Health (Family Planning) Bill, 1978: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 29 March 1979

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 313 No. 5

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne I had been discussing the right to have or not to have a family and was arguing that a decision in this regard is within the meaning of family planning. The next question is that of the most efficient and effective way that the Minister could recommend to the men and women of Ireland of ensuring that [859] they will have only the number of children they wish or to have none, as the case may be. I had been discussing the question of the possibility of people being afraid of passing on transmittable diseases. Only the other day I had the pathetic case of a woman whose children had Huntingdon's chorea, a dreadful disease which is transmitted and about which nothing can be done. It would be very irresponsible of a mother to risk inflicting such hardship on children. There are many other diseases, too, that are transmittable, such as haemophilia. It is thought, too, that some forms of mental illness are transmittable. In such situations it would be reasonable for people to decide not to have children. A true sign of civilisation in a society generally will be when men and women accept that giving life to an individual is as awesome a decision as a decision to take life away.

On the question of the whole Bill and the attitude to it that should be adopted by one in Opposition, the Minister knows that he has much support from the Opposition, that they are sympathetic and are not in any way pursuing petty party issues. It is only logical that we should attempt to amend the Bill. I trust that Labour and Fine Gael will consider their attitude in that light and will try to have the Bill amended. Everybody agrees that the present situation is most unsatisfactory but unless we make some attempt to have it amended the Minister will have no alternative but to proceed with the Bill as it is, with all its defects. As we are unlikely to have a change of Government for at least a couple of years, and even then we may not get anything but another Fianna Fáil Government, there is no guarantee that we will be left with anything but the present situation. Therefore, every effort should be made to improve the Bill.

In the Long Title to the Bill I would disagree with the pejorative description of family planning involving contraceptives, the suggestion that there are two kinds of family planning, natural and unnatural. The sequel to that is that anybody who avails of what the Minister considers to be unnatural forms of [860] family planning is in some way engaging in unnatural practices. In a way the Minister has wrapped the green flag firmly round him and has made it appear that anybody who indulges in these practices rather than use the natural methods is in some way anti-Irish or anti-national and is not a good Irish republican. Therefore, the Minister should delete that part of the Long Title and should concern himself simply with the question of providing for family planning.

What are probably the most efficient forms of family planning—vasectomy and tubal ligation—have been omitted from the Bill. I see no reason for voluntary vasectomy and tubal ligation not being made available for those who require them. In a way this emphasises the male chauvenistic nature of the proposals in that they are related most to the woman and there is the suggestion that permanent sterilisation of the man would not appeal to our kind of society, the Moslem-style society that I associate with this republic and its male inhabitants. However, this question is worth debating with the Minister in the hope that he might reconsider the proposals in order to make available what is perhaps the most efficient form of family planning.

In section 1 there is provision for information, instruction and advice on family planning but it is necessary that the Minister add a provision for the fitting of family planning-type devices because advice about these methods is not of any use if the doctor has not the right to fit them.

Everybody knows the attitude of our people towards doctors. The Minister is attempting to hide behind the standing of doctors—in another place he is attempting to hide behind customs officers —in our society, and he has put them into the front line so that they can become the moral arbiters in regard to the contraceptive issue. This is completely outrageous, particularly in regard to the use of non-medical contraceptives. A doctor who has spent up to seven years studying before he is qualified is now being asked to take the same role as a slot machine in so many other societies. It is [861] a form of political cunning to involve the doctors in something like this.

I am sorry that the doctors have not bluntly declined to have anything to do with issuing prescriptions for non-medical contraceptives. The idea of the doctor having to decide the bona fide nature of the relationship has already been so well ridiculed as a proposal by other Deputies that there is very little I can add to it. The idea that a doctor sitting in his consulting room looking at some man and woman and saying that those people are bona fide about their family planning proposals, that he feels they are morally justified and he can order the required family planning contraceptive device, is so dishonest that it is unworthy of the Minister to bring in this kind of section into the Bill. As Deputy O'Connell said: “What if the man has some sort of liaison with some other lady who is not his wife?” How can the doctor make this type of decision? Is the wife to be brought in in making the decision? Have the two of them to be there? Can the wife be given the condoms? Must the husband be aware of this? Is the wife getting them for her own use? The permutations in the proposal are too tedious to indulge in. The idea that a doctor should be involved in the decision about the use of non-medical contraceptives should be dropped by the Minister. I am sorry the doctors did not insist that they would have nothing to do with this. I believe they are being used as part of a political device by the Minister to save himself.

