. It is very important that we respect that space for the individual member within the confines of the rules of the Houses of the Oireachtas. When somebody has the floor I want everybody to respect that in so far as is possible. If members have concerns I would appreciate if they could be raised in the committee. If there is an issue that they do not wish to raise in the committee, publicly, I can be approached at any time for a chat if there is something a member wants to discuss.

On the matter of witnesses who present here, witnesses need to be respected. They are professional individuals. They are well used to taking strident cross-examination and questions in circumstances like this one. I have no difficulty with witnesses being asked questions. It is difficult to control the time and there is an issue with regard to the amount of time for members. We have reached agreement in terms of how we will conduct ourselves timewise. Again, if people have issues in that regard please highlight them to me. I am doing my best as Chair to be fair to everybody and that is all I can do.

With regard to a perceived bias in terms of this committee, concerns have been raised again, mainly outside of this room, regarding the witness schedule. The committee itself decided who should attend. I, as Chair, do not choose which witnesses come before this committee. It continues to be the case that any member who believes that any other person or institution should be represented at this committee should make that known to me. Travel by an individual is justified in terms of the method that we agreed at the outset of this committee. Any concerns about specific witnesses should be raised ideally with me and not with the media so that I can be put on notice of any issues that members have. I refer in particular to the Centre for Reproductive Rights where issues have been expressed about fundraising and issues in the media. Again, I am seeking to address this matter and will come back to the committee.

At the outset I just wanted to be really clear on a few issues. Our witnesses are present and some of them have travelled. We are very grateful to them for their attendance. I want to move on in that regard, subject to Deputy Mattie McGrath making a comment. I want to give him an opportunity to address an issue that he has raised, and wants to raise in public, that follows on from last week. The Deputy has the floor.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I do not mind waiting until our guests have finished but I want to comment in public session.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I can take it now.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath All right.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I anticipate that it will only take the Deputy a couple of minutes to clarify his position.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I wrote to the Chairman and thank her for the opportunity to speak.

  I want the Chair to note that I absolutely reject the allegations made against me by Senator Jerry Buttimer in my absence last week, he accused me of glibly quoting what he described as reports from Duke University and suggested that I was doing so in a manner that was dishonest.

  I want to put it on record that the research I referred to was performed at one of the premier universities in America and in the world. It was published in a respected peer reviewed medical journal entitled Prenatal Diagnosis. If Deputy Buttimer and his consultants had more carefully reviewed this study they would have noted that the authors recruited the majority of participants from a pre-existing study database, the Hereditary Basis of Neural Tube Defects study conducted at Duke University Medical Center and only approximately one third of the participants originated from social media. Objective reporting on the study would recognise that the authors reported a possible bias based on the recruitment source; they recognised that there was a difference in severity of symptoms in the two groups, and recognising this potential influence on results, made source of referral a covariate in the analysis to limit the source impact.

  Cope et al. is a comparative study of women and their outcomes after terminating or carrying a child with anencephaly to term. It is not, as some might believe after listening to Senator Buttimer and Professor Fergal Malone, simply a report from women recruited from social media who carried a child to term with anencephaly. This study offers important insights into outcomes for women after termination of pregnancy following a diagnosis of anencephaly in contrast with outcomes where the pregnancy was continued. To dismiss this study is scientifically unreasonable but it might be understandable if there were significant data to suggest that termination of the life of an infant with anencephaly had no impact on mothers or improved the medical health of mothers later in life. The fact is there is no such study and all we are left with is the unsupported opinions of those who are committed to the expansion of abortion services. It is dismaying to see anyone being dismissive of research that identifies poor mental health outcomes for women related to abortion after a diagnosis of anencephaly simply because they do not suit a pro-abortion narrative.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Deputy. Senator Buttimer has indicated. I am not going to open this up to a debate by the whole committee.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer That is fine. Can I make a brief comment?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I am glad that Deputy McGrath has promoted me to the position of Deputy, with which I am very happy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Apologies.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer It is a pity that he did not do his homework properly.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I do my homework properly always. We are going to have more people marched out here and there will be a reasonable debate.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Professor Malone, in his remarks last week, who is an eminent qualified person, answered the charges levelled in the paper put forward. I did not accuse Deputy McGrath of any dishonesty and he can check the record of the committee.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Never?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer The Deputy can check the record of the committee and he will find that I never used the word "dishonest".

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Never?

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I did not do so. The Deputy can present that to me if he so wishes.

I respect the right of any member to have a view on this committee. I chaired the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children for five years impartially and fairly and I have acted in the same way on this committee. If the Deputy wants to engage in any further personal attacks then he can do so at his peril because it is only an attention-grabbing headline by him. I welcome the Deputy back to the committee.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Sorry, we are leaving it at that now.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath No, I object. The Chairman opened the committee by saying that people would have to leave. First, I am sorry for elevating Senator Buttimer. That was an omission on my part and I correct the record any time I am wrong. We have checked the records and the words that were used. We have checked the blacks.

I had to leave this committee. I was asked by the clerk and the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Union Affairs, of which I am a member, to leave here and attend for a quorum. That happens all of the time.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have already addressed that issue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes, Senator Buttimer has, again glibly, welcomed me back to the committee. I must also leave to speak in the Dáil on European affairs and I have tabled amendments on other issues. Are we going to have this continual Tweeting if we leave the room? It is ridiculous and it does not happen at any other committee.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I ask the Chair-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was actually referring-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Sorry, listen.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was referring, if I may, to Deputy McGrath last week, who said that he would leave the committee, being outside the gate when we were all in here.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I never leave, as a habit.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I was not referring to that at all, Deputy McGrath.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me, members. I have allowed a few minutes to clarify an issue for Deputy McGrath.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am grateful for that.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We have witnesses present. I was simply making the point that we need to be more professional in our approach-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone -----and I hope that members will work with me on that.

Before I introduce our witnesses-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Can the witnesses be allowed to sit over there and the members of the committee sit down here? I ask because I think there has been some interaction between people sitting there and the witnesses. Such a seating arrangement would be better for the witnesses.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I did not notice anything.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The members can sit wherever they like.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I sat here last week and I did not interact with anyone other than when one of the guests offered me water.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Unless it is a major issue I propose that we just continue. I am not going to move members unless they wish to do so. I note the point made by Deputy Coppinger. Ideally, perhaps members would sit-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath One cannot sit with one's back to them.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There is an argument for not sitting with one's back to witnesses.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I have to-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am not getting into that now. People are sitting where they are sitting for today.

Risks to Health, Including Physical Health, of Pregnant Women: Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, Dr. Peter Boylan and Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Before I introduce our witnesses today, at the request of the broadcasting and recording services, members and visitors in the Public Gallery are requested to ensure that their phones are turned off completely or at least put on airplane mode for the duration of this meeting. I want to reiterate the fact that it causes severe interference. If RTE or other broadcasters try to show clips, devices really impair the quality of the material. I ask everyone to please co-operate on that matter.

  It is very warm in this committee room of which our guests in the Gallery will be aware. I have complained about the heat and I have been told that the OPW has been called to sort out the issue. We will have to arrange to change rooms if this situation continues because we will probably meet here for six or seven hours. It is very difficult to concentrate on proceedings when one is as warm as we are at the moment.

  I would like to extend, on behalf of the committee, a warm welcome to our witnesses - warm being the operative word - for this afternoon's meeting. I welcome Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, President-Elect of the International Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and author of the report on the death of Savita Hallappanvar. I also welcome Dr. Peter Boylan, Chair, Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneain, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Mayo University Hospital, Castlebar, County Mayo. I do not know if she is a Mayo woman but she is in the right county. All of the witnesses are very welcome to this afternoon's meeting.

  Before we commence formal proceedings, and at the risk of boring some members, I must go through the formalities. I wish to advise the witnesses about privilege. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

  Members are reminded of the long-standing ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

  I invite Professor Arulkumaran to make his presentation.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I wish to express, to Senator Noone and respected members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, my sincere thanks for providing me the opportunity to give evidence on the important issue of reviewing the eighth amendment of the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland.

The issue is linked to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, the subject on which I have worked for decades as a women's health physician and in my capacity as past president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Medical Association and of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

For today, I was specifically asked to focus on the particular concern to the committee which is the issue of the risk to the health of the mother including her physical health, which the Citizens' Assembly refers to in its recommendations 3, 5, 6 and 8.    Please permit me to start with some general remarks that will be followed by my answers to the specific issues.

First, I congratulate and praise the maternity care in the Republic of Ireland that has had a very low maternal mortality ratio for years and is ranked sixth in the whole world, as shown in a graph that I have included in my presentation to the committee.  Details of these few deaths are always analysed by the Irish obstetricians. A confidential inquiry into maternal deaths in Ireland indicates nearly half are due to indirect deaths, not related to pregnancy but due to cardiac and psychiatric conditions and so forth. This is of some relevance to the issue under discussion. The detailed report on the confidential inquiries is included and referenced in my statement.

I greatly appreciate the first report and recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on the eighth amendment of the Constitution, published on 29 June 2017. I commend the Citizens' Assembly on its work. The report is an impressive achievement by people who are not health care specialists or experts, but spent five weekends considering the issues. The members of the Citizens' Assembly voted on their recommendations for access to abortion for certain medical and other conditions. Members are, of course, familiar with the results of the ballots and these can be viewed in the report.

I would like members to consider the opposite side of the coin and if the same questions were asked such as: "Would you send the women who procured abortion for these reasons to prison?" A research project in Brazil led by the eminent obstetrician and gynaecologist, Professor Anibal Faundes, surveyed 1,660 civil servants and 874 medical students. They were asked two different questions: first, under what circumstances should abortion be allowed under law; and, second, if they agreed that women who had abortions outside the law should be imprisoned. The research concluded that Brazilians have different views on when abortion should be legal, but most do not agree with imprisoning women for abortion. Hence I urge parliamentarians, the newspapers and the public to take that into consideration and ask the question as to whether they would wish to imprison women who procure abortion. A law that allows abortion for only certain minimum grounds mandates the imprisonment of women who have abortions under all other grounds. I think members would find that this is not what the public wants, neither in law nor in practice.

I shall now give my views on the specific health issues that were raised in the Citizens' Assembly report and other health issues that were not raised but are of relevance to the eighth amendment of the Constitution. First, abortion is life saving in certain health conditions, for example, a mother with chorioamnionitis and severe sepsis, pre-existing severe heart disease, and poor mental health and a threat to commit suicide. There are examples of such incidents from the Republic of Ireland. Deaths from these conditions occur due to the difficulty in assessing that the seriousness of the condition meets the legal criteria of "real and substantial risk" that can only be averted by ending the pregnancy, and the fear of legal punishment that prevents a doctor from taking a firm and early decision.

Abortion in certain health conditions will avoid deterioration of health, for example, cardiac, renal, and neurological conditions. We could formulate a list of conditions but we will not be able to cover all the different conditions and combinations of conditions that we encounter as clinicians. Each mother needs to be individually assessed as to whether the condition is serious enough to terminate a pregnancy. Such lists are used in certain countries where restrictive abortion laws operate. However, mothers slip through the net and end up with worse organ damage. A list of the medical conditions that are considered serious enough to terminate a pregnancy in Peru include hyperemesis gravidarum refractory to treatment with severe hepatic and-or renal impairment; malignant neoplasm requiring surgical treatment, radiotherapy and-or chemotherapy; functional class III or IV cardiac failure; severe chronic arterial hypertension and evidence of organ damage; systemic lupus erythematosus with severe renal damage refractory to treatment; advanced diabetes mellitus with vital organ damage; and severe respiratory failure demonstrated by certain parameters. The Peruvian document is included in the references.

The errors due to conservative management of continuation of pregnancy compromise the mother's health with further deterioration of organ function that leads to shorter life span and at times death. Such incidents are greater in the countries with restrictive abortion laws and are due to fears by the doctors of facing legal action. An article showing an example of such deterioration involving a cardiac condition is included in the references.

Abortion under optimal conditions has less maternal mortality in developed countries compared with continuation of pregnancy. It is 0.7 per 100,0000 with safe abortion care compared with ten per 100,0000 with continuation of pregnancy. These are due to life threatening complications such as thromboembolism, hypertensive disease, postpartum haemorrhage, amniotic fluid embolism, and so forth as referenced in WHO document.

In the United Kingdom, approximately 190,000 abortions are carried out each year and there were only two recorded maternal deaths in the five years from 2012 to 2016. The statistics of UK abortions are referenced. The clear majority of abortions were done under clause C, that is, that "the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risks greater than if the pregnancy were terminated" of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman mainly on grounds of further deterioration of mental health.

Abortion is not associated with physical or mental health hazards to the mother and it has no impact on future pregnancies. This has been made clear by the statement of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and is included in appendix 1.

Abortion should be permitted for lethal foetal malformation and severe congenital malformation that may have a major impact on life. This is also the position of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist and is included in appendix 2.

Safe abortion care should be consider as a public health and human rights issue. Despite good contraceptive coverage, about 10% of women get pregnant and seek abortion. In countries where abortion is legalised, the total abortion rates and maternal mortality have declined due to safe post-abortion care and post-abortion contraception.

Making abortion illegal has not stopped illegal abortion for centuries and in different countries. It increases maternal mortality, and this is referenced. About 4,800 women in Ireland have their abortions done in the United Kingdom. These are the reduced figures as the numbers have reduced by 20% in the past year or so due to availability of medication by post for self-procuring abortion. These have their own complications.

Abortion is a sexual and reproductive rights issue and the decision should be made by individual women after adequate information is given. If abortion is not made legal, it will promote illegal abortion. Those women with influence and financial resources will get it performed in a safe environment. Those who are poor with less influence will resort to unsafe abortions. This would be a social injustice.

I shall conclude with a few extracts from some of the world bodies. The WHO states that "abortions and the high maternal and child mortality rates constitute a serious public health problem in many countries". It continues:

Criminal laws penalising and restricting induced abortion are the paradigmatic examples of impermissible barriers to the realisation of women's right to health and must be eliminated. These laws infringe women's dignity and autonomy by severely restricting decision-making by women in respect of their sexual and reproductive health.

The report of the UN special rapporteur on the right to health to the UN General Assembly in 2011 stated: "Certain criminal laws effectively shift the burden of realising the right to health away from States onto pregnant women, punishing women for the lack of effective provision of health-care goods, services and education by the Government."

  Ireland can and should provide first class sexual and reproductive health based on rights and public health perspectives. There are minimal ill effects to health with a well-informed safe abortion. This is from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, appendix 4. Health advantages of avoiding or not having unwanted pregnancy need to be considered in addition to specific socio-cultural issues faced by the women.

  The excellent maternal mortality rates in Ireland as number six in the world may become 20th or 40th in the world if legal access to abortion is denied to the 4,800 women who may not be able to go to the United Kingdom, but may procure illegal abortions. At any cost, we must avoid having illegal abortion. I thank the Chairman and members for considering my submission statement.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank Professor Arulkumaran for his opening statement. I call Dr. Boylan.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I thank the Chairman, Senator Noone, and members of the committee for the invitation to appear here today. My opening statement is a summary of the longer position paper, which I also supplied to the committee. The content of this statement is rooted in over four decades of the practising of obstetrics, caring for women in Ireland, London and the United States.  I hope to assist the committee in its deliberations.

I am currently chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland. I was master of the National Maternity Hospital from 1991 to 1997 and clinical director from 2008-2014. In 2012-13, I served as a member of the committee of independent experts which advised the Government on the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in respect of the X case. The outcome was the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013. In 2013 I was the independent expert witness for the coroner in the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar. In 2014 I was an expert witness for the family in the case of Miss P vHSE in the High Court.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland has not been asked to provide a position paper. However, in preparation for this hearing, I canvassed the opinions of members and have incorporated feedback received into this statement.

When put to the vote, the majority of the Citizens’ Assembly voted against maintaining the status quoof the eighth amendment. By a substantial majority the assembly voted in favour of legalising termination when a woman’s life or health is at risk, when pregnancy follows rape, in cases of foetal abnormality, for socioeconomic reasons, or without restriction.

The assembly also made five ancillary recommendations, including those relating to improvements in sexual health and relationship education; access to early scanning and testing in pregnancy; counselling services; and that consideration should be given to who will fund and carry out terminations. I support the ancillary recommendations without reservation. On the fifth ancillary recommendation, it is my opinion that if termination is legalised it should be funded by the State, rather than delegated to private agencies. All terminations should be medically supervised. Medical personnel with a conscientious objection should be excused from involvement.

Article 40.3.3° gives rise to significant difficulties for doctors practising in Ireland and has caused grave harm to women, including death. The two outstanding examples of which I have direct personal experience are the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 and the case of Miss P in December 2014. These are only two examples of cases where doctors in Ireland continue to be put in the inappropriate position of having to interpret the Constitution in the course of caring for sick women. Medical personnel have no difficulties in obeying clear legislation and medical regulations, but we are not trained for the complexities of constitutional interpretation, nor should we reasonably be expected to be.

The eighth amendment has given rise to legal cases including the X case; the C case; A, B and C; D vIreland; the Miss D case; A, B, and C vIreland; Miss Y; Mellet vIreland; and Whelan vIreland. These are the difficult and painful cases of Irish women and girls who have had to resort to stressful legal processes in the absence of comprehensive legislation on abortion. If the eighth amendment is not repealed, this list will continue to grow and Ireland will continue to be censured by international bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations.

Currently, termination of pregnancy on grounds other than risk to the life of the woman is subject to criminal prosecution with the penalty of imprisonment for up to 14 years for women and their doctors, while simultaneously the 13th amendment provides constitutional protection for women to travel to obtain a termination outside the State and the 14th amendment protects the right to access information necessary to achieve this. This is profoundly hypocritical. Our Constitution enshrines a woman’s right to commit an act which is a criminal offence in her own country, as long as it is committed outside the State. By any yardstick this is a bizarre situation. Testimony from numerous Irish women demonstrates the pain and stress they have undergone and continue to experience as a result of Ireland’s ongoing failure to legislate comprehensively. Members of the committee should not underestimate the anger felt by women who have to travel abroad for termination of pregnancy.

In my longer position paper, I have included an analysis of EU legislation. Some 99% of women in the EU live in countries where their legislatures have grasped the nettle of legislating for termination of pregnancy. No doubt many other EU countries have had difficulties with the subject, given their own religious, political and social histories, but their legislators have had the will to deal with the issue. The Irish position remains deeply anomalous and obviously politically contentious. In the matter of women’s reproductive health, we remain outliers in a tiny minority in Europe.

Legal provision in the EU for termination of pregnancy is as follows. In the case of risk to the life of the mother it is provided for in all countries except Malta. In the case of risk to the health of the mother it is provided for in all countries except Malta and Ireland. Termination for pregnancy as a consequence of rape is available in all countries except Malta and Ireland. Termination in the case of foetal abnormality is available in all countries except Malta and Ireland. Termination for medical reasons beyond 12 weeks, which varies by country, is available in all countries except Malta, Ireland and Poland to a varying degree.

I suggest that in 2017 the eighth amendment is unworkable. When it was enacted 34 years ago, neither the worldwide web nor the abortion pill had been invented. The committee heard evidence last week that the rate of women accessing the abortion pill from online service providers is increasing. In reality, there are many services that facilitate people living here with a means of securing delivery to a designated address, which means they access items such as abortion pills. While importation of these pills into Ireland is illegal, in another bizarre twist which mirrors the contortions of the Constitution, An Post offers customers a virtual UK address to use as their shipping address via the addresspal.ieservice.

The genie is therefore out of the bottle in respect of online access to the abortion pill. The grave concern that we, doctors, have as a consequence of this reality is the potential for harm caused by the use of unregulated medication by Irish women and girls. I believe it is a matter of priority for the Oireachtas to address the reality of this situation.

The Citizens’ Assembly vote clearly recommends that the Oireachtas deal with the question of termination by legislation rather than through the Constitution. I entirely concur with this conclusion, but I would add that legislation needs to be supported by regulation with regard to clinics and hospitals, and by the Medical Council and An Bord Altranais.

The question of viability needs to be addressed in the practical implementation of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. In Ireland, viability is currently considered to occur at approximately 24 weeks' gestation. When obstetricians deliver a baby at the margins of viability, it is standard practice in this country to have a full neonatal team present at the birth to make an immediate assessment about viability and institute intensive care in every case where appropriate. I cannot envisage a scenario whereby any doctor in Ireland would support any proposal that termination of pregnancy would be contemplated beyond 23 weeks. I hope this is reassuring to the committee in respect of the uninformed discussion that regrettably occurs in respect of so-called "late-term abortion".

Medical termination is performed by the administration of two medications. Mifepristone blocks the action of progesterone, a hormone necessary to support pregnancy before the placenta develops and misoprostol makes the uterus contract. Taken in combination two or three days apart, these tablets have a success rate greater than 90% if taken in the first trimester, preferably before ten weeks. The first tablet is taken in a clinic or doctor's surgery and the second is taken at home. The woman then experiences symptoms the same as a miscarriage. The rate of side effects is extremely low.

For pregnancies of later gestation the procedure needs to take place in the hospital setting and will require more medication over a longer period of time. If the Oireachtas legislates to allow termination, it is likely that later terminations will only be legalised for reasons other than socioeconomic or without restriction. Surgical termination is where the contents of the uterus are removed either by suction or curettage following dilatation of the cervix.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 deals with the question of termination of pregnancy in circumstances where there is a threat to the life of the mother, including by suicide. In the years in which it has been in force there have been approximately 25 terminations each year. A major difficulty with this Act is that it is entirely the responsibility of doctors to determine how close to death, or how sick, a woman must be before legal termination can be performed. The woman herself has no input into the decision, other than the option of refusing termination and placing her life at risk. Doctors are subject to criminal prosecution if it can be established that they acted in bad faith in recommending a termination, even if the woman herself is happy with the decision.

Serious risk to the physical or mental health of the woman overlaps with threat to the life of the mother in so far as a risk to health may develop into a risk to life. Under current legislation doctors have to make judgment calls as to when a risk to health becomes a risk to life. If the judgment is wrong, either the mother will die or the doctor will be guilty of committing a criminal offence.

Risk to the health of the mother, either physical or mental, raises the important question of how different people deal with risk. Some women, perhaps those expecting a much longed-for first baby, are willing to accept any risk in order to have a baby, while for others, perhaps those with small children at home, the deterioration in their health represents an unacceptable risk. In these complex circumstances, a decision to terminate is best left to the woman and her doctor.

Pregnancy as a result of rape could be dealt with in a straightforward way by legislating for the legal prescription of the abortion pill which I have previously described. Pregnancy tests are now so sensitive that they are positive just before a missed period and so the pills would be 99% successful if taken within the first eight weeks.  There is no diagnostic test to confirm rape, so I strongly recommend that a woman who has undergone the trauma of rape should not be forced to "prove" rape if she chooses to terminate a resulting pregnancy. Women should be taken at their word - hardly a revolutionary concept.

Foetal abnormality likely to result in death either before or soon after birth of the baby was covered in detail in evidence last week from the masters of the Rotunda and the National Maternity Hospital. They both outlined the clinical risks associated with current legislation. For those who continue with the pregnancy, hospice care for the newborn with little or no chance of survival outside the womb has, in my experience, been a long-standing practice in this country in our hospitals. It is simply incorrect to state that this care is not available. I have considerable personal experience of couples that have had the misfortune of receiving diagnoses of foetal abnormalities. In some cases, the parents have chosen to continue with the pregnancy and have been much comforted by having some time, however brief, with their baby. In other cases, couples have been unable to continue with the pregnancy and have travelled abroad for termination. However, what is not so well understood is that some couples experience a diagnosis of foetal abnormality on subsequent pregnancies - in other words, twice or more. My experience has been that in the vast majority of these sad cases, on the second or subsequent occasions the couples choose termination, even if they had elected to continue with the pregnancy on the first occasion. I also have experience of couples who, prior to screening for an abnormality, declare confidently that they would not seek termination in the event of a serious abnormality being diagnosed, only to change their minds when confronted with the reality of serious foetal abnormality. I think most people in Ireland would sympathise with this.

Significant foetal abnormality unlikely to result in death before or shortly after birth raises more difficult questions. In particular, how can we define "significant" abnormality? Antenatal diagnosis, including ultrasound, genetic testing and magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, is now much more sophisticated than in the past. When the eighth amendment was enacted, this level of diagnostic capability was not available. The "significance" of the abnormality may depend on the extent of the disability and-or parents' ability to cope with the consequences. In some conditions, particularly genetic ones, there is a wide spectrum of severity. Parents, in consultation with their doctor, are the people best able to make decisions in their individual circumstances. Diagnosis of genetic abnormalities can now be made before 12 weeks' gestation by a blood test, confirmed by either amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling.

I now come to termination for socio-economic reasons, or without restriction. As I have said, throughout the European Union, 99% of women have access to termination of pregnancy without restriction up to ten weeks of pregnancy. The remaining 1% are those women who live in either Ireland or Malta. Of course, the majority of these women live in Ireland. The method used in these cases is medication, which, as we know, is increasingly used by women in Ireland. Of the citizens who voted for termination without restriction, 92% voted to limit gestation to 12 weeks.

It is well documented that in countries where abortion is banned, the rate of women dying remains high. Approximately 70,000 women die each year from complications relating to unsafe abortion. The committee heard testimony last week from Dr. Abigail Aiken that Irish women today are attempting self-abortion with potentially fatal consequences. It is equally well documented that countries with liberal laws and easy access to contraception have lower rates of abortion than those with restrictive laws. Women in Ireland with financial resources have access to termination of pregnancy, primarily in the UK. However, women who are poor, in the care of the State or refugees, for example, do not have such access. The thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution are of no assistance to these women. Without access to abortion in the UK, it is inevitable that Ireland would have an epidemic of illegal abortions and a massive increase in maternal mortality. If Ireland were to enact legislation in line with EU consensus, including termination without restriction up to ten weeks, our law would be among the most conservative in Europe but would deal with the vast majority of circumstances in which women currently access services outside the State. I believe that the forthcoming referendum on the eighth amendment should put a simple binary question to the electorate for or against repeal. Legislation is the responsibility of the Oireachtas, not the people. On repeal of the eighth amendment, Irish law on termination of pregnancy would continue to be governed by the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act and there would be no legislative vacuum pending further legislation. In the meantime, women in Ireland will continue to access services in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, or access abortion pills illegally.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank Dr. Boylan for his opening statement. Finally, I call on Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin to make her presentation.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: On behalf of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation to present. I am a practising consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Mayo University Hospital, Castlebar. I am national speciality director for basic speciality postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology in the institute. I am dean of medical education at Mayo Medical Academy, Castlebar, a teaching academy of the School of Medicine, NUI Galway. My clinical and teaching practice encompasses general obstetrics and gynaecology in the rural, non-tertiary setting in Ireland and an interest in global maternal-reproductive health and development.

As requested in the invitation to today's proceedings, the comments I will make refer to the issues that may arise if the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on the eighth amendment are adopted in part or in whole by Irish society. My status is as a witness from a professional body whose membership replicates the diverse views of Irish society. The institute does not have, nor should it purport to have, a common stance. These comments are my opinions, except where otherwise noted, informed by the views of members who wished to contribute and wished to be clear about the status of the presenters today. The complex and often conflicting elements that inform discussions on termination of pregnancy cannot be disaggregated, although they need to be studied as separate entities for the sequential programme of work that this committee is undertaking with diligence. The work of this committee on the matter of the eighth amendment requires consideration of the guiding principles of ethics and human rights balanced by the right to national and individual self-determination.

Globally, maternal-reproductive health outcomes are one measure of effective civil society and government partnership. In high-income settings, sub-national adverse outcomes are often concealed if the metrics used are the rare frequency of mortality over the common frequency of physical and psychological morbidity. Globally, restrictive termination of pregnancy legislation contributes to maternal mortality and significant morbidity disproportionately in vulnerable women and girls, as supported by the witnesses from the World Health Organization, WHO, last week and today's witnesses. While I speak as a health professional in active clinical practice, I wish to re-emphasise the inter-sectoral and social determinants on quality reproductive health outcome as included in the first two ancillary recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. Outside the scope of today's meeting, Members of the Oireachtas may consider their ability to influence the wider development of reproductive health care when deliberating over connected interventions that are delivered in the sectors of education, social welfare, youth development and finance.

If the introduction of a woman and girl centred safe termination service is the desire of the Irish electorate, it should be considered as just one element of a comprehensive reproductive health programme. Engagement with women and girls and men and boys is required to develop formal and informal reproductive health education programmes, strengthen peer education as a delivery method for life skills learning and develop responsive, acceptable, affordable and locally accessible services while also facilitating the bypassing of local services, especially in rural areas, where anonymity and distance from home may be preferred. Delays and barriers in access to safe reproductive health services, including termination of pregnancy, are influenced by distance, institutional reception, cost and bypass behaviours.

Health care workers in women's health in Ireland are guided by the legislative framework of the country, the professional standards of the registration authorities, their professional bodies and their personal value systems, whether conscious or unconscious. Obstetricians and gynaecologists in Ireland to date, whether specialists or postgraduate trainees, have not been systematically studied to explore their position on the specific items on which the members of the Citizens' Assembly have been balloted. The process to secure professional readiness to respond to possible legislative change has not yet been determined. It is not known if the views of the women's health professionals will reflect the results of the Citizens' Assembly ballot. Many clinical providers in Ireland in women's health have trained or completed some part of their training in other countries where termination of pregnancy is lawful. Some of those providers would have already explored their personal ethical decision-making pathways. For some, new legislation would involve the unlearning of restrictive practices in providing health care in Ireland at this time. However, for the majority of clinical providers in this country, the possible enactment of lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland may lead to individual professional moral distress for the first time.  Training needs also include cultural and diversity competence, unconscious bias awareness and the development of a national framework for ethical decision-making. Care, support and sensitive leadership within the professions to deliver a new service following ethical decision-making is required. Societal care, support and avoidance of alienation of health care workers during such transformative change is also required.

Regarding health systems, if in due course there is legislative change, the new system would be commissioned and provided. Regulatory codes of practice would be revised and the professional bodies would review their competence standards, training curricula and assessment tools. Quality assurance and suitable designation of centres that provide termination of pregnancy would be required. Centres may include certain primary care services, family planning and sexual health clinics, infectious disease clinics, maternity units, and general hospitals with gynaecology and sexual assault treatment units. The logistical challenges are those faced in the development of any new health service. The process would involve a multi-dimensional approach, including biomedical health system strengthening, informal health system strengthening, and engagement with women and families in addition to the actual service development.

The skill set for the medical and safe surgical procedures in relation to termination of pregnancy already exist in obstetrics and gynaecology and women’s health services in Ireland. Some exist in the primary care setting as discussed by the ICGP witnesses last week and some exist in the early pregnancy care units and the tertiary maternal foetal medicine units throughout the country. The training and service expansion needs are in the domains of professionalism, communication, inter-sectoral and inter-professional team work.

Conscientious objection would be facilitated for all cadres of health care staff. This may result in logistical problems in the smaller rural centres, especially as there are already existing rota gaps, a mismatch in the urban-rural distribution of doctors, nurses and midwives, and a dependency on agency workers. One third of obstetricians, gynaecologists and midwives in Ireland work in the smaller centres with significant dependence on international medical graduates to provide specialist obstetrics and gynaecology services. There is the mixed challenge of providing continuity of services with unstable manpower in some disciplines and also overly stable workforce in other disciplines, where the introduction of change is less common. Of importance for the smaller centres is the agreed tertiary pathways for complex care with agreed automatic acceptance protocols for maternal transfer, whether it is an emergency or elective case in nature. Conscientious objection may also compound the problems of recruitment to the relevant disciplines, the attrition of trainees and retention of older providers in the specialties during a period of transformative change. We do not yet know the unknowns in this subject area.

There has been significant initiation of organisational development in women and infants' programming in Ireland at national level in the past decade, sadly in many instances in response to unacceptable adverse outcome. Women’s advocacy and advisory contributions, national governance, regulatory standards, guideline development and implementation, hospital group structure, managed clinical networks, HSE clinical programmes, primary care teams, the frameworks for quality and the National Office of Clinical Audit have contributed to progressive system strengthening in both urban and rural women’s health care provision. All these developments provide a degree of organisational preparedness for the introduction of an expanded reproductive health service, if required to do so by the Irish people. However, by international and OECD standards, the women’s health service continues to be considerably under-resourced, fragmented and, in public opinion, as surveyed in the preparation of the first National Maternity Strategy 2016, is not yet considered to be woman and family centred or woman led.

My final comments reflect individual notes from institute members. In other jurisdictions, initial restrictive termination law has evolved into more liberal practice. Members have noted that overly prescriptive categorisation of foetal anomaly may prevent the evolution of matching options with health technology advancement. They recommend that the detail is provided for in the initial legislation and subsequent regulation rather than by constitutional amendment. Some gynaecologists have expressed potential personal moral distress at the dual challenge of providing extraordinary life-saving interventions for one foetus or infant at borderline viability while also providing foeticide for a potentially normal foetus at the same gestation. Those members who wished to contribute gave general support for the provision of termination for fatal foetal anomalies. Some members view the current law as excessively restrictive for crisis pregnancy. I thanks the committee for the opportunity to present today.

  Deputy Billy Kelleher took the Chair

Acting Chairman (Deputy Billy Kelleher): Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I thank Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin. In view of the fact that there is a vote in the Seanad, the next speakers have to go so Deputy McGrath is next up.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I have to speak in the Chamber. There are other speakers after me.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I can substitute for Senator Gavan if that is agreed.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Billy Kelleher): Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher That is fine. I call Deputy Louise O'Reilly.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I thank the Chairman and the witnesses. I am substituting for my colleague, Senator Paul Gavan, who had to leave for a vote in the Seanad.

I am interested in the three witnesses' views on the issue of risk. Is there such a thing as a gradation of risk such as serious risk and grave risk? Those are the types of terminologies we are using and indeed that the Citizens' Assembly used, but I am not sure if they are legal terminologies or if they translate easily or at all into a medical setting. If we are going to have a discussion about that, we should try to guide ourselves towards being helpful to the medical practitioners who ultimately are going to be at the business end of the results as it were. Could the witnesses let us know their views in relation to risk?

Professor Arulkumaran said there is an immediate and urgent requirement for a clear statement of the legal context in which clinical professional judgment can be exercised in the best medical welfare and interests of patients. Could Professor Arulkumaran explain to us why and how the team reached that conclusion and how that can best be implemented through legislation, regulations and guidelines?

My final question is to Dr. Boylan and Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin. It relates to the Irish system as it currently stands, its resources and personnel. In the event of a repeal of the eighth amendment and the provision, in circumstances however limited or otherwise they may be, of wider availability of access for woman to abortion health care, do we have the personnel? Do they need to be trained? In particular, will there be a rural and an urban split? There is clearly in operation somewhat of a postcode lottery with regard to access to some maternity services. We have discussed this at the health committee. Is it the witnesses' contention that we would need to see significant investment in capital or in people? Do we have the buildings, and we just need to put the people in them? Do we have the people and do they need additional training? How close would we be to implementing a more liberalised regime?

  Deputy Hildegarde Naughton took the Chair.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Who would like to come in first? I call Professor Arulkumaran.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I can answer the first question. I could not follow the second question, so could the Deputy kindly repeat it for me?

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I apologise - I am reading from my colleague's notes.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Is there another answer that the witness would like to give first?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I can answer the first question about risk and whether we can categorise it as low risk, medium risk and high risk. There are problems in trying to categorise because risk is a continuous process. What can start as a little bit of risk can be a medium risk or a high risk within minutes to hours.  Therefore, it is sometimes dangerous in acute conditions to classify risk. A typical example is Savita Halappanavar. In her case, sepsis became severe sepsis and then septic shock within hours, so it is difficult. To take other conditions, for example, if the mother has renal disease or cardiac disease, that again can change very rapidly. What we might think of as a minor risk or mild risk in a renal condition, if she gets superimposed preeclampsia or hypertensive disease, it can suddenly become moderate to severe. The risk is something we can sometimes predict but we cannot judge, especially in pregnancy, because of rapidly changing sequences. Unlike a non-pregnant patient, pregnancy is quite dangerous both in the antenatal and intrapartum period.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly Professor Arulkumaran used the terms low, medium and high risk, whereas the terms the citizens used are grave risk and serious risk. Those are not medical terms and are more legal terms.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: They are medical terms, but what the medical people should understand or will understand is that what appears to be low risk can become high risk within minutes or hours in the antenatal, intrapartum or postnatal period. For example, we can say she is at low risk of thromboembolism but she can suddenly become medium or high risk. When it comes to termination, it has to be judged based on what is perceived by the clinician at that time. If it is a question of low risk and no termination, by the time one waits for it, it can become medium or high risk very suddenly.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Would Dr Boylan like to come in on the question of risk?

Dr. Peter Boylan: There is a great personal interpretation of risk so what some person may feel is a low risk, another person may feel is a high risk. In the context of pregnancy, which is a very dynamic process where risk can change and the disease process can deteriorate very rapidly, women will approach risk in a different way. I think it is important to take women's viewpoints into consideration when we are dealing with them in the management of pregnancy - it is their lives that are at risk. Some women will risk anything to have a baby. For other women, for example, a woman who is 40 years of age and has four young children at home, who has diabetes which is deteriorating, and who finds herself pregnant and knows that if she continues with the pregnancy, her diabetes will get worse, her eyesight might be affected and her kidneys might deteriorate and so on, for her, that is not an acceptable risk. For a woman in her first pregnancy after, say, years of IVF, she may well be willing to accept that risk. So, while we can describe risk as low, middle and high, it is the woman's interpretation of what the risk is to her personally that is critically important in how we deal with women who are pregnant, and that side of it really has to be taken into account.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Does Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin wish to come in on this?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: In some situations it is possible to provide some likelihood. When it comes to some categorical variables, one can talk about probability and the likelihood of something happening. In general terms, however, it is not possible to define in a clinical situation and it is an arbitrary decision. Even categorising somebody as having high blood pressure is just based on where we drew a line in the population. In terms of helping the members to deliberate, the language in the Citizens' Assembly in trying to differentiate between serious risk when it comes to health as opposed to life is not going to be supported, by definition.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly If the decision is taken to repeal the eighth amendment and allow for terminations in limited circumstances, is it the position of the witnesses that we need to address the issue of criminalisation regardless of the circumstances that may or may not be decided by this committee? Would the three witnesses be in agreement that the issue of criminalisation has to be addressed and that criminalisation obviously needs to be removed?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Absolutely.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly That is a short answer.

Dr. Peter Boylan: The Deputy asked about training, resources, personnel and so on. With regard to training, that is the function of the institute. The skill levels required in termination of pregnancy, every trained obstetrician possesses, so we are more into resources and so on. It is well known that the Irish maternity services are under-resourced - that is no secret. The maternity strategy is supposed to be addressing that issue and we look forward to increased and more appropriate investment in the health services in the future. In a broad sense, yes, we would require more investment, more personnel and so on. The training issue is something that can be quite easily addressed because the skill sets are there.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly Is the necessary physical infrastructure in place in rural Ireland, given we know there is a difference there? Would we need more capital investment and do we have the personnel right across the country, as opposed to just in certain designated centres?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The physical infrastructure is quite variable across the country and it is determined very much by the woman-centred and girl-centred care. There is usually separation of early pregnancy services and termination services from ongoing services where women are attending an antenatal clinic and presenting with intended pregnancy and continuing pregnancy. This is not the same in all European countries. In hospital visits in many other jurisdictions, one sees signposting for all women's health services in the same area. In Ireland, traditionally, we divide services by times of day, so we are using multi-function areas that may be for one function early in the morning and another function later in the day. This is not satisfactory to the women and girls using our service and this comes through in patient surveys and in the advisory groups with regard to patient and family engagement in the general hospital setting.

In the women's hospital settings in Ireland, greater attention has obviously been paid to the reception of women and their families in regard to pregnancy. In the general hospital setting, it is harder to differentiate between reception for those coming with physiological problems and socially determined health problems as opposed to those coming with pathology and disease.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton I call Senator Mullen.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I would like to start by asking each of the speakers about their own personal ethical position on abortion. In other words, do they believe that at any stage the unborn baby has a right to be protected, independently of the question of whether his or her continued existence is desired? In what cases do they believe the baby has a right to be protected?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Does the Senator have further questions?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I will take them one by one.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Do any of the witnesses wish to begin?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I have a very simple response. It is not about the issue of protection of the foetus per se. We have to really balance between the foetal and the maternal side. Let us suppose that for a condition very early on in pregnancy, in assessing a situation, medical or otherwise, if I believe that if I do not do the termination, she is going to go and procure an illegal termination and run into difficulties like that, I would take that responsibility and perform that abortion. However, if it is after foetal viability, then I will not go near the scene. I will assess the whole condition and do that.

  This particular question about mortality, legality and ethical issues is asked of me from time to time. Everybody in this room is abortionist. Some support legal; those who do not support legal support illegal abortion. We are lucky in Ireland because they are able to go and get it done in England. Otherwise, can we imagine what will happen to the 4,800 women within Ireland? I would rest my case on that.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Again, it is important to take into consideration that this is not about the doctor; this is about the woman, her ongoing pregnancy and her views, which have to be taken into account. While we do not park our ethical beliefs at the door and we certainly carry them with us, we have to respect what the women's views are. I think it is true to say that there is a wide range of ethical views on the acceptance of abortion in different circumstances right across the board. For some people, it is totally unacceptable in any circumstances whatsoever, even if the woman is going to die. Others would have a much more liberal approach where they are happy to provide abortion services under any circumstances whatsoever, and there is everything in between.  I believe that every person's viewpoint has to be respected. If termination is introduced into Ireland and legalised, there will be facilities for people who are uncomfortable with whatever the circumstances of the termination of pregnancy are. For example, there will be some physicians who are comfortable with termination for pregnancies where the baby has little or no hope of survival and there will be others who are uncomfortable with that. Other clinicians will be comfortable with termination of pregnancy for whatever reason; there will be others who would resist that. The full range of ethical positions and personal opinions is out there but the most important person in all of this, of course, is the woman who is pregnant. It is her concerns we must address.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton Would Senator Mullen like to ask further questions?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I would like to afford Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin an opportunity.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The short answer here today is that it is not about the personal stance on the ethical issue. We in Irish obstetrics are facing a position of uncertainty in knowing where we stand. As most of my 27-year career was spent working in Ireland, with a hiatus in Australia, in recent times I have not had to make that personal decision. I would individualise it, however, for the care of the individual mother. As in Dr. Boylan's statement, the mother may determine before she has a test that she is not going to have a termination under any circumstance but might change her mind. I believe that clinicians, as we evolve and if we were working in a different legal environment, might start in a position where we would not engage in termination of pregnancy under any circumstances short of the protection of life in pregnancy. Over time, however, I suspect that the individual nuance of the cases will provide many grey areas for us to have to use ethical decision making to face the moral distress that is involved.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Dr. Boylan has been involved in supporting and drafting Labour Party legislation. He attended the launch that would bring in abortion. He also said that he has been involved in London and the United States. Has he ever been involved in the carrying out of an abortion outside of what one would call medical interventions? Up to what stage of pregnancy would it have taken place?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I think that is an inappropriate question to ask me and I am not going to answer it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I beg to differ on the appropriateness of the question. People will draw their own conclusions about Dr. Boylan's answer.

Professor Arulkumaran has written several scholarly articles on the injection of potassium chloride into the heart of an unborn at around 21 or 22 weeks as the most desirable method of terminating a pregnancy. Regardless of what method is used at that stage, does the professor agree that in that moment, a child is being killed?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: As I said earlier, in medicine there are always two options. If there is a little malformation for which we are carrying out a termination of pregnancy at 21 weeks, if we do not do the foeticide and if the baby comes out alive then it becomes a dilemma for the mother and the caregivers. This is taken into careful consideration and the issues are discussed with the parents about whether they would like to see the baby coming and having a few gasps and dying, when even if one supports the baby it will die. The option can be to do that or to have the foeticide and do the termination. Globally this is a well-established process and it is not something new to me or my practice. It is an established process globally.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen In page 5 of his presentation Professor Arulkumaran says that abortion is not associated with physical or mental health hazards but he only quotes the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Is the professor aware of distinguished research by Fergusson and others that says abortion is associated with adverse mental health sequelae, particularly in women who are young and vulnerable or where there is a history of mental illness?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I have read the literature as much as I can, and even the recent literature, but I have taken the college opinion. There are individual papers that have opposing views.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Is the professor familiar with Fergusson's literature?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: No.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Dr. Boylan claims that the evidence suggests those countries that do not provide abortion tend to have falling or lower rates. The fact is, according to the best available-----

Dr. Peter Boylan: I did not say that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am sorry, I will go back to the document. Did I misquote the doctor?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I believe the Senator said they tend to have falling or lower rates if they do not have abortion.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Yes, where abortion is legalised, in liberal regimes for want of a better word. Does Dr. Boylan not accept that Ireland, with one in 19 pregnancies ending in abortion, has just a fraction of the rate of abortions that have taken place in Britain where nearly 200,000 abortions take place each year? In some cases these are late-term abortions because there is no time limit for even relatively minor disabilities such as cleft palate. Does he not accept that this indicates the protective effect of the Irish law?