During my medical training I did not get any training in family planning. I understand that only a minimum number of lectures are given to students in family planning. When the doctor is brought forward as the great person who has to decide about family planning methods, suitability of people, desirability and all the other criteria, it is very pleasant, as a doctor, to feel that one occupies this position in the Minister's list of superiorities. The reality is that in relation to the medical type of contraceptives doctors know no more than the next person. We might as well decide not only to have the customs man going through the luggage but to have him [862] deciding what kind of contraceptive device should be used. In regard to 95 per cent of the medical profession it is completely illusory to create the impression that they are the authorities on this particular subject and that they have the time, experience and knowledge to give worthwhile advice on the use of medical type contraceptives. No such advice is needed with regard to the non-medical type devices.

Many doctors will go for a retraining course in regard to the medical type contraceptives. The doctor is not the expert but the Minister is attempting to purport him to be. The use of him in relation to the non-medical type contraceptives is completely unnecessary.

With regard to the effect of this Bill on the existing services, other Deputies have pointed out the damage which will be done to the clinics which have built up good personnel and established a good group of individuals, nurses, doctors, gynaecologists and skilled personnel in family planning. They are providing the only organised service available at the moment. I would not be so concerned whether a voluntary group of this kind survive or not in other circumstances. However, in those circumstances where the Minister refers to the possibility that there will be conscientious objections in various areas throughout the country I am very concerned. We know the difficulties there were in Galway recently when an attempt was made to establish a family planning clinic. I have no doubt that the Minister has found resistance within his party. This reflects the reality that there probably will not be any great rush in rural areas to establish family planning clinics. It is desirable that the existing clinics be allowed to continue operating. If health board clinics are established the voluntary clinics will become unnecessary. There is no need to put people out of employment, because they can be absorbed into the health boards where there is a great shortage of skilled staff, both doctors and nurses, and the health boards would make good use of them. It is important that the Minister makes it clear to the clinics that he will permit them to carry on and that he is [863] prepared to provide independent finance for the sale of contraceptives because that is the source of their income at the moment. This is an important consideration.

I am surprised that a Minister for Health would put forward a Bill which introduces the whole stigma of criminality in the area of family planning. The whole proposal is outrageous. It is absurd that there should be this fuss about providing a simple and important service. The Minister is introducing a Bill that provides for penalties of six months in jail or a fine of £500 and this is completely regressive. I do not think the Minister will be proud of what he is doing.

Deputy O'Connell and I tried by way of question and answer to find out the position of medical card-holders. At present the pill is provided superficially for ovulation purposes but also as a family planning method. When Deputy O'Hanlon was speaking I asked him if the people concerned were breaking the law. Certainly they are breaking the canon law but they are also breaking the civil law. We have this delightful facility, this schizophrenic division between doing what we want to do and, at the same time, breaking the law. This has allowed doctors to provide family planning facilities free of charge to medical card-holders. This is an important point. The Minister has declined to tell us up to now but he must tell the House what will be the position of medical card-holders at least in relation to the availability of whatever family planning device is ordered by their doctors. If the individual decides that a non-medical family planning device is more suitable they should be available.

The important function of the Bill is to provide a family planning service and whichever is the most suitable way to provide that service should be permitted and available to medical card-holders. These people need the service. It should not be a costly service but it will be expensive if people have to go to a doctor, pay for a prescription and then pay the chemist. It is a vital and important service and its free availability to medical [864] card-holders should be considered on the same level as any other facility provided by the State. If the medical practitioner is brought into the matter there is no reason why there should be discrimination between one kind of service for which the State pays and the kind of service for which the person concerned has to pay. Either it is important to give the service or it is not.

There was a question at Question Time regarding conscientious objections. Obviously everyone accepts the idea of conscientious objection in everything and where an individual decides that he cannot take part in providing a service that is understandable. However, it would be important to bring in a clause providing that the burden of proof rests on the person who is making the claim to being a conscientious objector. If there were legal proceedings arising as a result of a person insisting on his right to conscientious objection and withdrawing the service, the burden of proof rests with that person if there is subsequent legal action.