Dr. Peter Boylan: All of the international evidence is that in countries where there is a liberal law or where they change from a restrictive law to a more liberal law, the rate of termination falls. It must be tied in, however, with health education, contraceptive education, sexual health education and so on. It cannot really be looked at in isolation.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Does Dr. Boylan accept that the accessing of abortion pills is irrelevant in the sense that it is as much of an issue and a problem in abortion jurisdictions as it would be in Ireland?

Dr. Peter Boylan: No. It is categorically not an issue wherever abortion is legalised and the abortion pill is freely available through clinics, hospitals and doctors' surgeries and so on. As it is illegal here, any woman who imports pills into this country faces a criminal prosecution and 14 years in prison. That is an unacceptable position for women to find themselves in.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Does Dr. Boylan acknowledge a difference of opinion between him and Dr. Abigail Aiken, who he quoted last week and who seems to be at pains to stress the safety of abortion pills? Dr. Boylan has spoken about the relative danger of importing or using abortion pills.

Dr. Peter Boylan: As the Senator will probably appreciate, I was referring to when a person imports pills from an undocumented source - especially into this country - and we are not sure where the pills come from. It is well known that some medications that are supplied over the Internet are not what they purport to be. There is another issue of concern, which is that women will be taking these pills without medical supervision and that has its own inherent dangers. There is also the psychological impact on women. One can picture a young woman in an apartment who has managed to get the pills. She is terrified that she will be found out for having taken the pills - as has happened in Northern Ireland - and that she could end up being prosecuted. That has a huge further psychological impact to her, on top of the distress of having a termination of pregnancy. No woman goes out in the morning or wakes up and says "Ah sure I will have a termination today". It is a very stressful process and women remember these things for the rest of their lives.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Further to the question I asked earlier, if abortion was legal in Ireland would Dr. Boylan be willing to carry out abortions in the way they are carried out in Britain and at the various terms they are allowed there?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I would wait to see the legislation in Ireland. I believe that the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly are interesting. When one takes a group of 100 people, puts them together and educates them about the realities of abortion from all sides of the coin, the group comes up with the recommendations such as the Citizens' Assembly came up with. I would wait to see-----

  Senator Catherine Noone resumed the Chair.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator Mullen's time is up.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I would wait to see the legislation in Ireland and what it proposes before I could answer the Senator's question.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Very briefly, I will ask Dr. Boylan the same question that I asked of Professor Arulkumaran. Is he aware of the Fergusson research around the mental health sequelae of abortion?

Dr. Peter Boylan: As the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' guidelines and position papers take into account the entire world literature, the Senator can take it that the Fergusson paper was referred to and analysed.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Is Dr. Boylan across its detail?

Dr. Peter Boylan: No, but I take the word of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London, which has all of the international-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I have a final question for Professor Arulkumaran. The professor evokes a situation where Ireland is dangerous, despite the fact that we have not had any criminal prosecution of doctors and despite the fact that we do not have a history of mothers losing their lives because of the lack of abortion in Ireland. The professor's own report into the Savita Halappanavar affair did not claim that. The doctors involved in that case did not claim that it was down to the law in Ireland but that it was down to mismanagement of a situation. Has Professor Arulkumaran ever referred to or commented on - by contrast - findings made by the Care Quality Commission in England? For example, in its spot checks on the Marie Stopes clinics, which is an abortion provider in the UK, the commission found as recently as five months ago that some 400 botched abortions had been done in a two-month period. Has the professor ever commented on the problems with the provision of abortion in England and the adverse health effects for women, leaving aside the fatal effects for the unborn?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone This will be the final comment from the witness.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: As a reference, I have given the health statistics that are published for 2016. The detailed report can be found from that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Has the professor commented on the problems?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: All the details on complications are given in that report. What does the Senator mean by the term "botched abortions"? Can he explain that to me? No he cannot.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen A botched abortion is a situation where a mother suffers adverse health, for example, in the case of an Irish woman who died in a taxi coming from a Marie Stopes clinic, or a situation where a baby is alive after the procedure and is left to die.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Allow the witness to respond, and this is the end of this questioner's time.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: That would not happen if Ireland would allow the abortion here. The mistake is not of the Marie Stopes clinic. The mistake is of Ireland for not providing abortion services.

(Interruptions).

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I could not hear Professor Arulkumaran. Could he repeat what he said?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me. I was out of the Chamber because a vote was called in the Seanad, which does not happen in other committees, but that is a matter for another day's work. Would Professor Arulkumaran reiterate what he said, and then I will move on to the next speaker?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The question was why a women who went to England and had an abortion in a Marie Stopes clinic died in a taxi on her way from it. We need to analyse the root cause of that. The root cause is that Ireland is not providing abortion services here. If that woman had had access to abortion services here and if she had had a complication, she would have gone to a hospital here. There are many cases of Irish women, 70% to 80% of Irish women, who have surgical terminations of pregnancy in England because they go and come back on the same day, whereas 60% to 70% of women in England have medical abortions.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Professor Arulkumaran accepts that women have died as a result of-----

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: No. Only two deaths were reported in five years, in 290,000-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen That is what has happened-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me-----

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: That is two in a million.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have to move on to the next questioner.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I accept that, but can I make one final point?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have already-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen It is not a question. This bears out my concern.

(Interruptions).

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Is this a point of order?

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Yes, it is. I want to put on record that this further bears out my concern that there simply is not enough time available to examine carefully what witnesses are claiming, which makes this a really farcical process on a life or death issue. I want to put that on the public record.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I note the Senator's comment and I addressed this earlier. We agreed on a timeframe for all members. I am trying my best, as Chair, to be fair to everybody. In fairness, every time the Senator gets a little more time than most people. That is all I have to say on the matter. I call Deputy Kelleher who has ten minutes in total.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I welcome the witnesses. I have a number of questions. My first question is for Dr. Boylan. He said in his presentation, with regard to foetal abnormalities, that up to ten weeks, amniocentesis or chorionic villus testing-sampling could identify whether there is a genetic abnormality. How late in the gestation period would we have to allow for all testing to be done to identify any other forms of fatal foetal abnormality other than the genetic ones? Would we have to legislate for up to 22 weeks, 18 weeks or 16 weeks?

Dr. Peter Boylan: It depends on the complexity of the problem. For example, some congenital heart anomalies are not detectable until around 18 to 20 weeks when a detailed ultrasound scan is done. It is worth noting that only about 50% of all congenital abnormalities of the heart are diagnosed antenatally. That is a universal figure, no matter how good the scanning is, so there are problems in that respect.

We can diagnose conditions such as anencephaly very early on in pregnancy, but sometimes more complex problems are not apparent. However, certainly by 20 weeks, we should have been able to diagnose the most obvious or the severe ones. It is not always possible though and there is often a bit of uncertainty about the outlook in a condition, and women are followed throughout the pregnancy when there is an abnormality and they are continuing on with the pregnancy.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher In general, we would have to legislate for at least 20 weeks to give very accurate diagnostic assessments-----

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher -----for most foetal abnormalities, as opposed to fatal foetal abnormalities.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher In terms of risk, and this is a question for the three witnesses, currently we are very restrictive in Ireland. It has to be when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. Dr. Boylan said, and I assume this is corroborated by the other witnesses, that the woman does not have any discussion in this. The medical professionals make that assessment and the only opinion the woman can offer is to refuse a termination. Is that correct?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher If we were to liberalise and change, surely the woman's view in terms of risk should be taken into account, not only in the context of the risk to her life but other issues well.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Is that the normal procedure in other-----

Dr. Peter Boylan: It is, and particularly in obstetrics it is very much a partnership between the midwives and doctors and the woman going through the pregnancy. We would discuss with women, for example, indications for induction of labour for a caesarean section, for how often she should attend, whether she wants an epidural in labour and so on. Women are involved in these discussions the whole way through, but the problem with the current legislation is that it is up to the doctors to make a decision and then to advise the woman that her life is at risk and she needs a termination of pregnancy to minimise that risk or remove the risk. However, it is a fine line. The only way one can find out whether one has made the right decision is not to do a termination and, if the woman dies, one has made the wrong decision. That is the only way a doctor will know for definite that he or she has made the wrong decision. It is an unacceptable environment in which to practise medicine in 2017. Also, the lack of involvement of the woman in making the decision is not acceptable.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: If I may comment on that, I would have a slightly differing opinion, with respect. The medical ethics used at the clinical coalface include the autonomy of the woman at all times and her supporting partner and family. The provision of her involvement in the discussion is not purely just to receive advice and information but it is an informed consent process over time, if the time allows. In general, if the woman is aware that time is not allowing, she makes her decision quite quickly, but in some situations informed consent is a process and it is revisited over hours and days, if time allows. Women may choose to opt out of life-saving procedures when their life is at serious risk if they have the capacity to do so. Our duty as clinician providers is to assess their well-being and ability to have capacity, and capacity may be an issue in distressing circumstances with psychoses, drug use or intellectual disability. We would involve other professions in helping us reach that decision if there is any concern over it, where time allows.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The reality is that the woman can only opt out. She cannot opt in.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Actually, no. Informed consent in modern obstetric practice means the partnership is not just equal, the woman is the centre. Her autonomy is respected. There is much implied consent used in work on a day-to-day basis in the sense that checking of the receipt of information, the tell-back of the information and if this what the woman agrees with is taken in many forms of communication, including verbal and non-verbal, written and non-written.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Is Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin talking about Ireland or outside it?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: I am talking about Ireland.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin is saying, as it stands, that women are consulted in the context of a life-saving termination taking place.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Yes, and over a period----

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher In the sense that they could request. Is Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin saying that is possible?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Yes. In my experience, outside a tertiary institution, the commonest reason in our current practice for invoking the protection of life in pregnancy is with ruptured membranes before viability. That is where the waters have gone around the baby and the mother is at risk of the subsequent impact of infection. That process of information, education and communication with the woman starts from the time we are giving the diagnosis. It is a process over time. It is not a single act. While the witnesses have advised that there may be uncertainty, the timeline to advancing to more serious signs of infection, what we call sepsis, and then to times where the mortality rate significantly goes up, what we call septic shock, are very variable among women. We are always conscious of that because, as I mentioned, we are measured in retrospect if there is an adverse outcome, but we do not have that ability to see ahead at the time. Communication, information and consent are changing and evolving over time. The paternalistic approach to consent in Irish medicine across many domains is evolving over time as medical ethics develop over time.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher There are obviously diverging views here on this fundamental issue of whether the woman has a say in requesting a termination to save her life. Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin is saying that a woman has a say and can discuss this with her clinician and they could ultimately come to a decision, but realistically it is only the clinician who can decide at the end of the day. Am I right or am I wrong on that?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The current legislation allows us to document and then get a second opinion, if time allows, on the reasons we consider that in these circumstances the woman's life is at risk. Medical emergencies do not necessarily happen in an hour or in three hours. This might go on through the night and into the early morning. There is still time, which is the fourth dimension, in this decision making process.

Dr. Peter Boylan: We certainly discuss everything with the woman, as the condition evolves. Absolutely, that is the way it happens. The decision as to whether a woman's life is in danger is the doctor's decision and not the mother's decision.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher How much time have I got?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy has one and a half minutes.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I want to ask about the procurement and use of abortion pills. Do the witnesses believe that because they were involved in an illegal act and committed an offence under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, for which they can be prosecuted, that the effect on young vulnerable girls in a crisis pregnancy is so chilling that they are discouraged from accessing medical care if the termination goes wrong?

Dr. Peter Boylan: The two complications are haemorrhage bleeding and infection. It will certainly have an effect on a young vulnerable girl, who takes the pills and then has more bleeding than she would anticipate and must go into hospital and her fear is being asked what happened. If she has an infection, it may become a little bit more obvious what she has been trying to do. She does not know whether while in the hospital a doctor, midwife, secretary may report her case to the police. That will have a chilling effect on her and adds to her distress.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Deputy and appreciate that he remained within the time limit. Senator Buttimer has ten minutes altogether.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I apologise to the witnesses for having to leave to go to the Seanad for a vote. I thank them for being here.

I address this question to all three witnesses. Based on Dr. Boylan's presentation in which he suggests the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is unworkable in 2017, do the other witnesses agree with him? Will Dr. Boylan elaborate a bit more on that please?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The Senator is asking whether the eighth amendment is workable in 2017. Given the explanations as to how the system is working in the context of the amendment, where superficially everything is working, but underneath it is not working, then if it were working why should 4,800 women travel to another country to procure an abortion? In my view, things will have to change. I do not think the eighth amendment as it stands is good for the women in Ireland.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The wider interpretation of the question is whether society is different in 2017 from 1983. I believe human rights, autonomy of the woman and her considered right to self-determination is more apparent now than it was in 1983. I was not of age in 1983.

Societal change has happened in many different areas of sexual, reproductive and health issues in the past century. Society has struggled with each development in these areas. They are very emotive and our value system come into play. It is not possible to prevent women from accessing safe abortion services in other jurisdictions. Is it acceptable in our society to know that we are not looking after our women and girls in this country at this time?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I clearly think it is not working. It has resulted in cases such as Savita Halappanavar, Miss P and the whole alphabet soup we have of women going to the European Court of Human Rights and the UN and so on. It is also not working because as I have said, the genie is out of the bottle, with the abortion pill which is freely available and can be accessed via post offices in this country. There are many anomalies. Time has moved on and the eighth amendment is no longer fit for purpose in 2017.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer In the closing paragraph of his presentation, Dr. Boylan speaks about how initial restrictive termination law has evolved into more liberal practise in other jurisdictions. Given that backdrop, and the commentary that the floodgates could open in other jurisdictions, as medical professionals what is their view of the situation?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The experience in France, Italy and Turkey is that once termination of pregnancy is legalised, the abortion rate comes down. The only reason for that, is that it is combined, as Dr. Boylan mentioned, with good post abortion contraception. It is a very clear distinction that it comes down without any difficulty. Second, because medical termination of pregnancy is available, things are getting safer and safer. The World Health Organisation document shows that the chance of the mother dying during a termination in the first trimester is 0.1 per 100,0000, which is minimal. As the gestation period increases, so do the complications and so on go up and illegal abortion comes to the fore when she is in the later period of gestation and runs into difficulties. The answer is that legalisation of abortion brings the termination rates down. That is the experience not just in one but a number of countries, including South Africa.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The other reason is that liberal practice evolves over time and that is the difficulty with definitions. Already it has been raised here as to how to define a serious risk to mental health as was the case in the UK, in which a member of the institute has commented on. The law will be tested when it is in use. In spite of the best efforts to legislate in appropriate language, allowing some freedom in regulation would be advisable.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I agree with Professor Arulkumaran that all the evidence is that the rate of termination comes down once more liberalised legislation is introduced for all of the obvious reasons.

Senator Buttimer referred to the floodgates opening. There was a great deal of concern expressed by some people about the inclusion of suicide as a risk to the life of the mother in the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act, and that women would abuse this provision. That has not happened. I do not think women will abuse any legislation.

Termination is a very distressing thing to have to go through. I should also say that women who have terminations for babies with serious abnormalities grieve for those babies. They name them, they really feel deeply about it and they are very angry at having to travel abroad. I do not think members should underestimate that anger. It is out there, justifiably.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thank the witnesses. Dr. Boylan came before the committee that I chaired and he is one of the most refreshing witnessed I have met.

If we as a committee recommend no change, or if the Irish people recommend no change, what advice would the witnesses give to members who must compile a report, given their medical and professional backgrounds?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Groundhog day. We will be back. The committee has to do something now.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer If the witnesses were to speak directly to the people today, what would they say to them?

Dr. Peter Boylan: They have got to do something now. The eighth amendment is no longer fit for purpose. It has caused enormous problems and huge distress to women. It needs to be repealed and the legislators need to legislate. I hope that when members come to introduce legislation they will be guided by what we said here today and by the findings of the Citizens' Assembly.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The questions asked were whether we would do terminations for this that and the other reason. The question raised in my statement is whether they would send a woman to prison for doing this, that and the other. The answer is going to be totally different.  That is true whether it is the legislator or the people who are concerned. In my view, the questioning has to be done the other way around. Is it possible to imagine putting 4,800 women behind bars in Ireland every year? I can produce the list if the committee likes.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Go raibh maith agat.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The approach I hope to see going forward is that of deliberative democracy. The principle has been recorded in the Citizens' Assembly. If it could be replicated in the more open debate of deliberative democracy then perhaps some voices that have been silent before will participate at this time.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I will now move on to all other questioners. The first person to have indicated was Deputy O'Reilly, who has six minutes.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I spoke already.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy spoke instead of Senator Gavan. Would he like to come in now in the Deputy's stead?

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan Yes. I thank all three witnesses for their presentations. I am finding the testimony of the medical experts and professionals very powerful and telling because they are people who are dedicated to the care and health of others. They have a very clear message.

I want to ask a question about the thousands of women who travel each year to Britain for abortions. We know that because they have to travel it means the termination will be delayed by a number of weeks. Is the fact the terminations are delayed because the women have to travel a significant factor in terms of the health of those women? That question is open to any of the witnesses.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The delays in accessing termination services contribute to significant morbidity. Health, in its widest sense, is not just the absence of disease. The woman does not have to have a complication as a result of this delay. The issue is the physical, psychological and social well-being she no longer has during this delay. The delays are not just because she has to travel to another jurisdiction. As a result of the current stigmatisation of openly seeking termination services and because of the concern about host responsiveness, her decision-making is often delayed in the very beginning. That is the first delay. The second delay is when she gets into a track where she is receiving some degree of advice. Is it impartial? Is it coming from an informal system? Is it coming from systems that are driven for missionary or fiscal reasons or is it coming from an open, objective and balanced system? The third delay is in actually accessing the care when she gets there. We are starting to see, as the Senator is aware from the media, that the host nation does not always have the capacity to meet the needs of these women when they arrive. That national capacity of the UK to continue to provide for us is under re-examination.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The question is open to all three witnesses.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: As I mentioned earlier, if it is done early, it is a medical termination whereas when a woman goes late, it is a surgical termination. The complications are much greater with surgical termination. The second issue is they cannot have a medical termination in the UK because they go one day and have to travel back so they all end up in late surgical termination at 11 weeks or 12 weeks. If it is done in Ireland with the legislation, they could have a medical termination at seven or eight weeks with minimal complications, minimal blood loss and minimal chance of infection.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Would Dr. Boylan like to add anything?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I have nothing else to add.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I have one other question but if it has been asked already there is no need to answer it again. I had to leave for a vote in the Seanad and I apologise for that. Dr. Boylan was very clear in his presentation that we need a straight repeal. Why is he so adamant that it has to be a straight repeal as opposed to some of the other possibilities that are being mooted?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I do not think the Constitution is the place to regulate medical practice. It is too rigid and as we have seen with the eighth amendment, it creates endless problems. Legislation and regulation following that legislation is the way to deal with it.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan If we take some other route, for example, putting legislation into the Constitution or being specific about grounds, would it just bring us back to where we are?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I think it would be an absolute nightmare in the future, primarily for Irish women or women living in Ireland but also for the medical profession.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator Ruane has six minutes.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I learn more every week I attend a committee meeting. We think we have our positions when we come in here but we realise how much we do not know. I thank the witnesses for their expertise. Some of my questions have been touched on, in particular by Senator Gavan's last question. I am conscious we are coming up to the anniversary of Savita Halappanavar's death. It is easy for us, as we are not her family, friends or people who knew her, to keep hearing her name. However, it is important to ask the question while being sensitive of the impact it could have for people who are watching proceedings. Dr. Boylan said that Savita would still be alive today if she had been given an abortion when she first requested it. This is contested in some quarters by those who claim she died as a result of sepsis due to an inevitable miscarriage. Perhaps my question is for Professor Arulkumaran and Dr. Boylan because they were aware of the case and involved in the inquest. Do they believe the presence of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution cost Savita her life? There have been claims that the eighth amendment saves lives but we very rarely look at the lives it has cost.

My other question is to all three witnesses and is about the socioeconomic grounds. Sometimes it is seen as a ground in isolation. In women from low socioeconomic backgrounds there is an intrinsic link between their background and poor health. How can we begin to look at those two together instead of separately? There is a connection between socioeconomic status and the overall health and well-being of women from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. When assessing the risk to health or life of a pregnant woman, are any social indicators taken into account in that assessment and, if not, should they be?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I will start with Savita's case. It was very clear to me during the inquiry that the thing preventing the physician from proceeding was the legal issue because she repeatedly said she was concerned about the legal issue. I will give a little bit of explanation. The mother was sick. There was no question about that. Even at the last minute they were using a hand probe to see whether the baby's heartbeat was present or not. Any junior doctor would have said it was a serious condition and they must terminate. They were just keeping her going because of the mere fact the heartbeat was there. The legislation played a major role in making a decision. Somebody else might say they would have done the termination much earlier. That is a personal interpretation. It is why things are made difficult because of the legislation.

With regard to the second question on the socioeconomic situation, one has to look at each individual mother's case separately. One mother might be a single mother and might have difficulty in managing or feeding the children. Another might have been using contraception or experiencing physical or other abuse by the husband. As medical physicians, we have to take the socioeconomic background into consideration when a mother makes a request.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Savita died from sepsis and septic shock. There is no question about that. There were deficiencies in her care. There is no question about that. However, had she had her pregnancy terminated when she asked for it in the first few days of admission, she would not have developed the sepsis because her uterus would have been empty. The unfortunate fact is that when the waters break the barrier to infection ascending from the outside into the womb is broken and so infection ascends into the womb and then there is a problem. If the womb is empty and the woman is delivered of her baby that does not happen.  If she had had her termination when she had asked for it, the question of developing sepsis and so on would not have arisen, we would never have heard of her and she would be alive today.

Regarding the socioeconomic risk, we take everything into account. However, it is not taken into account in current Irish legislation, under which we can only take into account risk of death or risk to physical or mental health, which should be considered together.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Would using social status as an indicator be possible if we moved towards risk to health in general?

Dr. Peter Boylan: "Social status" in its broadest term,-----

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Yes.

Dr. Peter Boylan: -----including what Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran mentioned about abuse, drug use and other complicated social issues that people are unfortunate enough to experience.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Regarding the Senator's second question on social indicators, we use those on a daily basis in providing services. We check understanding if the woman does not have the first language of the country or the health providers. We use gender inequality and check for domestic and gender-based violence. We use immigrant status. We use ethnicity. If we are not the major ethnicity of the country in which we are receiving reproductive health services, we tend to do worse than those who are of the major ethnicity. It is more difficult in deliberation over life. Where we are not familiar with the different ethnic groups, there may not be the same responsiveness to their needs. We also use social indicators in health assessment and risk assessment in part of our education communication strand of care.

In terms of the committee's deliberations, social indicators probably best fit when it comes to determining where services are provided. If they are not integrated fully in the public health system, those who are most socially disadvantaged through urban or rural poverty will still not be able to succeed in gaining equitable access to care.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I thank Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Deputy Naughton is the next questioner. She has six minutes.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton I thank the witnesses for appearing before us. Dr. Boylan stated that doctors were currently in a position of having to interpret the Constitution. From his experience, even if it is just anecdotally if he does not have figures, does that happen on a weekly or monthly basis?

I take it that the best outcome for clinicians is that abortion be allowed purely on medical grounds between a doctor and a patient. Is that correct? Perhaps the other witnesses might wish to address that point. Is that the best outcome from a clinical point of view?

Dr. Boylan stated that he could not imagine any doctor in Ireland contemplating performing an abortion after 23 weeks. Will he expand on that? It is an important point for this committee.

Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin works in a level 3 hospital. In the event that abortion becomes available in Ireland, would it require centres of excellence? Would regional hospitals be equipped to perform these procedures? How would she envisage conscientious objection working in a smaller hospital as opposed to an acute one?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Perhaps Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin will answer the last question first.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Regarding the use of language in terms of termination for "medical reasons", there is not enough clarity in "medical reasons". We are discussing health and risk to health, but "health" is broader than "medical reasons". As to the use of the word "doctor", there may in time be task shifting to other cadres of specialist staff who come from a nursing or midwifery background. "Clinician-woman relationship" is the broader interpretation of the Deputy's question.

It is not possible to be proscriptive on every indication as to why a woman or girl may request a termination. The commonest reasons where there are liberal laws are that the pregnancy is not affordable for her at this time or her other responsibilities would be compromised at this time, for example, the impact on other people for whom she is responsible. If we become restrictive as regards purely clinical indications of physical and mental health, which is what the Citizens' Assembly has recommended, we will miss the other social determinants of health and well-being that influence women's decisions to seek termination of pregnancy and we may not legislate for those women who are currently self-terminating for what we may not consider to be socioeconomic or medical reasons.

Regarding the Deputy's question on model 3 hospitals, a safe termination of pregnancy is part of what is considered basic emergency obstetric care. Centres of excellence have an important role in termination care where the woman has complex medical disorders or the foetal complexity may prove difficult to manage in a rural hospital setting that is in a model 3 unit. There is still one unit in a model 2 hospital. Occasionally, there will be reasons to attend a tertiary unit where there is a maternal foetal medicine specialist practising with a full multidisciplinary team. In general, termination of pregnancy would be considered within the core competencies of general obstetricians and gynaecologists and general practitioners, GPs.

Dr. Peter Boylan: As to interpreting the Constitution, the most egregious example of that was the Miss P case. Everyone present is aware of it and the appalling vista that it presented. The doctors were unable to make a decision as to whether they could turn off her life support because of the presence of a foetal heartbeat. That is the best example. In terms of day-to-day practice, the issue would not arise on a daily basis. In a busy unit like a tertiary referral centre, however, it would be an issue and people would wonder whether it was legal to provide a termination in a particular case.

Another problem is that cases going to the European Court of Human Rights makes the eighth amendment difficult on the ground for practising staff.

The best outcome is the interaction between the patient and the health care professional. There is no question about that. No two situations are identical and many nuances are involved in all scenarios. Some people have different attitudes towards risk, for example. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration. The best person to make those considerations is the patient with her health care professional.

Twenty-three weeks and on is where foetal viability is now regarded as a practical proposition. Many of those survivors at 23 weeks will have significant disabilities, for example, cerebral palsy and blindness, and be completely dependent for the rest of their lives. It is not that everything is fine at 23 weeks - it is not like that at all - but if a baby is born at 23 weeks, physicians in Ireland will do everything to care for that baby. For example, if we have a woman with a severe condition who is at 23 and a half weeks with twins and we tell her that she is really sick and we need to deliver her, and if she asks us to do everything to save the babies, we will perform a caesarean section and intervene in the best interests of those babies. That is theoretically a termination of pregnancy, but we will in fact do everything to look after those babies when they are born. It is not a simple situation and viability changes. When I was in training, a baby born at 28 weeks had little chance of survival. The situation is improving all of the time with intensive neonatal care, advances, research and so on. Is that a satisfactory answer?

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton It answered my question. I asked another question on whether Dr. Boylan had much experience dealing with women who had taken an abortion pill without medical assistance. Could he comment?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone A brief response, please.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Very little experience. If a woman presents to a hospital bleeding and in the course of having a miscarriage, we do not know whether she has tried to use abortion pills. We take at face value whatever she says. Obviously, we look after her regardless and do not make any judgment call whatsoever. If she wants to tell us, that is fine, but I have little experience of that. That is probably because most of them are successfully completed at home and they do not need to attend hospital. They would be in the minority.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I thank the witnesses for being here today. My first question is to Professor Arulkumaran. In regard to the British health system, all health care systems are dependent on their being able to recruit and retain medical staff, which has become a huge issue recently. We heard last week that Liverpool Women's Hospital has had to delay admissions of Irish women with a fatal foetal abnormality. In the context of Brexit, there seems to be a large immigrant cohort in the UK health service. In that regard, is it correct to say that we cannot depend on the British health care system being capable of delivering for people outside of the British jurisdiction?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I thank the Deputy for her question, which would probably be more appropriately answered by the Minister for Health. It is true that there is a shortage of doctors, nurses and ancillary staff in the health services and that the level at which these services can be provided might be questioned. I will try to explain how the system is organised in regard to, for example, terms of termination of pregnancy. I work in St. George's Hospital, which provides this service for all of south-west London, despite that there are seven different hospitals in the area. The vast majority - 60% to 70% - of terminations are carried out by prescription. Every week, there are two clinics and two operating lists for suction termination. We manage all the referrals for south-west London. I do not know the population of Ireland versus south-west London. One clinic offering suction termination in each of the big cities in Ireland would be sufficient. Whatever the outcome of Brexit there will be no need for concern if legislation providing for liberal abortion is enacted.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Dr. Boylan referred to legislators having to grasp the nettle in terms of legislating for reproductive health. In regard to the 99% versus the 1% in terms of Ireland and Malta, is there a model of best practice within the European Union that he believes Ireland should emulate?

Dr. Peter Boylan: There are a number of them. Ireland always seems to look to the UK for examples of how things should be done in this country, particularly in the medical sphere. The UK legislation dates back to the 1960s, such that it has been in operation for more than 50 years now. We do not have to adopt it. This is not reinventing the wheel. There are many countries within Europe from which we can pick and choose legislation. There are very good analyses of the different types of legislation throughout Europe but the common theme of all of them is that 99% of women in the EU have access to safe termination in the first ten weeks-first trimester of pregnancy. That might well be a starting point.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Which one would Dr. Boylan choose?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I cannot point to any particular one because they all have their own little peculiarities. If one gets a good analysis of them, then one can pick and choose.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Assuming there is a referendum passed, it is hoped in favour of a straightforward repeal, legislation would then be required. Is Dr. Boylan saying there is also a need for regulation, and following on from that medical ethics guidelines and so on, which would be the function of the various representative organisations? Regulation would be done by the Department of Health, I presume.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy At what point is medical ethics addressed? Does it follow on from the making of the regulations or is it done in tandem?

Dr. Peter Boylan: If the eighth amendment is repealed, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 still stands. Under that Act, the only indication for termination of pregnancy in this country is a risk to the life of the mother. That would stand. There would be no change in that respect. We would still have the most restrictive legislation in Europe. In regard to regulation and so on, as the Deputy correctly mentioned, regulation is the function of the Department of Health. It would regulate where the procedure could be done and so on. The Medical Council interprets medical ethics and provides guidelines for practising obstetricians. If we step outside those guidelines, we are subject to sanction by the Medical Council, which can, although rarely, result in the withdrawal of a right to practise in the country. That is how the system would work. Education and training would be the function of the Institute of Obstetricians an Gynaecologists.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy In regard to conscientious objection, are there hospitals here that have a governance arrangement that is determined by religious ethics such that they could not be able to operate within-----

Dr. Peter Boylan: Any hospital that is owned by the Catholic church would be forbidden by its rules from facilitating any terminations of pregnancy, as well as contraception, sterilisation and all other issues integral to women's health. There are some maternity units and gynaecological services in hospitals around the country that are owned by religious and do not carry out sterilisation or Mirena coil insertion owing to heavy periods as opposed to for contraceptive purposes. There is a bit of hypocrisy going on.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy What proportion of hospitals is involved?

Dr. Peter Boylan: The number is relatively small.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I apologise in advance for not being here to hear the responses to my questions but I am due in the Dáil. I will read the transcript of the proceedings after the meeting. I found the presentations very helpful. Dr. Boylan said in his presentation that the eighth amendment has caused grave harm to women, including death. I welcome Professor Arulkumaran's clarification for Senator Ruane of the Savita Halappanavar investigation team. My understanding of what he said was that the legislative position did have a serious impact on the clinical professional judgment. In that context, and in regard to Professor Arulkumaran's statement, does this arise because of the artificial divide between health and life? It is a fine line that can change in that often one is waiting for a situation to become life threatening. Would the removal of that distinction tidy up that matter?

We hear a lot that Ireland is a safe place to give birth. Is it not the case that many of the countries that are better than us have quite a liberal abortion regime and it is not, therefore, an argument that because we do not have abortion in Ireland we have safe maternity care? The countries rated higher than Ireland have a liberal abortion regime. Perhaps the delegates would elaborate on how that is linked to our ability to access abortion services in Britain.

I would like to discuss the abortion pill, which ties into the area of resources. Last week, the head of obstetrics and gynaecology in the UK said that in her opinion the legislation in the UK needs to be changed to allow nurses and midwives to make the abortion pill available. They currently make this medication available in cases of missed miscarriages and they carry out vacuum aspiration. Is this not a way in which to deal with a resources issue? As this is an approved medical pill that is certified in Ireland, why cannot it be administered in a GP's office by a nurse? Given the number of people who access it in the first trimester there is no real resources required. Perhaps this could be teased out further.

On consent, is it not the case that whereas normally the patient dictates his or her treatment, the woman's ability to consent, because of the eighth amendment, is diminished? I am thinking particularly in cases of people who are happy to parent but were brought to court because they did not want a caesarean section, it was deemed that the life of the unborn was threatened by their decision and, therefore, an action was taken to cut across their opinion.  I apologise for throwing these issues in together, but will the delegates address the points made?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I will start with Savita's case which was very clear. There are certain conditions in which a disease can escalate steeply and there is no time. By the time the condition is recognised one has missed the boat. For example, the maternal mortality rate in cases of severe sepsis is between 20% and 40%. If the mother develops septic shock, the figure rises to 60%. For every hour treatment is delayed, the chances of maternal mortality occurring rise by 6%. There is no time to waste and a clinician must recognise that the mother is going into septic shock, has a fever and a high pulse rate. However, because there is a heartbeat the clinician starts to dilly-dally. There is no question that the medical practitioner should be given the opportunity to act.

The second question was about the dispensing of tablets by nurses, pharmacists and so on. The crucial issue in liberalising termination is that it must come under regulation. As Dr. Boylan mentioned, it must come within the remit of a medical council, or a nursing council if nurses are to be allowed to dispense. The most important point is that the patient be registered with some clinical medical professional, whether it be a nurse, a midwife or a doctor, who could say the patient was at such a gestation period and that such a medication had been given. This person should give a telephone number to the patient in order that she could call if she was to experience fever, have a high pulse rate or bleeding in order that she could make immediate contact. There is no medical procedure without risk. The moment the patient feels something is wrong, she should be able to ring and gain access to health services in order that it can be managed. There are a number of countries which allow nursing and midwifery professionals to prescribe and administer the drug, but they always have communication and a centre which can deal with complications should they arise.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly An ordinary GP would be such an avenue.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: A GP would be fine.

Dr. Peter Boylan: The removal of the distinction between health and the risk of death would certainly be very helpful in assisting women and their doctors to reach a decision. Ireland is a very safe place in which to give birth, but it is not the safest in the world. The margins are quite small, but it is a very safe place in which to give birth. However, if we did not have access to the United Kingdom, our maternal mortality rate would shoot up because women would access unsafe illegal back-street abortion services. That is undeniable. The best example is Romania when Ceauescu came to power, on which I have provided information in my position paper.

There is a nurse practitioner programme which allows nurses and midwives to gain prescribing skills. That happens in maternity units nowadays. As Professor Arulkumaran said, it is important that they have backup and a telephone number and so on.

On the issue of consent, the Deputy mentioned forced caesarean sections because of a concern about the condition of the baby. That is very rare. It does happen, but it is extremely rare and I am not really sure what the eight amendment has to do with that issue. It is more about a clinician's concern about a woman's capacity to make the decision to continue a pregnancy. These are pregnancies which are well into term - 38, 39, 42, 43 and 44 weeks - and which involve significant foetal concerns which are not related to termination of pregnancy.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: I concur with Dr. Boylan on the consent issue. On the measure of safety, I urge the committee to widen its deliberations to consider serious morbidity which may include psychological and social morbidity. I believe we are measuring the wrong outcome if we look purely at mortality figures. The delegates at last week's meeting alluded to the fact that one could not see the national and sub-national data in mortality rates. One has to look for more qualitative data.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I thank the delegates for their presentations. I will begin with Professor Arulkumaran. Unfortunately, we are coming up to the fifth anniversary of Savita's death. There are still people who claim that her death had nothing to do with the law but rather with mismanagement in the particular hospital. I want to nail that one right now. In the recommendations made in Professor Arulkumaran's report he said: "We also believe that legislative factors affected medical considerations in this case and that this resulted in a failure to offer all management options to the patient". Is that correct?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Absolutely.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger At the time Professor Arulkumaran recommended that the Oireachtas consider the law, including any necessary constitutional change. That was one of his recommendations.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: That is correct.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Is he very disappointed or surprised that it has taken five years since the death of Savita for the Oireachtas to act?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I am disappointed because at the time of the inquiry I made some effort to contact the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We had discussions with the institute which stated nobody else would do anything and that the medical community had a responsibility to recommend some changes, but that did not happen. I hope it will happen under Dr. Peter Boylan.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Is Professor Arulkumaran surprised that it has taken five years for the Oireachtas to even discuss the issue?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I am surprised because we carried out that inquiry and made that specific recommendation, yet nobody really took note of it or took charge of progressing it.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Professor Arulkumaran states in his presentation that we could formulate a list of conditions, but that it would never be able to cover all health conditions which may arise. Is that correct?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: That is correct. As an example, if a woman has an underlying renal disorder which was not picked up before the pregnancy started and develops a condition - during pregnancy conditions such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes and hypertension can develop - her condition will deteriorate rapidly. If we had proceeded according to stratification, we would have missed that lady. That is why it is sometimes not that easy. Even if we had a list, it could not cover the entire spectrum.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Professor Arulkumaran is probably aware that the Citizens' Assembly insisted on risk rather than substantial risk being considered. It was the citizens participating in the assembly who did not want the words "substantial" or "real" being included. Does he think that would be wise and that risk alone should be the basis of any health-based ground for abortion?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: My personal view is that a spectrum should be considered, rather than focusing on health issues alone. Health issues are limiting. We must also think about women's rights and the other sociodemographic issues we are discussing. My advice is that only focusing on death and health and such things would restrict and might not give the greatest advantage. If the legislation is to be changed, the best approach is to take all facts into consideration to see what is best for the women of Ireland.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger By "the women of Ireland" Professor Arulkumaran means the 4,800 women whom he says are leaving the country and the further 20% whom he says are taking medical abortion pills which they source online. We heard evidence on this matter last week which included a study which had been carried out. What is his opinion on legislation which does not cater for those women whose health is not at risk but who are going to access abortion services?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I would proceed according to the woman's wishes. If those 4,800 women could access the same care which they can receive in England and be assessed by a doctor who could offer an abortion legally, that would be the best outcome for the women of Ireland.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I would also like to ask Dr. Boylan a few questions. He has spoken about the genie being out of the bottle because pregnant women can access abortion pills on the Internet and also find out quite a lot about them. It is not like 1983. What percentage of abortions would be covered by the 12-week period recommended by the Citizens' Assembly?

Dr. Peter Boylan: It would probably be more than 90%.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger In Dr. Boylan's view, would that be the best way? He mentioned legislation that he has looked at, without citing any particular country, where it is at a woman's request in the first trimester. Would that be the best basis for abortion legislation?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I think it probably would be the most honest way of dealing with it.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Why does Dr. Boylan say honest?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I mean instead of shrouding it, as it is in the UK, where effectively it is on request. Two doctors have to sign a document but effectively it is on the request of the woman, for whatever reason - risk to health, socioeconomic reasons and so forth.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Has Dr. Boylan any experience of women who are denied an abortion deciding not to have one? In other words, is this is going to continue, whether legal or illegal? Would that be his view?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I think it is going to continue anyway, legal or illegal. My experience would be very limited. I returned to Ireland in 1988 from the United States and I have been working here ever since, so my experience would be quite limited.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger My last question is on late-term abortions which have come up a lot at this committee. Indeed, they have come up a lot in Ireland generally, with images being used by anti-abortion groups. How frequent are these post-23 week abortions? What percentage of the overall abortion rate do they represent and for what reasons would they be carried out at that very late stage?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Probably under 1%. Yes, they would be under 1% and would be carried out for fatal anomalies that become apparent later in pregnancy.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Finally, something was said earlier about babies being left to die and that phrase has been used here before. References were also made to injections into the heart and so forth. Could Professor Arulkumaran clarify that he was referring to parents who are experiencing fatal foetal abnormality or some other situation where the prognosis is that life is not possible?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Yes, in the UK practice I mentioned earlier, if there is a fatal foetal malformation, it is very distressing for the parents to look at the baby gasping a few times and dying. We have counselling, repeated counselling and discuss it with them. If it is anencephaly, for example and there is no brain, just a little bit of tissue there or a major spinal defect where most of the organ systems will be paralysed and so forth, then we would offer that. If the mother says "No", that she does not want to have foeticide done and will take the consequences, then we say "Okay". We terminate the pregnancy and sometimes the baby might be alive. We just leave them there to really grieve with the baby and then we take it on. Many of the mothers, as Dr. Boylan mentioned earlier, want to do a registration, they want to have a funeral, to have a footprint of the baby taken and they like to remember that baby. Mother to mother, though, it varies quite a lot. There are some mothers who do not want to even look at the baby because they are worried that it might affect them and come back to them like a dream later on. We offer but if they do not want it, we do not force them.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The phrase "babies left to die" would be quite offensive and insulting in those circumstances.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: If it has a guaranteed, no-survival chance because of malformation then we leave it but if it is a normal baby, as Dr. Boylan said, at 23 weeks we make every effort to give all of the support needed.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Thank you. Deputy O'Connell is next and she has six minutes.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell We are deep in this process now. In terms of Professor Arulkmaran's opening statement, it really depends on whatever question one asks. What I am asking here is what we are trying to achieve. If we are trying to achieve something that is politically palatable or palatable to the wider public who, for some reason, people within these Houses seem to think are not engaged in this process, then we are going down the right road in this committee. We are trying to deal with the issue of the almost 5,000 women travelling to the UK. I was on a flight home from the UK last week and as I walked up the aisle, I wondered who on the plane was travelling back.

What we should be trying to achieve at this committee is the provision of appropriate maternity care for the women of this country without fear of political consequences for our own careers. We should be doing our job as legislators and we need to be brave here.

We have listened to many experts in the past few weeks, including the witnesses before us today but we keep talking about women as if women are some sort of abstract concept. I am one of those women. When I present myself in the Coombe Hospital to have a baby, I have a reasonable expectation that I will come out the other side alive and that my children will not be left without me. Professor Boylan said that the maternity strategy does not have women at its centre. If women are not at the centre of the maternity strategy, as we discussed at the Committee on Health, then where are we going in this country? There is this idea that we cannot trust women in this country with their own medical decisions. I totally agree with the Professor that risk depends on where one is in one's life. If I am told at 42 - in a few years time - that I have a high-risk pregnancy, I am not going to risk not coming out the other side but if I was 42 and having my first child, that would be a completely different decision. As one of the witnesses said, the individual nuances of cases present grey areas. I think it was Professor Boylan who said that but I might be attributing it to the wrong person. This has been made clear to the committee and those who are ignoring it are just putting their heads in the sand. We cannot allow for every permutation of every gestational development, every kidney function, every liver function or heart function of every individual and come up with some sort of formula whereby we, in here, allow women to do X, Y or Z with their lives.

I am getting frustrated at this stage. We spoke about floodgates opening and I always find this humorous-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Does the Deputy have a question for the witnesses?

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell It is as if there are gates and behind them are lots of pregnant women trying to get through but if we open them, they are just going to run wild. Pregnancy is something that progresses. If a woman is not going to get sorted in her GP's surgery, she is going to go onto aerlingus.com or ryanair.com or wherever. I hate being racist against Irish people but we are trying to get an Irish solution to an Irish problem here. I cannot understand why we are - to use Dr. Boylan's word - "shrouding" the decision in terms of trying to keep this person or that person happy. I think it is right to say that we are all abortionists in this room. It is just that some of us are willing to face up to the realities while some are willing to shove it onto someone else's plate.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy has gone over four minutes now; perhaps she would like to ask a couple of questions.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell Dr. Boylan touched on the anger women feel when they have a diagnosis in pregnancy. There is no greater pain than such a diagnosis, as he knows. These are babies that are wanted. At 22 weeks into a pregnancy, to be told that is just heartbreaking and for us to sit here and judge those women for what they choose to do with their bodies and their lives is appalling. We were asked to "get real" here by Professor Binchy a few weeks ago. I think we need to get real on this committee. The witnesses before us need to spell it out, in black and white, to us today that there is no way that we can legislate for everything we can think of here because in five years time, something might happen. Something might be developed that will enable children to survive at 22 weeks and that will be great and we will use it but we cannot-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Would the Deputy like to give the witnesses an opportunity to respond?