I accept that medical contraceptives should be sold by chemists and obviously available to doctors. Deputy Horgan raised the point that the doctor must be allowed to dispense whatever family planning device he considers suitable. The Minister cannot exclude the doctor. With regard to non-medical contraceptives, I do not see that there should be any serious limitation on making them available. Possibly my view is slightly ahead of the view in this society. My guiding consideration in the whole matter of family planning really comes down to the idea of trying to prevent the birth of an unwanted child. Obviously we arrive at these conclusions through our own life experience. In relation particularly to my professional experience as a psychiatrist there is nothing more distressing, more harrowing or unfortunate than the unwanted child. So many of them end up in our institutions, prisons and courts. This has been at the back of my consideration. Whatever about the suffering the lady may go through, I am primarily concerned for the child. No child who is born should be unwanted. That is probably a bit Utopian [865] but that is the broad attitude I take.

I got into some trouble with the women's liberation people on the case I make. Now it is possible for parents to decide not to have any children if the woman is intent on taking up a career. I think every woman should have the right to take up any career she wishes. If a child is born to such parents it will necessarily be unwanted because of the preoccupation of parents with their careers, and the child may suffer because both parents are out most of the time. This is one of the major factors in most European countries, although the Eastern European countries are better about allowing mothers more time during the maternity period to care for their children in the early months. It is one of the advantages for women that they can decide on a career. But when they have an absorbing, time-consuming career, I feel that having children is something they can only do at the expense, quite possibly, of the welfare and happiness of the child.

Young adolescents who are experimenting with sex—there is no law that can stop them experimenting with sex whether we like it or not—should not have a child as a result. The only way that this cannot happen is if they decide not to experiment, and this is something that is inculcated in the culture in which they are brought up. I believe they are the last people who should bring a child into the world, because this is nearly inevitably the unwanted child or the child which some unfortunate girl will try to bring up on her own. No matter how brave or courageous these girls are, this is very difficult to do. I believe that this nearly inevitably means that the child starts under a disadvantage. In recent years we have become much more reasonable towards unmarried mothers.

Therefore I would not be for restricting contraceptives. We go through our schools, colleges and universities. We all belong, or do not belong, to our different churches. We all have been indoctrinated by our families and teachers. By the time we reach 15, 20 or 25 years of age, we must be free to [866] make up our own minds and do not need these continued instructions, orders, decisions or dictates telling us what to do. If our parents and teachers had not made us into a particular kind of human being, there is no point handing out orders. The important thing is to give young people a sense of responsibility, to develop it, and then they are on their own and must make up their own minds. I would not, therefore, restrict the sale of non-medical contraceptives.

Deputy Kelly called section 5 the joke section. It has become a joke and has been referred to in Shatter's book. It is a shame that a serious Minister like Deputy Haughey should be made into a figure of fun for bringing in this kind of legislation. We have moved from doctors to the customs official who will be rummaging through somebody's baggage. What does he do when he sees the contraceptives? Weigh them? Count them? Put them in some sort of device that will be made available? It is not really funny because this is the kind of thing that will give the impression that we are an absurd humourless race. Section 5 (1) (a) contains the phrase “are part of his personal luggage”. What happens when a lady is bringing in her luggage? Does the customs man make his decision about her IUD, her diaphragm or packets of spermicides or condoms or whatever she may be carrying in her bag? Does the customs man examine his bag, her bag and their bags, put the lot together and decide that they are up to no good and that their values and standards are not the same as those of the Irish? In these circumstances what does he do? Section 5 (1) reads:

A person shall not import contraceptives into the State unless—

(a) they are part of his personal luggage accompanying him when he is entering the State and their quantity is not such as to indicate they they are not solely for his own use, or

That is a wildly hilarious proposal. Imagine the face of some unfortunate Frenchman, German, Dane, Dutchman, Englishman or fellow Irishman from the North being told that there is an Irish standard, that he is not observing it and that this is not permitted.

[867] The Minister might provide for the importation for a certain number of contraceptives. I would not be in favour of any limitation nor would I be in favour of the crude intrusion and invasion of personal privacy implicit in section 5 (1) (a), especially if a young customs official—and there will be female customs officials—has to ask a man what they are and if he has to explain how many are needed, how long and how often. What is his immediate use of them and so on. There is a long list of questions.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey Does it not apply to a male customs officer going through a lady's lingerie? That happens at present.

Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland Zoom on John Boland Is the Minister pleased that it does?