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell I think they need to spell it out here and not be afraid today to do so. They need to say that this is where we are and any sort of pussyfooting about is going to lead to uncertainty and women's lives are going to be at risk. Spell it out to us; I think we need it in black and white today.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We will have to have brief responses because the Deputy has used up her time.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I thank the Deputy for raising everything that she raised and I completely agree with her, 100%. I would recommend that legislation should, instead of saying this, that or the other, refer to it being discussed with the woman and, based on the women's request, a termination is offered if she wants it. That is based on 60 years experience in the UK and that is a perfect example of what is happening. It is not uncontrolled but is registered and these things are discussed. Otherwise, we are just, as the Deputy said, pussyfooting around, trying to invent reasons to do it.  That will not be the main objective. If the committee wants to bring in legislation, I would recommend looking at the UK and following that. If the committee does not want to look at the UK it can look at the others, but the legislation there is quite liberal.

Dr. Peter Boylan: We should repeal the eighth amendment and replace it with legislation along the lines recommended by the Citizens' Assembly which gave it very deep consideration.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: The result of the Citizens' Assembly is an example of deliberative democracy. We need to ensure the Irish electorate have an opportunity to show their opinion.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan It is very hard to follow Deputy O'Connell, who is certainly worth listening to. I thank the witnesses. I have read the presentation Professor Arulkumaran made to the Citizens' Assembly. Clearly women can go to Britain. We have abortion, but it happens to be in Britain. The professor presented figures from South Africa showing a 91% decrease in deaths from unsafe abortions when it was legalised. Yesterday I attended the launch of the UN report on the Sustainable Development Goals. The reality of women who die on the African Continent because they do not have access to a place like Britain is very stark.

Professor Arulkumaran presented graphs showing the reduction in abortions after legalisation in France, Italy and Turkey. I ask him to outline the reduction in abortion following legalisation so that we can be clear that we are talking about either unsafe abortions or legal abortions.

Several people have referred to the anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar and the sensitivity and difficulty for her family. Senator Mullen - I am sorry he is not here - referred to another woman who died. The witness did not have time to respond to the question because he had gone over his time. Is that the same woman referred to last week by the master of the Rotunda Hospital? If it was, it was a very different interpretation of why that woman died. I will give the witness more time to respond to that issue raised by Senator Mullen. His statement as to the reason that woman died does not seem to be true.

My final question is to Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin and perhaps to Dr. Boylan. Deputy Naughton asked about training and systems, and people having conscientious objections. When representatives of the Irish College of General Practitioners appeared before the committee, they made it clear that somebody with a conscientious objection has an obligation to refer the case to somebody who does not who will deal with the issue. Is that the same for obstetrics and gynaecology? If so what would be the practice whereby somebody in a hospital in the west of Ireland or the mid-west in my case can be certain that they will have access to the care they require irrespective of the geography?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I am not familiar with the details of the woman who died in London that Professor Malone mentioned. I cannot illuminate on that.

Training is a function of the institute. The skill sets are there already. Early terminations with tablets can be done through GPs surgeries and clinics, and by nurses who are certified to prescribe.

A person with a conscientious objection has an obligation to refer the woman on to somebody else who will have a different view. That is what they must do.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: I concur on conscientious objectors. Not all termination services will occur in the hospital sector. In time if abortion is liberalised in Ireland, early first trimester termination with medical management will occur in the community. Therefore the access to practitioners is possibly more streamlined in many areas around the country. If there are clusters of conscientious objectors that limit the geographical access for women and girls to services, the Medical Council is very clear at the moment - it will revise again in response to legislation - that the duty of care continues. Trying to arrange a transfer and access is part of that duty of care. A conscientious objector must have a very sincere belief in the ethical dilemma and be conflicted with it. It is not just a convenient opt-out by the professional. The testing of conscientious objection may become part of the assessment of competence and become a training issue.

The Deputy said that we have abortion; it is in the UK. It is not the perception of all women. Some women may get a late diagnosis of foetal anomaly at 22 or 23 weeks. The timeline to make a decision to seek support, to mobilise resources and to self-refer to the UK does not allow them to complete that in two or three weeks. We are familiar with women who have continued pregnancy even though that was not their desired option. We need to be careful that we do not allow that to become a commonly used phrase. Referring to my previous comment, we cannot underestimate the morbidity that we are not measuring at the moment.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I agree that if the legislation had been different, Savita's case would not have happened.

In the UK we have a few conscientious objectors. The General Medical Council regulation in the UK is that if any doctor - GP, physician or obstetrician - does not want to do something, it is their responsibility to refer the case to somebody in time and in the right place so that procedure can be carried out. I am sure the Medical Council here will also have the same regulations to prevent women being bypassed or delayed because of conscientious objection.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Do I have more time?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy may seek a point of clarification, but her time is up.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Obviously the referral time is critical. Does the HSE have an obligation to ensure that there are appropriate numbers of personnel in particular areas?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Part of the organisational development at national level is to initiate the national women and infants programme office. We now have an accountability structure for all services nationally as opposed to allowing services to develop ad hoc in maternity units according to who was serving in those areas. The responsibility for providing care, if it becomes legal in Ireland, will fall under the programme in the HSE in co-operation with the primary care elements.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I presume Professor Arulkumaran can confirm the statistics for France, Italy and Turkey.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: That is true. The WHO has reported that the introduction or liberalising of abortion in France, Italy and Turkey has reduced the number of terminations mainly because of post-abortion contraception. Many women will accept a long-acting reversible contraceptive such as an IUD or implant. Therefore they do not get pregnant or run to the same cycle. I am sure the same process will happen if it is legalised and takes place in Ireland. When these women go to Britain they do not have the opportunity to have that particular counselling and have contraception there. Here they are not going to come and say, "I had an abortion. I want contraception", unless they go and say they want contraception. As Dr. Boylan mentioned earlier, if termination is liberalised, it needs to be linked to contraception services.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan That is an important point.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I thank the witnesses for giving their time and for the evidence they have presented today. I have a question on the chilling factor.  On the issue of women or girls who may have accessed abortion pills through the Internet, I understand that there have been situations in Northern Ireland where prosecutions have taken place. Is there evidence that such prosecutions have happened here?

In the Citizens' Assembly, of the citizens in that group who voted for termination without restriction, 92% voted to limit gestation to 12 weeks, which is intervention at not later than 12 weeks. Does this meet the witnesses' requirements? I am mindful of the fact that we have discussed tragically unfortunate cases, and one case in particular that has been most under discussion. There are pre-exisiting conditions that have the propensity to accelerate dramatically if they are in combination with other conditions. At this stage, in relation to that case and to others, and in the event of there being evidence to that effect, will each of the witnesses say that they would now be prompted to intervene more quickly? During my time in the House I have dealt with a number of cases in this area where tragic consequences took place. That is the basis for my question.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: On the first question of whether there has been any prosecution in the Republic of Ireland similar to in the North, I would not know. I have not heard about any.

The Deputy's second question was about the limits of gestation for terminations, based on the outcome from the Citizens' Assembly. The records in the UK say that nearly 90% of terminations are done under 12 weeks. That would cover a vast number of them.

With regard to the third question posed, there are special circumstances where the mother may have an illness and if it were to escalate there could be organ damage. There might be some special provision given and taken. The Citizens' Assembly vote, in terms of percentages, reflects those dilemmas in some way. We must take everything into consideration. If it is just on request or for social reasons or otherwise, then it might be 12 weeks and that would cover 90%. There must, however, be a provision to have a later termination for those who have illnesses or conditions that can escalate.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I am not aware of any prosecutions in the Republic of Ireland for the use of the pills. The Citizens' Assembly 92% were in agreement with terminations up to 12 weeks. The Deputy asked about pre-existing conditions and if we would intervene quicker now. Does he mean in relation to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan With or without that, or irrespective. Would that apply anyway? In the event of a change in the legislation, how do the witnesses see themselves reacting in that situation?

Dr. Peter Boylan: As I have said, if the eighth amendment is repealed, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 still stands. The only reason one could perform a termination in Ireland would be if the mother's life was at risk. That would absolutely stand and it would be up to the Members to introduce legislation for all the other reasons that the Citizens' Assembly proposed.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan Let us assume that the legislation has been passed and there is a new regime. Does that in any way alter the degree to which, in an advanced stage of the pregnancy, it might be decided to intervene with a view to termination at an earlier stage than currently proposed?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I am not absolutely sure that I understand the question.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan In the event of a repeal of the eighth amendment and the legislation being changed, does that alter the manner in which the practitioners might deal with a case where the circumstances I have outlined might prevail. In other words, does it show that there is a difference now as opposed to what prevailed previously?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Undoubtedly yes.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: I am not aware of the chill effect and legal precedence. In terms of delaying access for post-abortal care, the fears among vulnerable groups are not always about criminalisation. The fear is of social rejection, disclosure to family and friends and the consequences in their immediate community. The Deputy framed his question around whether the legislation would meet our requirements. With regard to the women and girls we serve, having no reason for termination up to 12 weeks will not meet the requirements of all the women and girls who are currently seeking termination of pregnancy. While the diagnosis of pregnancy is made early in most cases, there are still many women who may not reach the self-diagnosis of pregnancy until beyond 12 weeks, although that is becoming less frequent. With education and a comprehensive reproductive care package, in time the earlier diagnosis of pregnancy may occur, especially with younger women but not always with older women.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan Is Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin suggesting that better sex education in schools might be of benefit?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Absolutely. That is part of the expanded reproductive health care programme. It is an entire education programme in formal and informal education in the youth sector.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan Have I another minute?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy is over his time. Is it a point of clarification?

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan It is one last question. Evidence has been suggested that where abortion is readily and legally available in a country, the number of abortions decline. What is the basis for that conclusion? Different regimes apply in different countries. Germany has fairly strict regulation of termination of pregnancy. As medical practitioners, are the witnesses aware of the system in Germany as opposed to the UK system?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: Yes. The restrictive practice in Germany is that the counselling is supposed to be directive counselling as opposed to non-directive. Germany is, however, one of the group of countries, along with the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavian countries, where abortion rates have fallen. It is not necessarily clear that abortion rates would fall immediately here because it would depend on the strength of the education programme and access to contraception, including post-abortal care contraception, as the professor has alluded to, and planned contraceptive services in a more informal delivery system than we currently have. In the long-term, if there is liberal termination of pregnancy legislation, we would anticipate a fall in the numbers of women seeking termination. In the short term, unless it is matched by other sex education programmes and other changes in contraception delivery, we might not see that fall immediately.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I wish to have clarification on a point touched on by Deputy Durkan relating to the position in Northern Ireland on abortion pills. Are the witnesses aware of any prosecutions there? This is information the committee will have to obtain and it has been raised already in this committee at other sessions.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes, there have been prosecutions there.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone That is what we have heard but we would like to know that this is accurate information.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: One of our Northern members alluded to a case but it was not in his jurisdiction and it did not inform today's position.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We will try to seek that information.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick I welcome the witnesses here today. The committee has been talking a lot about the safety of abortion for women. I would like to hear from Dr. Boylan about how safe abortion is for the baby in the womb. It seems to me that we must be prepared to say, here and now, that abortion is never safe for the baby. With abortion, the baby's life always ends. How does Dr. Boylan feel about introducing a procedure that would ask doctors to do the opposite of what they have always been asked to do? We have always trained doctors to save human lives. Abortion would expect doctors to end human lives.

Dr. Peter Boylan: From a mother's point of view, we have heard evidence that it is much safer than pregnancy. The mortality rate of mothers from abortion is in the order of one in a million. It is much higher, obviously, in pregnancies that continue on. We need to talk about the belief systems that people have. Many people hold the very firm and sincerely held belief that it is morally wrong in all circumstances to perform an abortion. They firmly believe that it is morally wrong to end a foetal life. That is absolutely true, those views have to be respected and they are quite widely held.  On the other hand, there are huge numbers of people who do not share those beliefs. As I alluded to earlier on, there are people happy to perform terminations for all sorts of different reasons and at different gestational ages, depending on their set of beliefs. One has to depend on what a person's belief systems are. Those are influenced by where they grow up, what they are taught in school, their religious background and so on.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick How safe is the unborn in the womb? I am asking about the unborn.

Dr. Peter Boylan: One has to come back to belief systems. People who are comfortable in their belief systems that the termination of pregnancy is an acceptable route to go are firmly of the belief that there is not a problem with ending a life in the womb, as the Deputy described it.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Following on from that, does Dr. Boylan believe the baby in the womb should be seen as a doctor's patient with the same rights as everyone else? If he does not, then what rights does he believe the baby should have, given that the baby's heartbeat starts just after three weeks in the womb? When does he think babies should a right to life in law?

Dr. Peter Boylan: One can detect a foetal heartbeat from very early on in a pregnancy. It is important to understand, however, that in the womb one does not have what used to be called a homunculus or fully-formed human from the early stages. There is a huge amount of complex development. When one can see a heartbeat in the womb, what one is looking at is a tube which is pulsating. It is not the heart as we know it. It is important to understand there are complex developments which take place from the beginning of conception right up until us, if one likes. Again, we come back to the belief systems.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Does Dr. Boylan believe he has two patients, the unborn and the mother, or does he believe he has one patient?

Dr. Peter Boylan: When a woman opts to continue with a pregnancy, then we have two patients who we have to take care of during the course of a pregnancy. That is why with ongoing pregnancies, which are the norm, we assess the condition of the foetus and we do ultrasound scans right throughout the whole pregnancy.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick Does Dr. Boylan believe the baby has rights?

Dr. Peter Boylan: That is a philosophical question to a certain extent. It is also a question for Legislatures to decide upon.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick What makes viability so important? Surely viability is just another stage of pregnancy. The baby is still the same member of the human race before viability as after that point. The only difference is that a baby is a bit bigger and more developed after viability. In countries where abortions are allowed, doctors are expected to ignore the rights of one of the patients, mainly the unborn. This is very different to what happens in Ireland where doctors do their best to save every life. What makes viability so important?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Viability refers to the ability of some babies to survive outside of the womb. The committee heard evidence last week from the masters of the Rotunda and National Maternity Hospital about how we define viability as 24-weeks' gestation. Some babies can survive if they are born at 23 weeks while some babies born at 25, 26 or 27 weeks will not survive because they are not developed enough to survive. Among the survivors, there is a high rate of disability. That is why viability is important. For example, if a mother develops severe high blood pressure at 24 weeks, we will intervene. As the baby is viable, we will make every effort to save the baby. If a woman develops the same degree of hypertension at 20 weeks, there is no point in trying to save the baby because it has zero chance of survival at 20 weeks. That is the difference between pre-viable and viable.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick As was stated earlier, this is one of the safest countries in the world for a baby to be born. Dr. Boylan mentioned that this probably is the strictest country in Europe but I believe Poland is a little stricter than are we at present. I want Europe and the world to realise that Ireland is a safe place to have a baby. We have fantastic medical doctors and everything else and look after the child and the mother.

There are two people involved, the unborn and the mother. The point I am trying to make is it is important that the doctor realises he has two patients.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I fully respect the Deputy's viewpoint but the point is that if Ireland did not have access to termination of pregnancy in the UK, as we do, the maternal mortality rate would be very high. The only thing that keeps us having a low mortality rate is ease of access to termination of pregnancy in the UK. That, unfortunately, is a reality.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick My problem is that one in every five pregnancies in the UK is aborted and there are 200,000 abortions in the UK each year. The last thing I want to see is Ireland following suit.

We have a fantastic health system in Ireland and it is a safe place to have babies. I want to continue that. I want Ireland to be known as a safe place to have a baby. Perhaps the Government could do more. When a woman presents herself to a doctor and does not know whether she wants an abortion or not, the information she gets from the doctor is important. This is my first time meeting Dr. Boylan and I know he is strong in his beliefs. If someone went to Dr. Boylan with his beliefs or to another doctor with other beliefs, then we have a problem. That is my concern.

I am not criticising Dr. Boylan for his beliefs. In fairness, he has given his honest opinion on every question I have asked. I am giving my honest opinion that if a woman presents herself, whether she is suicidal or raped, she is dependent on that doctor to give her the information. My problem is whether the doctor is pro-life or pro-choice. The woman is vulnerable and we trust the woman but the problem is with the doctor. Dr. Peter Boylan is strong in his views. My problem is if the woman went to him or another doctor.

Dr. Peter Boylan: My views are that the woman's opinion has to be respected once she gets all of the relevant information. Ultimately, she is the person who has to live with the decision. I respect the Deputy's view. I would not be persuading a woman to have a termination of pregnancy and I would not be persuading her not to have a termination of pregnancy. I would give her all of the information. It is up to her to make her decision. That is the role of a doctor as a non-directive counsellor. One has to respect a woman's view. One of the functions of a doctor is not to be an advocate of a particular moral point of view when it comes to termination of pregnancy.

Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick: Information on Peter Fitzpatrick Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick It is also important to respect the doctor's view too.

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes, but one leaves one's views at the door.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I thank the witnesses for staying with us.

During the last hearings on this issue held by the Oireachtas in 2013, the former Senator, John Crown, asked obstetricians, including the masters of the Rotunda and National Maternity Hospital, if they knew of any instance where doctors were prevented from intervening to save a woman's life because of Ireland's legal ban on abortion, namely, the eighth amendment. All the doctors said they did not know of any instance. Does Dr. Boylan agree with their evidence?

Dr. Peter Boylan: The most egregious example is Savita Halappanavar. She died as a consequence of the eighth amendment.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath That was a tragic case and there are many differing opinions about it.

(Interruptions).

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Deputy Mattie McGrath had the floor and the witness is entitled to answer.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I had the opportunity of reviewing her notes forensically. I may have an unfair advantage in that respect.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Aside from that tragic situation, are there other cases?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Professor Arulkumaran shares my opinion. He also had the opportunity of doing an in-depth investigation, including interviewing all of the relevant people, apart from the one midwife who was on sick leave.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I accept that. However, outside of that tragic case, the Savita case, were there other cases?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Of maternal death?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes.

Dr. Peter Boylan: I cannot think of one off the top of my head.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I also noted that at a previous all-party Oireachtas committee hearing on abortion in 2009, the then chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor John Bonnar, submitted a position paper on abortion only after consulting with all members of the institute. I note Dr. Boylan stated today in his paper that he has also canvassed institute members' opinions. How many did he canvass?  Why did he not undertake a consultation or survey of all the members of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists before coming to us today?

Dr. Peter Boylan: I gave every member of the institute an opportunity to contact me with regard to their opinions in respect of the evidence that I would be giving today. I have made it very clear that I am not speaking on behalf of the institute, but I have taken members' views into account in giving my evidence today.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Could Mr. Boylan enlighten us as to what kind of feedback he got, percentage-wise, from members?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Most of the feedback I got in fact was broadly in agreement with the proposals of the Citizens' Assembly.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath That was most of it. Did Dr. Boylan get any alternative views?

Dr. Peter Boylan: One or two expressed concerns about the actual implementation of the legislation to be brought forward as the Citizens' Assembly recommended.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath But Dr. Boylan did not engage other than giving a view. What way did he advertise or contact them? How were they notified?

Dr. Peter Boylan: They were notified by way of a circular letter from me inviting contributions.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath That went to all of Dr. Boylan's colleagues. Is that correct?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes, to every member of the institute.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath During an abortion procedure, the abortionist often uses ultrasound to help guide the instruments to grasp at its member, the baby. Does Dr. Boylan think that ethically this must be a difficult procedure for an obstetrician to perform? According to statements from the British Department of Health in 2011, the number of doctors unwilling to perform abortions is increasing. Why does Dr. Boylan think that is so? We have evidence of that in other jurisdictions as well.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am conscious that you are speaking at the moment, Dr. Boylan, but by all means please indicate, Professor or Dr. Ní Bhuinneain, if either of you would like to comment further.

Dr. Peter Boylan: My understanding about the position in the UK – Professor Arulkumaran will probably correct me – is that because most terminations are done outside the NHS, trainees are not gaining the skill-sets. As a result, they are uncomfortable with doing something that they do not have the skill-set to do. I think it might be better if Professor Arulkumaran were to elaborate on that.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Training in termination of pregnancy has not been uniformly given for most trainees. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is trying to reintroduce that. Let us consider the 2016 report. Almost 60% to 70% of the terminations are done medically. Only a small percentage will need surgical termination. I work at St. George's, University of London Hospital. We offer termination by suction termination. Late terminations are very rare. As I mentioned, after 20 weeks a lethal malformation is 1% to 2%. In such cases we do not really have to look at the foetus and dismember, or something like that, because we use medication, like Misoprostol and other drugs, that can procure the termination without difficulty. The past practice of traumatic termination is going away. Mostly, medical terminations are coming into practice.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Surely in the limited cases that it does happen, it is off-putting. Apart from the training issue – I understand that – the evidence is that the numbers of doctors who are unwilling to perform abortions is increasing.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Hospitals really have to specifically take doctors who can perform these cases and train them. In future we will have to revamp. As Dr. Peter Boylan mentioned, there was a stage when the hospitals were giving certain services on contract to private agencies. As a result, most of the cases went to the private agencies and there were hardly any cases to be trained within the hospital, except a few hospitals like St. George's, which I mentioned. We retained the services throughout. That practice will come back again because now those responsible are reviewing the cost. The cost of providing the services in the hospitals will be far cheaper compared to private agencies. It is nothing much to do with doctors' personal wishes; in many cases it is to do with how the services are contracted. I hope it will reverse itself.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Does Professor Arulkumaran think it is all down to cost? Who vets those private agencies?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The hospital trust does it. It gives contracts for cataract, knee replacement, abortion and so many things.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am aware of that. We are speaking about abortion today. It is all down to cost, so.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There is time for one final point of clarification.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: There might be an element of where the doctors do not want to do it. However, we have not done a survey of anything like that to see whether it is because they do not want to do it, because they lack training or because the contract has gone. I will not be able to tease out the reasons or ascertain which is the right reason that fewer people are now keen to offer termination of pregnancy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Surely we should examine that.

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: The Royal College put out a statement recently stating it wants to review that and increase the training in this area.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Thank you, Deputy. Deputy O'Brien, you have six minutes altogether.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien This is really a straightforward "Yes" or "No" question. During the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, the legislation was described at the time as being necessary to provide certainty to the legal profession as to when terminations could be carried out. In my opinion, we, as legislators, failed to do that with that legislation. Not only did we fail the medical profession, we failed women in general. Do all three witnesses agree that we can ill afford to do that again? Do they agree that a decision by this committee to repeal the eighth amendment would send a clear and positive message to the medical community?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I wish to discuss issue of risk. I note that Dr. Boylan mentioned earlier how different people will assess risk, especially woman. Dr. Boylan gave the example of someone who was trying in vitro fertilisation for years. She may assess risk differently from someone who may be in her 40s with a family. Therefore, the views of the woman need to be incorporated into the decision. Does Dr. Boylan agree that it would be practically impossible for us to legislate for the risk in primary legislation, given those scenarios? Does he agree that the issue of risk would be best looked at in guidelines or regulation?

Dr. Peter Boylan: Yes, I think it would be impossible to legislate for every individual circumstance. Life is untidy and so I do not believe we can legislate for every particular circumstance in human life – that is simply not possible. I think it should be a decision between the mother – the woman herself – and her care-giver, whether a doctor, nurse, midwife or whoever. That is the right environment to make that decision because of the inherent variation from one individual's circumstances to another. I do not think we can legislate for it.

Deputy O'Brien asked about guidelines. The more we can direct guidelines to the decision being a case of one between the patient and the doctor, the better. I also think that we should absolutely repeal the eighth, but not put anything else in the Constitution. Legislation is the place to deal with this.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Is the Professor of the same opinion?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: Yes.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It is just as well. Professor, you have a flight at 7 p.m. so I think we need to get you into a taxi.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I have one final question. I was reading through the appendix that the Professor provided. The issue of counselling came up. I know that this is an issue some people who are opposed to terminations have raised. This is the issue of a reflection period or a cooling-off period when a woman decides that she wishes to have a termination. I note that we have also heard evidence that any delay in providing a termination can also increase risk. Is it the Professor's opinion that we should never have a situation where there is mandatory cooling-off or reflection period, as some people have called for?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I agree with what Deputy O’Brien is saying. We have to give counselling about the advantages of continuing with the pregnancy and the risk of termination etc. If she makes the decision and she still wants to proceed with the termination of pregnancy, then that should be final. There should not be a mandatory two week period of thinking that she might change her mind. If she says on her own that she needs some time to think about it, that is not mandatory, but that is a different question altogether. Increasing the gestation causes more complications in terms of terminations.  She has to wait in personal agony for two weeks. By and large, we do not recommend that so-called mandatory waiting period.

Dr. Peter Boylan: That is a relevant point for women who have to travel to the United Kingdom because by the time they have made the decision, gathered the money, made arrangements for children at home and travelled over to, say, Liverpool, to stay in a hotel on their own, they have spent all of their money, perhaps having borrowed from a bank or a credit union, and it would be very hard for them to change their mind at that stage. They are committed, whereas if they were in this country, they would have more time to consider their options and there would not be the panic and the emotional pressure to get on with it and make a decision they might regret when, if they had had more time here, they might have made a different decision.

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: It is international practice not to introduce measures that introduce delays. However, we are moving from one extremely restrictive practice to debating what is best for society in Ireland. Ultimately the electorate will decide how liberal the result will be.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte In Professor Arulkumaran's opinion, will the rate of abortion for babies with disabilities increase sharply if abortion is legalised in Ireland?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: I did not follow the question.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte If abortion is legalised in Ireland, will the percentage of abortions increase for children diagnosed with a disability?

Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran: It is very unlikely because generally the incidence of lethal malformations is tiny. I do not think the numbers would increase. Those who are diagnosed and cannot have a termination here travel to the United Kingdom to have it done. I do not think the numbers would increase in that particular category.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I thank Professor Arulkumaran. Would anyone else like to answer that question?

Dr. Meabh Ní Bhuinneáin: It is difficult to know, given that currently we do not have systematic screening for a foetal anomaly. There is another issue at play. There is mention in the national maternity strategy of ultrasound, but there has to be a national debate on providing a full prenatal diagnostic service that would include chromosomal testing. The numbers of women in Ireland who have the opportunity to terminate a pregnancy in the case of a disability as opposed to a potentially life-limiting condition are not yet at the level of international norms for those who have that information. We are not yet in a position to anticipate what would happen because we do not yet have organised screening services.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank our three guests for attending. We very much appreciate the fact that Professor Arulkumaran travelled to be here because he is under time pressure. I also thank Dr. Boylan and Dr. Ní Bhuinneáin for their attendance. We really appreciate their thorough answering of the questions posed by members.

  Sitting suspended at 5.15 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.

Options for Constitutional Change

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We are now in public session. We have discussed in private session over the last while the the issue of how to best proceed. The committee has taken evidence in public session from constitutional law and human rights experts and will review the six options open to us in with regard to constitutional change. Our legal adviser has outlined in a paper to this committee these six options to appeal or to amend Article 40.3.3° Members will all be familiar with the recommendations from the Citizens' Assembly. Deputy O'Brien has indicated that he has a proposal as to how to proceed.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien In order to allow the committee to examine all of the options outlined to us by the legal adviser I propose that Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher In view of the fact that that would give us the flexibility to discuss all the options put to us by legal advisers, I second the proposal.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We have discussed this already, but I see that Senator Mullen has indicated.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I oppose the taking of this vote.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I second that.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy That is interesting. Senator Mullen and Deputy McGrath could have let us know of this beforehand.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Members are quite free to vote for or against any proposal of the committee, or indeed to abstain from the vote. Because all members are present there is no requirement to ring the bells for a vote. The question is:"That Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full." Members who are in favour say "Tá"-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Before the Chairman puts this to a vote, is it open to members to propose an amendment to that motion?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The vote has been called.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am asking whether I can propose an amendment that this be deferred until all witnesses have been heard by the committee.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone That was the subject of our discussion for the past hour in private session. Senator Buttimer wishes to raise a point of order.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I thought that a roadmap for this public meeting had been agreed in private session. There was no dissenting voice at that meeting.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I did not agree. It is open to me to reserve my position until we are in public session and I can air it in a fully transparent way. I do not agree with anything that has gone on here or with the way in which the one motion we had down today was withdrawn in favour of a completely different motion. I believe that I am entitled to oppose the taking of this vote, though I am open to correction on the procedure here. I believe I am also entitled to propose an amendment. Further to that, should my amendment not succeed, I believe I am then entitled to oppose the vote. I will accept the ruling of the Chairman, of course.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I will have to defer to the clerk on this matter.

Clerk to the Committee: Members of the committee are entitled to vote against the question.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I am aware of that.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We agreed in private session that I would put the question that Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full. Every member is entitled to vote against that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen What about my proposed amendment to the motion? Is it not normally the procedure that we start with the amendment and work back?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There is a proposal here; there is no motion. The Senator was here for the private meeting. Many different things were discussed and various people submitted motions. There was a counter-motion and then a proposal was made. We are taking a vote on a proposal suggested by Deputy O'Brien. Senator Mullen knows why we reached this point as we have been discussing this for the past hour.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I do, but I am entitled to reserve my approach until the public session in the presence of the media and so that the public can know what is going on. I have already stated that this is a farcical process and people know my view on this. We have not had enough time to question witnesses and there has been a whole range of problems. I think I am entitled to ask whether I am at this point entitled to propose an amendment to the motion, which is that the matter be deferred until all witnesses have been heard.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Is the Senator proposing an alternative vote?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone My understanding from the clerk is that the question has been put and that, in line with procedure, we must now take a vote on it. I do not think we should even be having this debate.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I second Senator Mullen's proposal. What are we hiding here? Why have we been in private session for the last hour?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We are not hiding anything.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Chairman has said that we cannot speak on this matter now. Senator Mullen and I did not take part in the discussion over the past hour because it was farcical in the extreme. This now is an even bigger farce. He wants to propose an amendment which I am seconding. We want a discussion on this in public, not behind closed doors.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I do not understand what Senator Mullen and Deputy McGrath are proposing and seconding. The question has already been put.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath We want to propose an amendment to the proposal.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly It is very regrettable that the members who chose not to take part in the debate before this now want to indulge in a bit of grandstanding. It is regrettable but not surprising. We have a proposal and it should be put. My understanding is that the Chairman is perfectly entitled to go through with this vote and I think we should just do this and then move on.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We agreed as a committee that we would give notice of any motions so that they be submitted in advance.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen No notice was given of this motion.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone This is not a motion. It is a proposal.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen This is a vote and I am proposing an amendment to it.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath And I am seconding it.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer You cannot do that.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The question has been put so in terms of procedure I am correct in saying that-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Is the clerk-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am telling the committee what the clerk has told me. He has a very good knowledge of procedure and both he and the legal adviser have informed me that the question, "That Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full", has been put and that we are now to vote on it. We discussed this for the past hour and this is how we came to this point.  It is usual in committees that we have a discussion in private before we go into public session. It went on a little longer than I would have liked but the reality is that is normal.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Chairman is entitled to have whatever discussion she wants in private if that is the will of the committee but other members of the committee who might believe that everything should be carried out in public are entitled to seek to transact the business of the committee in public. I certainly want to make it clear that I did not agree, privately or otherwise, to our progressing to this point.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Okay. To be fair, before I let other members in, many members had indicated early on that they wanted to go into public session early and Senator Mullen is not alone there.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Yes.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes, I suggested it. Why did we not?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Because we needed legal advice on the conversation we were having and one is not entitled to have legal advice while in public session. That is the reason we were in private session. Let there be no ambiguity about that.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen What legal advice did we get during it?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The members have said their piece.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me, members.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen Sorry.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Deputy Mattie McGrath indicated.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I did, I thank the Chair. I will not hog it at all. I am just saying that I do not agree either that we should move in this direction this evening. I discussed it with the clerk to the committee. I am not trying to interfere with the clerk to the committee's business. I sought clarification during the break. It was not my understanding that we were going to decide something in private and then put it to a vote in public. That was not my understanding.

What is wrong with us, if we come to the impasse-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Deputy Mattie McGrath is making his views known now, that is fine.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath If we come to the impasse - sorry, Chair, I am nearly finished - here-----

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Order, respect the Chair, please. Respect the Chair.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am respecting the Chair.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Deputy Mattie McGrath did not.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath How dare Senator Buttimer? Excuse me, Chair. Can I finish, Chair?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Please finish.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I will be very brief.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Thank you, please finish.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I do not want any sideshows. This is terrible. Thankfully, it is public and the public can see the tempers of members and what we have to put up with.

I would have thought, if we needed legal advice here in the committee in public, that we could adjourn and get the legal advice in private, and go back again. That is often done in procedural committees.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We can do that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath But sure, we can do that.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We can do that at any stage.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Chair, members, such as Deputy Clare Daly, have their hands up.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Deputy Mattie McGrath has spoken three times.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger We have Senator Ruane. It is just there is a-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Exactly, sorry. Senator Ruane had indicated.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I suppose-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Sorry, will members who have indicated please raise their hands again?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Up until this point we were all following procedures that we laid down. The first one of those was that it would be 24 hours before we had any sort of motion, and that is why Deputy Jonathan O'Brien has put a proposal.

The fact that we were in private or public session does not matter. What matters is that Senator Mullen is not taking on board what has been arranged and agreed every week. The Chairman asked two weeks ago. If members felt so strongly about having a motion in, they should respect the fact that we are all putting time and effort into submitting our motions in time. If they want to submit motions, they need to abide by the rules. It is not about being in public or private session. They are coming up with solutions and suggestions while they are sitting there now in public session but they did not have a solution while we were in private session. Why could they not have suggested, as Deputy Mattie McGrath said, going on and off into private session if necessary? Why could the Deputy not say that four minutes into the meeting?

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher There is a proposal before the committee.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Exactly, I have to put the question. Sorry, I have indulged members here now. We have also had an hour of discussion before we came into public session. I am not having any more discussion about it. The Question is, "That Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full."

Question put: "That Article 40.3.3° should not be retained in full."

The Committee divided: Tá, 15; Níl, 3.

Níl
Information on Jerry Buttimer   Zoom on Jerry Buttimer   Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Peter Fitzpatrick   Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick   Fitzpatrick, Peter.
Information on Lisa Chambers   Zoom on Lisa Chambers   Chambers, Lisa. Information on Mattie McGrath   Zoom on Mattie McGrath   McGrath, Mattie.
Information on Ruth Coppinger   Zoom on Ruth Coppinger   Coppinger, Ruth. Information on Rónán Mullen   Zoom on Rónán Mullen   Mullen, Rónán.
Information on Clare Daly   Zoom on Clare Daly   Daly, Clare.  
Information on Bernard Durkan   Zoom on Bernard Durkan   Durkan, Bernard J.  
Information on Paul Gavan   Zoom on Paul Gavan   Gavan, Paul.  
Information on Billy Kelleher   Zoom on Billy Kelleher   Kelleher, Billy.  
Information on Catherine Murphy   Zoom on Catherine Murphy   Murphy, Catherine.  
Information on Hildegarde Naughton   Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton   Naughton, Hildegarde.  
Information on Catherine Noone   Zoom on Catherine Noone   Noone, Catherine.  
Information on Jonathan O'Brien   Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien   O'Brien, Jonathan.  
Information on Kate O'Connell   Zoom on Kate O'Connell   O'Connell, Kate.  
Information on Louise O'Reilly   Zoom on Louise O'Reilly   O'Reilly, Louise.  
Information on Jan O'Sullivan   Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan   O'Sullivan, Jan.  
Information on Lynn Ruane   Zoom on Lynn Ruane   Ruane, Lynn.  


Question declared carried.

Staon: Deputies James Browne and Anne Rabbitte.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We will now move to the discussion, as we agreed to last week and as we discussed earlier, with regard to the advices that have been received and discussed by the committee. I will go through the six options. Of course, it is not an exhaustive list of options. Option 1 is repeal simpliciter. Option 2 is repeal based on published legislation entrenched in the Constitution. Option 3 is repeal based on legislation published in tandem with a referendum. Option 4 is repeal and replacement on specific grounds. Option 5 is repeal and replace on broad grounds and-or expressing a rebalancing of rights.  Option No. 6 is repeal and replacement with provision conferring exclusive power on the Oireachtas to regulate. I will allow members approximately five minutes each. They should indicate if they would like to speak. The first speaker is Deputy Lisa Chambers.

Deputy Lisa Chambers: Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers I welcome the fact that the committee has deliberated at some length and we have reached a broad consensus that the status quo cannot pertain and that at least some change will be made. We have not discussed what those changes will be yet and we are about to deliberate on those options now, but there appears to be broad consensus that the status quo cannot be maintained. That is progress at the end of a number of weeks of very hard work on behalf of each member of this committee.

  We discussed at length with our legal advisers the options available to us. The first option was repeal simpliciter. The difficulties posed by that potentially are that it may be considered in conflict with the Citizens' Assembly but we are open to reporting in our own right as a committee and that is an option we will consider very carefully.

  I propose to discuss option No. 2, which is repeal based on published legislation entrenched in the Constitution in that the legislation would be drafted and then it would be given a constitutional status. The difficulties were outlined very clearly to us on that particular option by our legal advisers and the challenges that would present. The advice to us was that it would be impractical to say the least to have option No. 2 in place because minor amendments or even procedural amendments would require a constitutional referendum, which appears to almost take that option off the floor but we will make a call on that as a group.

  Option No. 3 is repeal based on legislation published in tandem with a referendum. It does appear that this is certainly one option that is quite viable as it does provide a reasonable approach in that I think it is reasonable to say a lot of people, perhaps the majority, will want to know what will be in place after a potential repeal. If legislation is to be published, it does make sense that citizens would know what the legislation would be and what the intention of the Government would be in terms of drafting it. That makes sense.

  Option No. 4 is repeal and replacement on specific grounds. That would be a situation whereby we would repeal the eight amendment and we would replace it with another constitutional article which would then detail the specific grounds on which an abortion could be obtained. I believe the intention under that option is that the grounds would be quite restricted. Again, that posed challenges in some ways. There would be an interpretation then by the courts in terms of how that would operate and it would require legislation as well. That option is, again, not without its challenges.

  Option No. 5 is quite similar to option No. 4. It is repeal and replace on broader grounds, providing a greater degree of flexibility to legislators and to the medical profession. That is an option we would have to consider in more detail.

  Option No. 6 is repeal and replace with a provision conferring exclusive power on the Oireachtas to regulate. That would repeal the current Article 40.3.3° and replace it with another constitutional article dictating that the Oireachtas would have the sole power to legislate. This, technically, is what the Citizens' Assembly called for, but again we have the option to discuss that further as a possible outcome.

  What is very clear is that there are a number of outcomes and options available to us as a committee. They will be available to the Dáil to adjudicate on and ultimately to the people. That is the point to be made. We are doing a lot of work here in terms of trying to compile a report and have the greatest degree of consensus that we can, although I believe there is an acceptance that we will probably not have full consensus among every committee member, and that is reflective of Parliament and the country. This is not a decision that will be agreed upon by everybody. In the context of the legal options available to us, it is incumbent upon us as legislators to discuss in detail how each of those options could be catered for, and that will require us then to look at the possible ways we could legislate for each and every eventual outcome.

  In terms of the proposal that was put to the committee today not to retain Article 40.3.3° in full, what that allows us to do is to explore all six options and to decide how best to proceed, but I think there is an acceptance on the part of the majority of members that the status quo cannot be maintained.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I acknowledge that we have made some progress in terms of the vote we have taken tonight, and at least it means that we can now proceed to look at what possibly might be in legislation and the further recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. I was the first person to propose that we should go into public session when we assembled here this evening. I think we have seen evidence of why it would have been desirable to go into public session sooner because many members of the committee did not engage in the discussion we had previously. My understanding is that the Chairman put a proposal that we generally agreed with regard to procedure before we went into public session but we had the opportunity to not agree to that procedure. The Chairman asked us, and it is disingenuous then to come along in public session and have the opportunity to say why one does not agree with it.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen On a point of order.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Unless it is a point of order, I do not wish to hear it. I am making a general point not directed specifically at Senator Mullen. Unless it is a point of order or a point of clarification, Deputy O'Sullivan has the floor and the same applies to every other member.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The reason I say that is that a number of us here have engaged in discussion in private in good faith to get to a position where we could go into public session. There are many things that I would have liked to have said in public session that we did agree in private session but I do want to put on the record that I did submit a motion that the committee recommend the holding of a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann, as did other members of the committee who may wish to state that on the public record. We recognise that there were other members of the committee who in good faith did not want to have to vote on the issue this evening or this week. In good faith we accepted that because we do want to reach as much consensus as we can in the committee. That does not change my position, which is expressed in my motion, but it does mean that we are giving the time we have been asked to give. That now has to go on the public record because, effectively, there is so much going out in public anyway that we are talking about in private that I do think it is important that we are all able to put our positions. Clearly, I am not going to push that motion today and we have agreed a procedure. However, I wish to address the issue of the various options that are before us.

  There are three that deserve consideration, one being repeal simpliciter, which is the first option, and the second being No. 3, which is repeal with accompanying legislation, although I do have a bit of a problem with the title of that which is "repeal based on legislation published in tandem with the referendum", because the legal advice in private indicates that there would be no legal obligation on the Oireachtas to enact that legislation. However, I think it is helpful to the public politically if people have some idea what legislation the Government is proposing side by side with putting the question to the people by way of referendum. The third option which I consider to be worth considering is the sixth option, namely, repeal and replace with a provision conferring exclusive power on the Oireachtas to regulate, but I do have a difficulty with that one because there would be an issue with the public because we would be seen to be taking away the power of the Judiciary and taking the power exclusively into the hands of the Oireachtas. It is a simpler way to accept what is the constitutional convention anyway that the Oireachtas has the power to legislate once it is within the various articles of the Constitution. While that is technically the recommendation of the Citizens' Assembly, I do think there might be an issue with it. That is something we teased out in private and I am happy to put that much on the record.

  We have six options and I think we have made a decision. I was one of the people who campaigned in 1983 against putting Article 40.3.3° into the Constitution, or at least the original amendment which has subsequently been changed slightly.  I wish to record my satisfaction that, as a committee, we have at least voted to recommend that it should no longer stand as is. As soon as possible, we should move to make a recommendation on what would be put to the people and, side by side with that, consider the Citizens' Assembly's various recommendations.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy was bang on five minutes. I thank her. Senator Mullen has five minutes.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I believed that I was coming to consider a procedural vote on what was then Deputy Kelleher's proposal that there be a deferral of any consideration of questions of a more substantial nature until the second module was out of the way. I understand why it can be necessary to have meetings in private session to allow people to, for example, avail of legal advice. Not everyone has the same legal background or knowledge or people may need issues clarified. Being able to do that in private session is every member's right. However, I do not feel in any way bound to communicate my views on procedures or otherwise in private session when those procedures are material to what is going on at this committee.

  I have put it on the record in public, and will happily say it again now, that what has gone on here has been a farcical and cynical process for many reasons: a thorough preponderance of witnesses-invitees in favour of abortion; no time to question people properly; and no distinction in practice between supposed experts and advocates for abortion. To put the tin hat on it, we have moved to vote on proposing that the rights of the unborn be taken away to some extent or completely. That is the implication of what was voted for today. Not only did we do that without a debate among ourselves on its merits, but we did so without even listening to all of the invitees who were supposed to appear before us. That illustrates just how cynical what is happening is and it makes a nonsense of the Chairman's protestations in private and public that she would be open to considering inviting more witnesses. Presumably, there are people who may yet appear before the committee who propose that the retention of the status quo is the only thing that would not substract from some people's human rights. All of that has been set at nought by the pre-emptive decision of this committee without a debate of the merits among ourselves - our only debates have been on procedures - and without hearing from other witnesses. It would be laughable if what was at stake was not the denial of the human rights of a whole section of our community.

  I am disappointed by the two mainstream centrist parties in particular. In the case of Fianna Fáil, two members voted to take away in some shape or form the eighth amendment, which protects the human rights of the unborn as well as the mother, and two abstained. That is a million miles away from what the ordinary members of that party decided at their own Ard-Fheis last Saturday. In the case of Fine Gael, only one of its five committee members voted against substracting from the human rights of the unborn. That is a million miles away from where so many of the ordinary membership of that party is. It reminds me of the famous line from William Butler Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

  What is at stake is unprecedented, namely, the denial of human dignity, or respect for same, for a whole section of our community. We had a great tradition in this country. Please God, and regardless of whether people are persons of faith, I hope that the Irish people will vote to protect and include everyone in our society. What has been decided by the committee's majority tonight is a repudiation of that. It is shameful in terms of human rights and human dignity. This is a bad moment for respect for human dignity in these Houses. It may be happening downstairs in a quiet chamber with not many people listening in, but human rights are being denied in these Houses. Consider what those who fought for independence for and that the 1983 amendment was a beacon to the world. To have a denial of all of that without even a debate on the merits among members or hearing from all of the witnesses is cynical and tragic.