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne That is what I am saying. If it is as unimportant as lingerie why have we a Bill with 17 sections in it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne Zoom on Seán Browne These matters would be more appropriate to Committee Stage. We are going into detail section by section.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne It is obviously——

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey The Deputy knows that one can reduce any legislation to absurdity.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne This has already been done by better people than I. Did the Minister listen to Deputies Kelly, O'Connell and Boland this morning?

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I listened to Deputy Kelly and I thought he had a nerve, as a man who was Chief Whip when the Coalition tried to put through a Bill, to attempt to lecture me at this stage about it.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne He admitted that.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey He should have had the decency to go away or sit quietly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne Zoom on Seán Browne Deputy Browne on the Bill, please.

[868]Mr. Boland: Information on John Boland Zoom on John Boland As the Minister did when the Bill was going through in 1974.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne Zoom on Noel C. Browne The removal of restrictions on advertisements under section 17 is clearly an advance. The Bill is a depressing commentary on the kind of society we have. We have been on the road now for 60 years and we are just coming to the point where we are introducing this grossly defective Bill. In view of the existing political situation and the situation in relation to family planning which at present is too sparse and inadequate we should do everything we can to amend the proposals.

It is good to have this debate and to compel people to face up to the implications of these proposals. The Bill, as it is, is unworkable in such areas as, for example, a lady going through a man's condoms and so on. I suspect the Minister knows this as well as we do. It is conceivable that there will be endless trouble arising out of the weaknesses and defects of the Bill. We should make the Minister justify his proposals by submitting amendments, which I hope to do, and thus have discussion on them.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton We have heard a variety of views on this Bill. I would like my contribution to the debate to be regarded as an explanation of my vote rather than as a speech on the Health (Family Planning) Bill.

I am going to vote against the Bill and I want to make that clear from the start. The fact that the title of the Bill is most misleading is beside the point. What is contained in it has little or nothing to do with health but has quite a lot to do with disease. Why I am so emphatically opposed to the Bill is that I want a return to the position that existed before the McGee case. This can only be achieved by a referendum. Those who have spoken all agree that we are considering this matter because of the McGee case and what has happened arising from that case. What is proposed in the Bill will only worsen that position.

There is no such thing as making contraceptives available in a limited way and the Minister knows that only too well. I am sure he is as satisfied as I am [869] that when contraceptives are made available through chemists' shops and doctors' prescriptions or authorisations there is no way they will be controlled. In every society there are unscrupulous and irresponsible people who are prepared to make profit out of any filthy business one can think of.

The Minister is proposing to make contraceptives available through chemists, and doctor's prescriptions or authorisations. I would like him to explain how they will be controlled because there are unscrupulous doctors and chemists. Once contraceptives are legally brought into the country and legally exposed for sale all the regulations will go by the board. People will find ways and means of getting them and there will be a number of people who will be expert at forging doctors' prescriptions or authorisations. Contraceptives will be freely available.

I feel strongly that I have a serious obligation to do what I can to protect young immature people, at least until they have had sufficient time to grow in wisdom, knowledge, sense and understanding, to protect themselves against unscrupulous exploiters. Every Member of this House has that obligation and I do not think we would be exercising it properly by adopting this legislation. For instance, we do not use drugs in the way the Bill proposes contraceptives should be used—we do not throw them around in such a way that young people can come across them and use them. Even in the case of drink there are definite restrictions because of the dangers arising from drink for young people. Here we are dealing with something which may be far more dangerous.

The Minister has told us he is introducing an Irish solution to an Irish problem. I, too, want that: we should have our own solutions to our own problems even though this is not a problem confined to Ireland. The 1935 Act was passed not just as a solution to an Irish problem but as a Fianna Fáil solution to it, and the people at that time, and until the McGee case, considered it to be a good solution and accepted it as such. Wrongly as it turned out, they thought they were protected by the 1937 [870] Constitution. Then the Supreme Court ruled otherwise and that is why we are left in this position.

Surely the way to overcome that would be to give the people another chance to change the Constitution in such a way that contraceptives would be kept out of the reach of young people. It has always been the position here that doctors had the right to use the available means to overcome difficult marital situations in a medical way. Why then do we want this liberalisation which would place so much temptation and danger in the way of our young people who have not had sufficient time to grow up and get sense about these things? We will be failing bady in our duty if we do not continue to protect our young people.