  I do not know what we can do now. What the committee has done is create a situation in which every proposal is bad because it takes away respect for some people's human dignity and implies that some people will no longer have the protection of the law - vulnerable young babies, sick young babies, disabled young babies or perhaps just every young baby who is not wanted or for whom an abortion is sought. That is a tragic situation and a bad pass for the committee to have arrived at tonight. I deeply regret it. Many people in this country will regret what the committee has decided. Thankfully, the committee will not have the final say. Nor will the Dáil and Seanad. The great achievement of the eighth amendment was to take this issue away from judicial and parliamentary elites and give it to the people of Ireland. I hope that the Irish people will decide to be inclusive rather than exclusive of human dignity if and when this comes to a vote.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher I welcome the opportunity to speak in public on this matter. The purpose of the motion that I tabled was to arrive at a situation where we could consider the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations. Tabling it was important because we were asked to consider those recommendations as part of our terms of reference. If we had just opted for a repeal simpliciter, we would have had parked the substantive recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly, namely, that Article 40.3.3o should not be retained in full, it should be replaced or amended or it should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman. These were the three substantive issues on which the Citizens' Assembly voted. Had we supported a repeal simpliciter, we effectively would not have been debating those recommendations anymore and it would have been difficult to move on to its following recommendations in view of the fact that we had rejected them without consideration.

  This is a compromise. We can still debate the substantive issues and all of the legal advice and options that have been placed before us. Deputy Chambers and others have gone through them. Some of them sit uncomfortably with me not only in the context of what they propose, but predominantly on legal grounds. Entrenching legislation in the Constitution, which was recommended in option No. 2 on a repeal based on published legislation entrenched in the Constitution, would be a dangerous road to take. While it might give certainty, it gives no flexibility. We could be tying the hands of legislators and others for many years to come if we opted for the entrenchment proposal. Even if people just wanted to change a comma, we would have to hold another constitutional referendum. That option should be parked fairly soon in our deliberations.

  On the broader issue of repeal simpliciter, it allows for the Oireachtas to legislate in its own right and within the confines of judicial oversight. This might affect the rights of the unborn that are already recognised without being explicit in the Constitution, but we would not know what the effect might be until after the legislation was enacted and subjected to constitutional challenge on grounds of expressed or inherent rights in the Constitution for the unborn, bodily integrity, privacy or the other areas stated in the legal opinion.

  This is probably the option that many people believe would give the Oireachtas the most flexibility to legislate but, once the repeal simpliciter is passed by the people, what do those who are currently proposing it propose in terms of legislation? This is an important question and people need to be up front about it. Have they in mind a restrictive proposal in terms of fatal foetal abnormalities, incest, rape or something else? Will it relate to the health of the woman? Where do they sit in this regard?  That is an issue the committee will have to tease out if there is a recommendation for a repeal simpliciter. It would be disingenuous to propose a repealsimpliciterwithout setting out in a broad legislative format what one will recommend in the context of a referendum. The publication of legislation in tandem has been proposed before and tried before. There is no legal framework that underpins it other than that it would be a political intention to pass legislation if the public changed the Constitution or repealed Article 40.3.3o. That is probably just a political possibility whereby there would be broad consensus as to what would be put before the people by political parties or broad opinion in the Houses of the Oireachtas. There could be no legislative guarantee in view of the fact that very soon after the referendum, there could be an election, a change of opinion or proposed amending legislation. As such, the draft legislation might be substantially changed. However, it might give comfort to some individuals to have an opinion as to what they are voting on in the context of repeal. People should be upfront and honest, individually and politically as parties, if they have an opinion or a policy as to what should be in that legislation.

We have been discussing this issue for quite some time over the past couple of weeks. We should not be complaining about that, however, because we are charged with a fundamental issue and should take our deliberations very seriously, as all members are doing. We have a deadline by which we must report. Whether we make a decision today, tomorrow or next week, we ultimately must report by mid-December. There is no prevarication on my part. The motion I tabled was never intended to delay decisions. All decisions must be made within three months of our first public meeting, which took place in mid-September. Regardless of whether motions are put down to delay a decision in the context of the modular process, my motion was not put down to delay the final decision, which will be made when the committee has completed its full deliberations. Some people seem to suggest the motions were put down for prevaricative or even provocative reasons, which was certainly not my intention. I have never tried to make political capital out of this particular issue since I was appointed spokesperson by Fianna Fáil six years ago. I wish that to be clear to everybody in the room. People can look at the views I have expressed publicly in the Dáil and in committees in previous times. They will see that I have never tried to put other political parties under pressure in this context. It is too serious and emotive and it deserves that respect from others as well.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I am one of a handful of people in the room who got to vote on this in 1983. I voted not to amend the Constitution because it is not the place to legislate. That is what is being done. One is legislating in the Constitution if one includes something in the Constitution. That has coloured my opinion in respect of the view I have taken. Like Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, I tabled a motion for a straightforward repeal and that is how we should proceed. We were told by our legal adviser that there is no such thing as legal certainty, which we all accept. However, the more legal certainty there is, the less flexibility there is. We have been cursed by the fact that there has been no legal flexibility by virtue of the fact that we tied ourselves into an article in the Constitution that requires change even for the most extreme situations. That eliminates for me a number of the options that are put in front of us, which are based on entrenching legislation in the Constitution. There is nothing else entrenched in the Constitution. It would be a new departure and it would be the wrong way to go.

While I accept some of the points which have been made, my concern about repeal based on legislation published in tandem is that if it is overly restrictive, the courts may interpret it in an overly restrictive way. I have no problem specifying that this is an issue that should be embedded in health care. I will have no problem specifying that when we come to the last phase of the process when we deal with the individual items we recommend be included in legislation. Option No. 5 on "broad grounds" does exactly the same thing, in that it takes away flexibility.

Option No. 6 is the provision of exclusive powers to the Oireachtas, which is what the Citizens' Assembly recommended. I note the previous referendum result where it was sought to give more powers to Oireachtas committees. Changing the balance between the courts and the Oireachtas is not necessarily favoured by citizens. They like to have that balance and this option is, therefore, not a good way to go. I am firmly of the opinion that to repeal or not is the option that should be put to the citizens. That comes down to who one trusts. We are asking citizens to make this decision. I certainly am willing to trust women and doctors. I certainly am willing to accept the decision the citizens will make. However, we have to be clear and coherent with the question we put to them. The more straightforward question is the one which is largely expected. It is open to people to vote "Yes" or "No" to that. Those are the reasons I came to the conclusions I did on the options.

We decided on a modular approach in July and some of us expected there would be decisions after each one. I am perfectly willing to accept the honestly-held position of many members that they want more time. For that reason, I will certainly not be pressing my particular proposal until people feel comfortable with us discussing that. If that takes another few weeks, so be it. However, there are people in the room who do not want this put and who want to retain Article 40.3.3o in the Constitution. I believe they are frustrating the process and that should be called out. It is not about being in here and being disingenuous. It is fundamentally about not wanting a repeal or a discussion on it; it is about retention. Let us just say what it is. We have heard some discussion of human rights. Health is a human right and women have a right to have their human rights respected in the context of health. That is part of the reason I have taken the position I have.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly It is very unfair to say we are making decisions before all of the evidence has been heard and without fully debating the issues. Most members have engaged very frankly, wholeheartedly and sincerely. For weeks, we have been listening to the very real difficulties with the current arrangement.  Dr. Peter Boylan said today that grave harm was done to women, including death. We know the present arrangement is hugely problematic for women in respect of their lives and health. The top echelons of the medical profession have told us week after week that they need flexibility and capacity to respond in terms of best practice in medicine in respect of maternity and foetal care. They claim the present constitutional arrangement does not give them such flexibility and capacity. The decision we made earlier was not to retain the present constitutional arrangement; that is all that was decided. Many members are in different places on that issue, which is absolutely fine, but to say we have not debated enough to get to that position is very disingenuous.

We have had much discussion on the intention of the Citizens' Assembly. We debated it yesterday with our legal adviser and with Ms Justice Laffoy. Anybody who reads the transcripts of the proceedings of the Citizens' Assembly and accounts for the voting process will realise it was very clear that the citizens wanted to take this issue out of the Constitution. There was an overwhelming vote for repeal and a little complication about something being replaced, but we teased that out and it was very clear that the citizens were afraid that the courts might try to tie the hands of the Oireachtas so it would be limited in its capacity to legislate for abortion provision. We had a discussion on these issues.

Arising today and every week was the idea that putting anything in the Constitution on such an intimate, private, individual health matter is very problematic in any of its formats. In that sense, option No. 2, which involves putting specific legislation into our Constitution, is the worst. In no other case is such an arrangement at play. If there were technical changes, or otherwise, the provision could not be changed. The legal adviser said it is completely impractical and without precedent. On that basis, option No. 2 is really a non-runner.

We were told option No. 4 would be incredibly legally difficult. I agree. It would not be so totally impractical as option No. 2 but near enough. It would put down woolly grounds in the Constitution. Again, it is open to wide interpretation. Option No. 5, which would put in broader grounds, was a little bit more problematic.

We did make a comparison with the divorce referendum and tease it out. Regarding divorce, some criteria were put into the Constitution in this regard. We said in private session yesterday that we have to take into account that the Oireachtas and Attorney General are now considering taking all that out of the Constitution because it proved cumbersome. The idea of a constitutional referendum to change this is not really practical. These matters of personal decision-making are really best left out of the Constitution. That issue was dealt with in terms of options Nos. 2, 4 and 5.

I agree with the points made that, although option No. 6 was the one chosen by the Citizens' Assembly, it is putting something in the Constitution and is writing out a role for the Judiciary that I do not believe would be welcome . It is not something that exists in other scenarios. Generally speaking, the interaction between the Constitution, the Houses of the Oireachtas and the legislation is fairly flexible. It has worked pretty well. The courts have been pretty good at interpreting matters when given space in this regard. Including in the Constitution something that, in effect, is trying to diminish the role of the Judiciary is not a good thing. It means one is left with options Nos. 1 and 3 as runners. My belief is that option No. 1, a simple repeal, is the best. Option No. 3 is repeal while publishing some sort of legislation in order that people might have an idea as to what legislation might look like. Our legal adviser told us that is really a political matter rather than a legal matter. It would not necessarily have any legal status but might be a little reassuring.

A constant theme in all this is that no matter what option we pick, criminalising women who have abortions is completely unacceptable to people. It arose again today. I believe the professor put it very well when he turned it the other way and said that, while many people have different opinions on abortion, they would give a very different answer if asked whether they wanted women to go to prison for abortion. Decriminalisation is an issue we have to address. It will deal with many of the issues.

We have made good progress. There was really genuine engagement by most members of the committee. I have seen games, however. Deputy Catherine Murphy is correct that there are games being played here. We have heard the opening salvos of the referendum campaign in some of the speeches tonight. It is not something to look forward to. There are also elements of the media playing games with this issue. Perhaps, through creating a big, cut-and-thrust divisive debate bringing us back to 1983, it is an attempt to halt flagging newspapers sales. People are not in 1983. The committee has demonstrated an ability to listen to impartial evidence-based advice. We can be adamant enough in making decisions on that basis without other people, inside or outside, trying to goad us on these matters.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer Those who fought for Irish freedom will celebrate tonight that Oireachtas Members can make a decision and ultimately allow the people to vote in a free democratic decision-making process to amend or not the Constitution of our country. I will always stand for the right of both sides in an argument but we are legislators.

  I was in favour of Deputy Kelleher's motion and accepted it in the spirit of where we are going tonight. This is a very emotional issue for many people. I was two pounds when I was born. To me, life is precious, including the life of the mother and the unborn child, but we are not in 1983. When we examine the evidence of Drs. Boylan, Malone and Mahony, we note a gargantuan question must be put in the minds of all of us: do we keep the status quo, stand still or change?

  Are the eminent medics who were before us all wrong and all saying one thing by way of groupthink? I do not believe so. The eighth amendment is a testament to a different era. It is also about the fact that people can afford to go to England. Dr. Boylan put across very clearly today that people can afford to go abroad. A generation of people are looking to us, as politicians, to be leaders. The human rights bodies have made a decision and rulings on us in respect of the eighth amendment being too inflexible. Dr. Boylan made it quite clear that Savita Halappanavar, whose anniversary is approaching, would have been alive today but for the eighth amendment to our Constitution. We may quote the Mellet case, where the State had to make a payment because of the eighth amendment but I fundamentally believe there is no such thing as legal certainty, as Deputy Murphy said and as we heard from the evidence. Whatever we do as a committee, we should travel with haste in arriving at whatever outcome we come to. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The Irish people will decide. I am sorry Senator Mullen is not present to hear this. Men and women fought for all of us to vote. There was a very genuine work ethic in private session and a business-like arrangement.

  The Chairman has been fair, diligent and courteous. She has pulled us up and has been assertive when she had to be. In no way was she unfair to members. She was impartial and offered all of us an opportunity to put forward witnesses. Anybody who tries to discredit her or all of us in this room is doing the Oireachtas a disservice. One of the good things about the Houses of the Oireachtas is the integrity of the public servants, men and women, who work alongside the Chairman. They do their job to advise us. The Chairman has been very fair to all of us. I am glad Senator Mullen is back because I would not want him to believe I was giving out about him in his absence.  It is unfair to blame the Chair or to be unfair to her because she has been very fair to all of us. I would like to say that on the record. We may disagree and I respect Senator Mullen's right to have a different viewpoint from any of the 20 of us in this room. However, the Chair of our committee has reached out to all of us in a very fair and non-partisan way and in a manner that behoves the Chair. I would hate for people to think she has not done that.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Senator.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I do not know whether to offer-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Senator Mullen can indicate and come in later.

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen I have to go to Galway. I will at some point check what Senator Buttimer said. I hope the Chairman does not think I have ever been unfair to her. I think this process is a disgrace. The Chairman is presiding over it but she is nonetheless a very courteous person.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Sorry-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It seems some people do not have to put up their hands. They flit in and out and then get to make a speech if somebody mentions them.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I suppose the only point-----

Senator Rónán Mullen: Information on Rónán Mullen Zoom on Rónán Mullen The Deputy is in something of a glasshouse in regard to that procedure.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I have not flitted out.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have the floor now because I am chairing this meeting. Senator Buttimer was making a point while Senator Mullen was not here. In fairness to Senator Mullen, he walked in the door as his name was being mentioned. There was nothing negative being said about him. Senator Buttimer was defending me. I appreciate that because I will not defend myself as Chair. I will act and let people judge how I behave as Chair. The next speaker is Senator Ruane who has five minutes.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I echo what other people have said on the process before we came in today. I found it very fair and productive. When I tabled the motion on repealing the eighth amendment and the amendment on the modular process, I had not yet witnessed transformations before my eyes. I can see when people are honestly and actively engaging with information and witnesses. I am watching that journey and I recognise it because it was a journey I took not too long ago in coming to a certain position. It happens especially when one is faced with the mountain of evidence and clear literature such as in the presentations we have seen. I commend that process no matter how much people who are not in the room right now want to undermine it. It is amazing what people will say when they come to realise they no longer have a monopoly on setting the moral standard or agenda.

  Deputy Daly spoke about the legal evidence and went through each option. I am conscious that people at home are not privy to what we are looking at. We are talking in abstract ways about options one, two and three, for example, so five minutes is not sufficient for those to translate in such a way that people watching proceedings at home will understand. Now that the evidence has been given and discussed in public, will that legal advice become part of the Official Report in order that people can check what we were referring to when we talk about options?

  I accept we cannot jump straight into the issue of whether people want to repeal, replace or repeal in tandem with drafted legislation. It has become very clear what is off the table and what is not workable or practical. Much of the evidence in the beginning was on certainty. The further we went along, it became evident that certainty is not the most important thing to look at. We are looking at what is workable and flexible. Based on what has been said about option two and entrenched legislation and option four which is repeal and replace on certain grounds - I could be referring to the wrong option numbers - it is very clear they do not work. Whatever we do after today, we should definitely work towards narrowing the legal advice in order that everything is not still floating around in the ether as something that needs to be discussed. We have already figured out that retain in full is off the table and we do not need to discuss it. I propose that, going forward, we narrow down the choices in terms of what is practical and flexible in order we are not rehashing this over and over again. I will not go back into everything that has been mentioned because Deputy Daly summarised the options very well. I want clarification on whether people who are watching proceedings will have access to the options. They were in The Irish Times at one stage but I am sure it was a paraphrased version.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It is up to the committee to waive privilege when it comes to our legal advice, but I do not think it is necessary because it was in The Irish Times. The six options are out there. The Senator made a good point. If the committee wishes to address it formally, it is an issue for another day. We should get through everybody's contribution first.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane There is no point in me going through each option because Deputy Daly has done that. The only point I want to make is that we should narrow down the options in order that when we come back to this, we are not going back over old ground which we all agree should not be discussed any more.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Points have been made about the committee being farcical and pro-abortion. One member referred to 1916 and asked if it is what our forefathers gave their lives for. The people who fought in 1916, certainly in the case of James Connolly, were advocates of women's rights and I assume would have been open to women having bodily autonomy. The sands have shifted in society. People who had a hegemony in the past are now struggling to find anyone in authority who will back up their desire to retain the eighth amendment. That is the real problem. We have had a vote on not maintaining the eighth amendment in full and the public should be apprised of the words in full. That was the wording that was given to the Citizens' Assembly and is quite pointed. It was not just about retaining the eighth amendment. One can see how the Citizens' Assembly would have arrived at the decision it arrived at. It is fine to vote for that but we cannot leave it at that. We now have to go on to look at the options. It would be a bit ridiculous to make that decision and then tell the public we will come back and review what we do with the eighth amendment and the Constitution in five weeks. People are saying we have made a decision but to the public it would be seen as though it were a snail's pace decision. Why are we here? We are here because there is a problem with the eighth amendment. We all knew this was a forward-only process. It was not a backward process. Let us not try to pretend this is earth shattering.

I want to deal with some of the options that have been put forward and then some of the motions. Six options have been suggested by the legal adviser. Three or four of them are similar in that they still envisage some kind of amendment or replacement of the eighth amendment that would either entrench legislation in the Constitution or list grounds that would be in the Constitution. There is no legal certainty with those because any of them could be challenged by a woman whose rights are being violated and she could take a case. The United Nations would continue to challenge it. It would also be politically unacceptable to most people for us to deal with this issue in the Constitution in a restrictive way when most people see there is a reality we are meant to be dealing with.

The Citizens' Assembly took option six and it was said either in this session or during the private session that we would be going against the Citizens' Assembly if we went for a simple repeal. That is not the case because the intent of the Citizens' Assembly was clearly to repeal the eighth amendment to allow abortion legislation to be introduced on a very widespread basis judging by the vote it took the following day. It received legal advice that convinced 53% of the assembly to go in one direction which was that some kind of clause was needed to make sure there would not be a challenge to that legislation. It went with that advice. When Ms Justice Laffoy attended the committee, it could have been put to her there was an overemphasis on the dangers of a simple repeal and not enough consideration in the Citizens' Assembly because it is dangerous to put any wording into the Constitution.  Unfortunately, the option suggested in the wording, although the Citizens' Assembly did not write it, politically would be quite dangerous. It would mean that any legislation could be immune to challenge by an individual in the courts. If that were to be put to a referendum, I do not believe that it would be acceptable to people. Therefore, a simple repeal would be best.

My motion is still on the table because we need the eighth amendment to be repealed. I do not think this discussion will be concluded tonight. I do not know how many people have indicated.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Seven more members have indicated, so I think it probably will if we stick to the five minutes each. Some people may take less than five minutes.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger By the way, it is not satisfactory to do this in the evening after a long session.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy knows the situation in terms of the amount of time we have. We agreed it last week.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger My point is that we may need to return to this next week. I want to make another point. We heard a lot about Savita Halappanavar today. It would have been good if this committee made the decision that the eighth amendment would be repealed before the anniversary of her death. The Oireachtas has had five years to deal with this. Although some people say they are not ready, we agreed on 11 July to have a modular structure. It is a pity that that is not being adhered to, but this is not about procedure. The first question is why people are not ready. This has been known about for years and the Citizens' Assembly reported in April, so people had ample time to get legal advice and to consider the issues. My fear, however, is that those who are saying they are not ready but in private session are saying that they are in favour of repeal will use the repeal vote to bargain against other things being agreed. It is not my fault they are gone, but everyone noticed the vote that was taken at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis three days ago, which might have had a bearing on people over the last day. However, I do not think those people are representative, given opinion polls have shown that 10% of people oppose changing the eighth amendment. Therefore, most people realise that there has to be change.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy is now over time. I have to get everyone in.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Delegates representing the World Health Organization, general practitioners, etc., have all testified already. I do not really understand why people would not be capable of making a decision on this now unless they wanted it to be linked to some restriction which they think will make their vote more palatable. There are dangers in that. We should agree on module 1 that there should be a repeal. Then we should discuss the legislation.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Deputy and call Senator Gavan.

Senator Paul Gavan: Information on Paul Gavan Zoom on Paul Gavan I welcome the decision not to retain Article 40.3.3°. I am particularly proud that it was Sinn Féin's Deputy Jonathan O'Brien who made the proposal this evening. It is fitting because I think the republican position would be to repeal Article 40.3.3°. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the original amendment. I was 17, it was my first vote and I voted against the proposal. I campaigned against it too and I remember how divisive it was at the time. I was accosted on a train because I was wearing a "Vote No" badge. The local postmaster, God bless him, a man in his 80s, chased me with a stick because I left leaflets campaigning for a "No" vote. I hope the votes next year will not be as divisive. Despite having a range of different opinions in the room, I am encouraged that most of us have decided genuinely to try to work towards consensus, to build towards the best decision we can make and to work constructively. That applies to almost all the members here today.

I also recognise that people are on a journey. Having listened to the evidence over the past number of weeks, there are two possibilities. One - the outlandish possibility - is that there is a giant medical conspiracy and that all these people got together somehow in a darkened room and decided to unleash abortion on us. The other is that these medical professionals, whose jobs are to care for women and babies, are telling us the truth, which is that there is a major problem with this amendment. Senator Mullen referred to a denial of human rights to a whole section of our society. We had that denial for 34 years. This amendment was always wrong. Thankfully, we now live in a changed time. All of us have to have the courage to continue to work constructively together and to listen to the evidence, which is so clear.