As I have said we all have a responsibility to approach problems of this kind conscientiously, and the people who elected us are entitled to know how we feel about these things and why—they want to know whether they can depend on us to take care of them through legislation in such a way that bringing up their families will not be more difficult than necessary for them.

I have no intention of trying to dissect the Bill—Deputy Boland very ably and critically did that. He spoke about the diversity of views on this matter and said people are entitled to hold such views and to express them. He said we should be free to vote in the way our consciences dictate on such matters at any time. I feel strongly that the vast majority of the Irish people were satisfied with the law we had until it was found to be unconstitutional. I believe the vast majority of our people will be extremely happy to get back to that position.

I recently watched a television programme in which Mr. St. John Stevas took part, and I was appalled. I sat on a committee of the Council of Europe for a considerable time, of which he was chairman, and I know what his views were at that time. All I can say is that he is a changed man. On this programme, when he was confronted with a question of whether he was for or against contraception, his answer was that he was not against it any longer because it was [871] a lost cause. I thought that an appalling statement from a man who I knew held different views. No matter what we are talking about, if a number of people think it is a lost cause and cease to fight, then it was a lost cause before they began to fight. We should never cease to fight if we believe a thing is wrong.

I believe this is wrong and that our society will deteriorate if we all begin to agree that a permissive society should be accommodated in this way and that we should set up a horde of inspectors to ensure that this will be so. I do not know how the Minister will police this legislation, how he will confine contraceptives to people who he thinks should have them, who the Supreme Court think should have them.

I do not think it is possible for the Minister to do that. My personal view is that married people perhaps should be allowed to use their discretion in regard to the size of their families, for a variety of reasons best known to themselves—that perhaps they should be allowed to use whichever means are available to them to restrict the numbers of their families. That is not the view held by the Catholic Church and I am still a Catholic and, quite frankly, I am too much of a coward to put that sort of thing into practice. But that is just a personal view. Having said that, I appreciate that that is not a possibility because if contraceptives are available in the normal way for that purpose, which I would perhaps regard as a legitimate purpose, there is no way they can be restricted to that area. The Minister knows that as well as I do and he knows that the policing of that is an impossible job and because of that, and this is a very simple treatment of quite a sizeable Bill, the Minister should not go ahead with this Bill. He is going to do immense harm and he is going in the teeth of what his own party decided was the right thing in the past and what the vast majority of the people held, until the McGee case, was satisfactory enough. It was an Irish solution for the Irish people and that is the right way to look at it.

This is a simplified view but it is the view that will be taken by the vast majority [872] of the people; they are not going to dissect the Bill and talk about the legalities here and there and the various small reasons why we should attempt to accommodate the people with very extreme views. Goodness knows we have heard extreme views just now and everybody is entitled to have extreme views but when a Member of this House goes such a long way to agree with the view that it could be quite wrong to bring children into the nuclear world that lies ahead of us, all faith in human nature and all faith in the future is gone. Nothing could ever get me to that stage. I know that that position exists in certain countries in Europe today and I believe that it exists because of the permissiveness in these countries. It is sad to think that there are countries at present who are not producing enough children to keep their own population going. This largely arises because of this interference with nature.

That is my explanation. It is a very short contribution to this debate. It is perhaps a simplified approach to a problem that is fairly serious. I do not know why we, when in Government, made the approach that we did. It was an approach somewhat similar to this. I think it was Deputy John Boland who said that we were speaking of the reform of the law in relation to family planning and contraception. I do not think it is reform of the law; it is doing an immense amount of damage and I would be the last person to call it reform because I do not consider it to be reform. If this Family Planning Bill becomes law it will do endless damage, particularly to young people, and to the attitude of our society to the whole moral code. The Minister should very seriously consider where he is leading our society. I know that he, like everybody else, has his own sincere views but I am a little bit afraid that there is calculation being made here as to what is going to get or lose votes for the Government. That is a very dangerous consideration in a matter of this kind and a much more serious look should be taken at this than the consideration of how it is going to affect the Government. I am afraid there is a large element of that in the whole consideration [873] ly because of what was reported in the paper in relation to the Minister's approaches to the medical profession for their support. It was stated that he explained that in the present circumstances this was the best he could hope to get through. What did the Minister mean by the best or the worst? That was never explained. When he said it was the best he could hope to get through does he himself feel that his approach to this should be even more liberal, or more restrictive? I do not know. That has not been explained.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey Did I say that?