Sinn Féin also put forward a motion for straight repeal. That is our position. Again, as we understand and everyone is in the same place we are, we are happy to work constructively with the rest of our colleagues to try to reach the best decision possible. Let us be proud of taking one small step today. This committee is not a farce. Most of us are working constructively. I compliment the Chair on the work she is doing. Those making a farce of it are those dancing outside the gates of Leinster House when they should have been in here listening to evidence. Let us try to work together constructively. Let us accept that we will not agree on everything. Our position is clear. We believe in a straight repeal. We have heard enough already in terms of the various options, so I will not repeat those comments. Today is a good day. Let us try to make further progress.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Senator and call Deputy Durkan, who has five minutes.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan We have all had a lot of tedious discussions on this subject for the past few days and weeks, and there is still a lot to go. As the committee is aware, I was one of the people who preferred to have a vote on any procedural changes at the end, when we had discussed the entire issue, as the Citizens' Assembly did. However, in order to facilitate the ongoing cohesive nature of the discussion so far, I decided on balance that it was better to do so.

I do not accept Senator Mullen's criticism at all. In fact, he had an opportunity himself to raise all of the issues that he complained other people did not raise but he did not. For instance, he could have invoked the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is not at all silent of the subject and gives myriad areas for him to pursue. Perhaps he will do that, and I hope he will, to ensure that the committee is not skewed, as he suggested. He could have invoked the charter for fundamental rights, which refers in a particular way to the issues under discussion here, and he did not. I would have thought that he would have done it as a matter of course in order to strengthen the case. He then would not have to accuse everyone else of being pro-abortion or whatever it was that he was suggesting. Incidentally, I am not in favour of abortion and have never been in favour of it but I realise that certain things have to be done from time to time to address the issues that have become contentious in our society. I have spoken about them many times in the past. I know that some people got very excited when I referred to some of those subjects but I assure the committee that I will continue to speak on those subjects, as is my right.

We have not decided to change the Constitution. We have decided to refer a question to the people. It is a decision that they alone must make. The decision we made tonight was to refer to the people a proposal not to retain it in full. The people can retain it in part or a replica thereof, whatever the case may be. That is their decision, not ours. The people will make the decision, presumably, on the basis of having heard all the evidence that is being made available. Our job is to test the evidence adduced at the Citizens' Assembly and to try to identify the basis on which the assembly came to its conclusions. Most if not all of the options have been discussed by others so far, and I do not propose to go through them all-----

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell Go on.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan -----other than to suggest that I would have doubts about the first option, which is to repeal simpliciter. I have doubts about that because it is loaded with options, trip wires and challenges and I think that will emerge ultimately. The second option is to repeal based on published legislation entrenched in the Constitution. There will be a lot of discussion about certain subjects not being suitable for entrenchment in the Constitution. I hear another debate at the present time in which it is stated that the ownership of the country's water supply should be entrenched in the Constitution. I find that conflicting. On the one hand it is a good thing, but on the other it is a bad thing. Suffice it to say, if we are going to be legislators, we should be legislators and do the job that must be done.  We must do so having taken into account all the issues concerned and avoid, in so far as we can, anything that is propaganda or what might be politically advantageous at a particular time. That is not what the people want.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am keeping an eye on the clock.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I am watching the clock very carefully myself, even if the Chairman might not think so.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am trying to be helpful.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I know. The Chairman is trying to hurry me and I am not in a condition to be hurried at this time of the night.

Option 4, the repeal or replacement on specific grounds, could be a possibility, but I am not so sure. Repeal or replace on specified grounds and-or explicit rebalancing, the fifth option, has possibilities. It is something that might meet the requirements of all sides. Option 6 is to replace the provision conferring exclusive power on the Oireachtas to regulate. I am concerned about that one, and have expressed that concern previously. The separation of powers allows for the courts to operate alongside the legislature. To have a referendum which places a particular piece of legislation outside the reach of the courts, to be entrenched in the Constitution is something I have doubts about. I do not think that the public would be happy about that either. Those are the points that I would make at this stage. I will have more than five minutes to speak in the future, although my five minutes have not been fully used yet, the Chairman will be delighted to know.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy has used his time.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I am watching the clock.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Deputy has gone over time. We must be in different time zones.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I am watching the clock over there, Chairman.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am watching the one in front of me.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan That is modern technology, I do not go along with that at all. I am looking at the old fashioned timepiece over here and in the old days we always went by the clock on the wall.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have given the Deputy some indulgence but he has still had six minutes and five seconds. I call Deputy Jonathan O'Brien who has five minutes.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien To begin, my proposal was not in any way trying to back anyone in this committee into a corner to make a decision tonight. We had a very frank discussion in private session on how we should proceed and everyone who expressed a view was respected and listened to, regardless of their position. It is very unfortunate that some people chose not to express any opinion in private, as is their right.

  The reason I put the proposal forward was because I felt that in order to deal with the options available to us - the very varying options which range from straight-up repeal to putting in a replacement on specific or broad grounds or legislation to be entrenched in the Constitution - it needed further, detailed discussion by this committee in public. I believe the only way we could have that public discussion on the options was to make a decision not to retain Article 40.3.3° in full. I am very glad that the committee has done that. I recognise that does not tie the hands of anyone on the committee to any particular option which is being discussed. If we can have that discussion in the same comradely and open manner in which we have had all our discussions to date, in which we have been very respectful of each others views, then this committee will be going in the right direction.

  Whatever the outcome at the end of this process, people can say that this committee was not a farce and we listened to all the opinions. Even today, we had an opinion from Professor Peter Boylan when he discussed the issue of rape and how we could address that. I made a note of what he said which was that there was a straightforward way of legislating for cases involving rape which was the legal prescription of the abortion pill. Other witnesses who have told the committee that it would be very difficult to legislate on the grounds of rape. It is important that we continue to hear the testimony from our witnesses which will frame any decision that we will make on the options. In order to get there, we had to have that vote earlier this evening. Senator Mullen knows my position on this. He talks about democracy but what he tried to do tonight was deny democracy to the Irish people to make a decision on this. If someone wants to vote in a referendum to retain the status quo, that is their right. We are giving them that opportunity by making a decision not to retain it in full and to look at the options.

  I look forward to the committee continuing its work in the same manner as it has done to date. It is important that we try to reach a decision as quickly as possible now that we have decided that we are not going to retain Article 40.3.3° in the Constitution. We have the different options before us, my view being that option 1, of straight-up repeal, is the best. Options 2, 4 and 5 include some form of replacement to be inserted into the Constitution; I do not believe that is where we should deal with women's health issues so for that reason I do not support them.

  Option 6, to insert a provision that the legislature would have to legislate for it, taking it outside the scope of the Judiciary which I feel would be a mistake. We need to retain that separation of power between the Legislature and the Judiciary. Option 6 would not be a good option.

  Option 3 is to have published legislation in tandem. The difficulty with that is there is no guarantee that the published legislation would be passed by the Oireachtas and I would not like to put any published legislation as part of the referendum when there is no guarantee that it would pass through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The best option is straight-up repeal, it is the one that I favour. I respect that others have not come to that conclusion and they may never come to that conclusion; they may favour another option and that is their right but it is was important to make that decision this evening.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank Deputy O'Brien. The next speaker is Deputy Kate O'Connell who has five minutes.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell Earlier someone said this was a very bad moment. I think it is a great moment for Ireland, for all the people of Ireland. One of the members spoke of the denial of dignity for a whole section of the community, I believe they were referring to unborn children. Women in Ireland have been denied dignity for years now. I spoke earlier about abstract women, but these are our neighbours, the person serving us in a shop, they are colleagues, nieces, aunts and daughters. From the outset, in the Citizens' Assembly, there were sections which spoke of it being a predetermined process. When the result of the assembly came out, they said its recommendations were said to be far broader than anyone could accept, the process was wrong, the way its members were chosen was wrong. There were arguments put forward, with people asking why there were no people from certain counties when, if one read the process, it was very clear why the process of picking the 99 citizens did not operate on the basis of county boundaries. Then their arguments moved on to accusations that the committee is biased when things are not going right, and then the witnesses are biased. Here we are now, we have come to this moment and I commend Deputy Jonathan O'Brien for putting the proposal forward. Now that we are over that, which is a good thing, we can move on to where we need to be.

Where do we need to be? The lack of certainty is the issue. One thing the committee has learned is that there is no such thing as certainty in any of the options put before us; none of them are iron-clad. Then we must ask which of the uncertainties that may emerge is most readily rectified so that we could ask how we might fix it.  There are six options and I do not want to repeat everything that has been said already but three, that is options two, four and five, are off the table. This is because they have legislation entrenched in the Constitution, meaning if there ever was a change there would have to be another referendum. This is a fluid process and I felt one way last week but another way today but I rule those three options out. Option three involves legislation and I do not know if we will publish the legal advice but this is a political solution. We might never put legislation before the people which details what we will do if the amendment is repealed. Any such legislation could be amended so we have to ask if we would be acting honestly with the people and we would have to be very careful about it. People could ask if we pulled the wool over the eyes of the people of Ireland in such a context so there remain two options for me, numbers one and six. I dealt with number one last week but I have thought about it a lot since and I believe option six is still an option. I have to consider where it came from and we have to tease it out a bit more. There is a high degree of flexibility with this option and it will come down to whether the people of Ireland trust the Oireachtas to do their will during the legislative process. In the next couple of months, the importance of who the people put in these Houses will be highlighted. It is not just about the lad who fixed the road - this is about fundamental human rights, women's rights in Ireland. It is so important that a person who puts his or her X in the box for their No. 1 choice knows who they are getting if that person is elected.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I oppose the vote on removing Article 40.3.3°. I have always had my suspicions about bias in this committee. The overwhelming vote in favour of removing Article 40.3.3° means the genie is out of the bottle. It is an insult to some of the eminent people who are due to come in and make a presentation to us that we have already decided to do this. We have dismissed some of the reports of the Citizens' Assembly. There was a huge geographical area of 11 counties, of which mine was one, which were not represented. If that is fair you can call me Davy.

The recent Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis brought a new low in cynicism. The ink is not dry on the motion to retain the eighth amendment but two of that party's Deputies have voted to remove it tonight, or abstained. The public, however, can see what is going on in the committee and that it is not a question of Senator Mullen and me whingeing. I wish to defend Senator Mullen's reputation. He is not in any way trying to subvert democracy. Many members called for us to go into public session while we were in private session. We kept our counsel until the public session but why bother? We knew the outcome. Deputy O'Connell mentioned the bias and the numbers show this, with 20 out of 26 witnesses to the committee being on one side of the argument. Up to 16 have come in so far and given their views. I respect their professional advice but they were all in favour of legalising abortion and removing the eighth amendment.

The question of human rights was raised. I have just come from the Dáil, where I spoke on the pensions issue. The Fine Gael Government talks about an Ireland of equal opportunities but mothers who were forced to give up work when they got married and raised their families are being punished. The Minister for Finance says it is bonkers but he has just delivered the budget, which was supported by Fianna Fáil.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I ask the Deputy to stick to the issue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I ask the Chair to allow me to speak without interruption. I am depending on her to defend me, not to interrupt. She did not interrupt anybody else.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have interrupted a few people.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Not while I was here.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It would be good to stick to the point.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am sticking to the point of equal rights for all people, which applies to both mother and baby.

If somebody is elected by the people, whether it is to fix potholes in roads or not, they are entitled to be here. Just because somebody dispenses tablets, or something else, to people it does not mean they have a better right to be here. The people decide and they will decide in a referendum, if it comes. As far as I am concerned, the sooner it comes the better and I look forward to it.

The genie is out of the bottle as regards this committee because it is clearly biased. It shuts out women who have been hurt by abortion and it has shut out advocates whom we wanted to come before the committee. People have been bullied and harassed to prevent them from speaking on the subject at events in hotels. I came in here with a three-minute animated video of what an abortion entailed but the committee did not want it. It is all one-way traffic and our future participation will be limited because there is no point in being part of the committee. The committee was to be fair and have representatives from all sides and this was its badge of honour but, as I said, the genie is out of the bottle now.

I do not have much interest in the six options that have been put forward but I want to defend Senator Mullen. He did not want to stop democracy. We can decide if we do not want to meet in private session. I appealed for the meeting to be public but the media were locked out. The media contribute to transparency and openness so why should we do business behind closed doors?

The denial of human dignity to unborn children is anathema to what I stand for. I am proud of what I stand for and I have plenty of support for it. We have deadlines and we have said we must finish by Christmas but what is the indecent haste? We should listen to all the experts. The Chair said other people could come in but why would they? We have made the decision to repeal Article 40.3.3° so it is a charade. There was hostility towards us - it has been a better today - just because we were asking questions to which we needed answers. When it did not suit certain people in this committee, we were treated like pariahs. That is no way to run a committee in this House. I sit on several committees and this does not happen on any of them. I would love to know why this has to be so different. Human rights for the unborn have to be protected and I believe they will be protected.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone On the distinction between private and public, it is normal to have a short private meeting before going into public session. It went on a little longer than we intended because we needed to get some legal advice.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It went on for an hour.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone In addition, the clerk is not entitled to speak in public session so a private meeting was necessary. In any event, all the issues have been discussed in public.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I understood that we had to get legal advice. Other committees go into private session when they need advice so why could we have not done that?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone We could have done that. It is a good suggestion and we will bear it in mind in the future.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is standard practice.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton I commend the Chair on her role in this committee. She has been very fair and it is not easy.  This is a very complex and divisive issue, we have a large body of work to do by mid-December and there are differing views among the members of this committee. I will take this opportunity to say there is great value in holding private session meetings. Some may dispute this, but I think there has been good value in them because there has been consensus and respect for those who spoke on motions to be put forward, for example, to repeal the eighth amendment. I am not in favour of that at this point because we have a process in which we need to engage and more witnesses to meet. The vote we took allows us to debate the substantive issues surrounding the eighth amendment, which is crucial. That is the work we need to do over the next few weeks and the witnesses who will come before us will help us. It was very interesting to hear members who had views already formed coming into this committee saying they had changed their minds on different issues. That is very healthy and just shows the importance of this process. Members feel they might understand a particular area and then they hear from witnesses and, through questioning them, open themselves up and learn more about that area. That is what is important about this process. We all have something to learn, and that is the importance of being here and engaging.

We have received legal advice in private session on the six options we have, and members have outlined a number of issues in this regard. Regarding the sixth option, when Ms Justice Laffoy was before the committee, she said her view was that the eighth amendment should be repealed and replaced with a provision conferring exclusive power on the Oireachtas to regulate the law in this area. In layman's language, this would involve repeal of the eighth amendment and the insertion of text into the Constitution stating that the Oireachtas shall have exclusive power to legislate in this area. As has been highlighted here - and it is very important to say this - members of the Citizens' Assembly looking at these proceedings will ask why we are not taking their views on board. The removal of judicial oversight would have many implications, and the only other precedent for it would be in times of war or armed rebellion. We need to look at our three branches of government: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The intention is that they are all interdependent and that there is a balance of power. I do not know whether we need to write to Ms Justice Laffoy asking her whether that is her intention. I think she was seeking some kind of legal clarity whereby the law could not be challenged but I do not think there can be a situation whereby there will not be a challenge-----

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes, I think that is impossible.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton -----so perhaps we need to get further clarification in that regard.

  In the case of repeal simpliciter, the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 then becomes the law of the land. These are all issues we need to discuss over the next few weeks. Is that what people want when the eighth amendment is repealed? We have much work to do, we have the substantive issues to debate and it is very important we work as we did this evening. That mixture of private sessions before going into public session has worked. I thank the Chairman for her work.

Deputy Anne Rabbitte: Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to speak. I will not rehash everything everyone has already said. I am one of the two members who abstained earlier. I thank all the members who came to the table in private session to discuss the options we have. They tried to be flexible, to engage with everyone and to listen to everyone's viewpoint. All the various private sessions have been very helpful to me. In fairness to Senator Ruane, when she put down her first motion and all that followed, Deputy Kelleher then put down his counter-motion but a compromise was reached this evening to allow the process to move along. That is thanks to Deputy Jonathan O'Brien for coming forward. The matter was teased out at length in order to move it forward. What I will say to the dissenting voices in the room is that it was such a pity they did not engage because there was an opportunity there for their voices to be heard, as opposed to their sitting on their hands and not engaging. The whole reason of having a private session was that we could have heard all the voices present. That is what happened during the private session and for that I thank members.

I will be open and honest. I would have preferred not to have had a vote until the end of module 2 for the simple reason that I wanted as many people to come before me as possible. I was playing a listening exercise while participating. Some people have very well-formed opinions, whereas my opinion was not the most well-formed. At the same time, I have learned an awful lot as the committee's work has come along. This is why I would have preferred us not to have had a vote this evening. In fairness to all the 22 members here, we want to see progress. I want to be part of that progress and feed into it because we need to move forward and know what we are about. A lot of hard work goes on at this committee. Many people come with an awful lot of work done in advance, which needs to be acknowledged. It is unfair to say it is a skewed process and that people have very determined views. Everyone has a determined view. Let us be under no illusion. We all have a well-formed opinion but we must engage in our well-formed opinion and tease it out in order that we have a good result at the end. Ultimately, the people of Ireland will make a decision as to what option to take, and I look forward to that.

Deputy James Browne: Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne Deputy Rabbitte has said much of what I had intended to say. I have full faith in Senator Noone as Chairman. She is doing a very good job in what is probably the most difficult committee, in terms of topic at least, to be established in a long time. We will have a referendum next year, and that is right and proper. We now have pretty much three generations of people who have not had a say on this matter. The last time there was a fundamental decision on it was in 1983, and it is only right that people have a say. We need to remind ourselves that we are not changing the law here. We are going through the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly and we will make a recommendation to the Dáil, which in turn will ultimately make a decision on the question that will go before the people, and the people will make the final decision. All we are doing is making a recommendation as to the question that should be put. I abstained because there is still evidence to be given that will help to inform my decision. The proposal put by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien was timely. It was not divisive in any way, and this was proven by the fact that 18 out of 20 people were able to take a position on it. I have not been able to do so yet but I reserve my right effectively to change my vote as time moves on if I so decide.

  I will make a few points about my position. The criminalisation of someone who has an abortion is fundamentally wrong. I know this is not part of the referendum per se but I think it is wrong. I will answer the question put earlier: no one should be imprisoned for having an abortion. Decriminalisation is different from legalisation, and that is an important point. I will make an observation on the evidence surrounding use of the abortion pill. It is effectively freely available. The safety of it is questionable only because of how it is sourced. It is effectively a disruptor, and people will have to consider that the evidence appears to show that one cannot enforce regulation to prevent an abortion at ten weeks' gestation or earlier. Everyone, no matter what side he or she is on, will have to take that into consideration because a law that is unenforceable needs to be very seriously considered.

  I will make just one other observation. It concerns the second option, which is repeal based on published legislation entrenched in the Constitution. I practised law in the courts for 11 years. I have sat in on debates and legal argument that has lasted over an hour on the meaning of a comma, semicolon or colon and how it changes the meaning of a sentence. It is simply not practical to put detailed legislation into the Constitution. I think the unintended consequences to come out of that would be phenomenal. For this reason it is simply not practical. As I said, I reserve my position in respect of the actual question but that is where I am at present.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Last but not least, I call on Deputy O'Reilly.

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I will be very brief. My preference is for the motion that we had tabled but which we did not discuss. It calls for a straightforward repeal of Article 40.3.3°. Accusations of bias have been levelled at the level of this committee.  That is what people say when democracy is exercised but they do not get the result they want. Those interested in getting the most out of the committee should make themselves available and vocalise their opinions for the benefit not just of the cameras and the media but to help other members to learn, to share opinions and come to a collective decision. The opportunity for people to thrash out any issues they had was in private session this afternoon and most did so. Those that did do so not chose to air their opinions and I think the word used was "shenanigans". I would definitely use that word to describe what went on.

The committee has a job to do. It made some progress today and made a bold statement that the status quo cannot continue. During every moment I sit on the committee I become more proud of my parents for campaigning against the insertion of the eighth amendment into the Constitution. I am resolved to thank them for the work they did, albeit it was unsuccessful but they knew that at the time. We need to take our steer not from cartoons but from people such as Dr. Peter Boylan who are eminent in their profession and have given their entire careers and most of their adult lives to caring for women. When Dr. Peter Boylan, as a professional, says the eighth amendment needs to be repealed, we need to listen and start working with those responsible for delivering care to women and trying to make it a bit easier for them. It is regrettable that those who say they favour repeal were not in a position to support repeal. However, it is also important that we get an opportunity to ask all the questions that need to be asked. We will do as much of that as possible in public session and that is important because people are watching what the committee does. We made a good statement this evening and decided the status quo cannot pertain. The only way now is forward.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank all members for their kind comments directed at me. The majority of members still being here is testament to the fact that the committee is working so well. Those who left had to do so for different reasons but that many waited to hear everybody out is a very good indication of the work we are doing. We will adjourn until------

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger We have made one decision but when will the process be continued? The public will want to know that. The clerk has circulated a proposal and it would be good if we agreed to consider when we are going to continue with these options or------

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There was consensus that is a good approach.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger When is the next session on this issue?

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The next session on module 2 will be next Wednesday at 1.30 p.m. and another session will have to be scheduled. That session was in the work plan and we will have to schedule another, perhaps the week after, with regard to the decision. This week has been very intensive and-------

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The Oireachtas is in recess the following week so it would be another two weeks------

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I am in the hands of the committee in terms of when we meet on this issue. The point was made that it is not a good idea to have meetings so late on a Wednesday. Equally there are various------

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It is better than not having them.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone One cannot have it every way. Plenty of members have clashes on Tuesday. Deputy Naughton chairs a committee on Tuesday evenings. If members leave it with me, they will be contacted by email in that regard. Members will have the opportunity to raise the issue in private session in advance of the public meeting on Wednesday 25 October at 1.30 p.m. and to reiterate their points. A plan can then be made on the decision-making process.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It will be too late then. Members will not be able to meet later that day if they have not been informed in advance.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton The committee is continuing with module 2 and it is important that we move that along and meet next Wednesday. We can discuss it then when more members are present if that is necessary. It is important that we move through the modules.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan Agreed.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton: Information on Hildegarde Naughton Zoom on Hildegarde Naughton We spent enough time in private session today talking about that decision. As there are not very many members now present, we should make those decisions next week.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The points raised are valid but at this hour of the evening and considering we have been here since lunchtime------

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien We should think it over.

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone ------it would be reasonable to take a break, think about everything that occurred today, meet in public session next Wednesday and take it from there.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Okay. However, there are still motions tabled and------

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There are and that has been acknowledged------

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger ------people should not be surprised if, following discussion, members say we should go on to consider motions or if other people------

Chairman: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone That is the Deputy's right as a member of the committee .

The joint committee adjourned at 9.05 p.m until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 October 2017.


Last Updated: 11/02/2017 05:01:08 AM First Page Previous Page Page of 2 Next Page Last Page