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton Yes. It appeared in print in the paper that the Minister felt that that was the most he could get through at present.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I never said that. The Deputy knows well that everything attributed to one in the paper is not always correct.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton I accept that entirely but——

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey What I said about this Bill is in my opening speech on Second Stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne Zoom on Seán Browne If the Minister or any Member of the House says that there is something he did not say it is accepted.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton There was a good deal of public coming and going between the medical profession and the Minister in relation to this Bill and numerous reports of these discussions that were taking place. Perhaps I could say versions of the discussions appeared in the paper and that was one thing that appeared.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey The Deputy should stick to what I did say.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton Zoom on Mark A. Clinton I am entitled to make the short contribution that I am making. I am expressing my concern if the reports that appeared in the paper were true. If the Minister says they are not true I accept [874] that completely. I am simply saying that this is dangerous legislation and the only thing that will satisfy me is a referendum to get back to the position that was there since the 1935 Act was enacted in this House. The people were extremely satisfied with it. There will always be a small number of people who hold extreme views about these things but I am not sure that they are the people who are not going seriously to disturb our society and all that I would like to feel that the Irish people stand for.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond Listening to my colleague, Deputy Clinton, certainly brings back rather vivid memories of July 1974 when I was assistant Government whip sitting immediately behind where the Minister, Deputy Haughey, is sitting. I remember as Deputy Cooney sat down, having exhaustively attempted to convince the House of the merits of the Coalition Bill, he suddenly realised that not only had he not got the support of the then Taoiseach but that if Deputy Clinton was present as well he probably would not have had his support either. Nor indeed did he not have the support of the then Deputy Richard Burke.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan He would not have had my support either.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond I am talking about the Cabinet Ministers of the day and Deputy Flanagan had not yet been exalted in the double-barrelled sense at that time. Deputy Clinton's contribution brings back memories but it also disturbs me because I do not think that many of us have advanced in Dáil Éireann on what I would call an informed, knowing, sensitive, humane, liberal and tolerant way in dealing with this particular legislative problem. It is a matter of profound regret that somebody of the Minister's calibre, a man who is reputed to have a degree of liberality in Irish politics, a man who is tolerant of moralistic attitudes, a man who is widely known to be an urbane and civilised man, when we have a situation where the pendulum swings again, should in fact bring in here what is a rich source for anti-Irish, anti-Paddy jokes, one might say, in the media of the international [875] world and in the international medical press.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I should have thought that they had enough problems of their own.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond The Minister has referred to the Bill as being an Irish solution to an Irish problem. It is interesting to learn that Irish sexuality has a unique international relevance.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey The Deputy must not think that the world is comprised solely of the Anglo-American strain.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond As a member of the Social and Health Committee of the Council of Europe, which had a review recently at which I was present, I was explaining to my colleagues from 21 European nations the content of your Bill.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey The Government's Bill.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond But Deputy Haughey is the Minister responsible.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey It is a Government measure.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond Those people from such countries as Scandinavia, Greece, France, Germany and observers from Israel looked at me in disbelief when I told them of the provision whereby condoms will be only available on prescription from a doctor.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey The Deputy is drawing a long bow. I am aware, too, of what the council say on this matter.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond I suggested that, perhaps, in the years ahead we could organise visits to this country for tourists for the experience of the implementation of a unique legislation concept of sexual morality. What is most disturbing about the Bill is that we all know that the Minister does not believe in it. Obviously, there are Fianna Fáil Deputies who do not believe in it either, because recently at a meeting in [876] Dundrum Deputy Niall Andrews said that although he was opposed to the Bill he was voting for it. That is the kind of morality we have in this House in regard to legislation. Perhaps I join the ranks of Gay Byrne in the sense that I am a Catholic but that I do not accept the views of the Catholic Church in Ireland or at international level in relation to contraception. I say this as a Catholic but perhaps, as some people would claim, a disturbed Catholic. I say so, too, as a parent who happens to be blessed with four children ranging in ages from 18 to a young baby of two. The Bill is outrageous. It is also both insensitive and stupid and will go down in political history as a blot on the reputations of the Minister and the Government.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey Was the Deputy working for the Coalition Bill?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond I made my views very clear on that Bill.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey But the Deputy whipped the other Deputies into voting for it.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond I said then to my colleagues what I am saying now.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey But the Deputy voted for the Bill.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond What I am saying now I said then both in the House and to the Cabinet, but we must accept collective responsibility. I opposed that other Bill in my party but I was beaten.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey When I said this Bill is a Government measure the Deputy berated me and said it was my Bill but now he talks of collective responsibility.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond As the last Bill was the responsibility of the then Minister for Justice, this one is the responsibility of the Minister for Health, who may not slide away from it and say that the other 15 yahoos in the Cabinet forced this Bill on him. It is the Minister's Bill on behalf of the Government.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey I am accepting full responsibility for it but I wish to make it clear that it is a Government measure.

[877]Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond So, also, was the last Bill a Government measure.

Mr. Haughey: Information on Charles J. Haughey Zoom on Charles J. Haughey But the Deputy voted for it.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond Zoom on Barry Desmond I was caught in a situation in the same way as the Minister is caught now, but at least we can have the virtue of being honest with each other during this debate. Can one think of anything more ridiculous than a provision—and I suspect that this was largely at the suggestion of the Minister after his consultations with the various groups—whereby in order to purchase condoms one must go to a chemist's shop brandishing written authorisation in the form of a prescription from one's general practitioner? In other words, the Minister is telling me as a married man that this is what I must do if my wife and I decide as we grow older not to have any more children. Is the Minister serious in regard to this proposal? Does he, as a man experienced in the ways of the world, consider this to be the right course either legally or on grounds of humanity? Is it not ridiculous that in order to plan my family I should have to engage in the kind of convoluted arrangement proposed? It is bad enough that the Saint Vincent de Paul Society should be running the Minister's Department in relation to pensions but to be debating simultaneously a measure which simply makes a laughing stock of this country in international medical circles is not only distasteful but also very sad.

I am not sure as to how one should come to grips with the provisions of the Bill. We discussed it at length in our party and decided that the only reasonable way of dealing with it is to vote against it on Second Stage. I wish to be as positive as possible in my criticism.

As the Minister knows, it is legally permissible for consenting adults of 17 years of age and upwards to have sexual relations. They cannot be brought before the courts. I hold the view that contraceptives should be available without age limitation through chemists, family planning clinics and health boards. People who indulge in sexual relations have [878] the right and responsibility to decide that the women involved in the relationship do not become pregnant. As the years go by I believe that we will come to accept that that is a fact of life. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that people indulge in sexual relations outside of marriage.

It is legislatively impossible and hypocritical of the Minister to confine the sale of contraceptives to people who, as the Minister said, are indulging in bona fide family planning. Who will decide “bona fide family planning”? The family doctor will have to define it. The doctor will have to say to a widower who has been married for 30 years and whose wife has been dead for five or six years “You are a widower; you are 45 years of age; why do you want contraceptives?” If he tells the doctor that he wants them for bona fide family planning, the doctor will have to make a moral judgment and tell him “You cannot have them. They are only meant for married people.” The lack of comment by the Minister today in relation to that point is really saying that such people are irresponsible, that until they remarry they are prohibited from obtaining contraceptive devices. This is only one anomaly which clearly illustrates to this House the essential stupidity of the Bill. Other aspects of the Bill have even more serious connotations.

I know that there are voluntary family planning clinics in operation here. The effect of the Bill, which is outrageous and a disservice to the medical profession, will be to jeopardise the existence of these clinics. The Minister knows this and he is conniving at it in a legislative sense. The Minister knows that the family planning clinics will be unable to remain open when they are prohibited from importing and distributing contraceptives on a voluntary basis.

The attempts of the Minister to divert part of the debate into the natural family planning argument is an equally dishonest effort. We all know of the very serious medical limitations of natural family planning. In this Bill the Minister elevates natural family planning to a therapeutic medical science which it in no way deserves. This morning I listened to Deputy Dr. O'Hanlon. I have listened [879] to many doctors, inside and outside the House, on the subject of natural family planning. I have listened to many members of the Hierarchy describe the human virtues of natural family planning with its attendant charts and thermometers, the practice of what in effect would be Russian roulette in relation to the prospects of pregnancy. I would find it far more distasteful and insensitive to have that system regarded as the authorised version of family planning than the elementary and hygienic use of simple contraceptives. Nobody knows more of the fundamental inbuilt hypocrisy in this Bill than the Minister for Health. The fact that we know it means that we dodge it and come back to the Minister with the stock response “An Irish Bill for the Irish situation.” Irish women have some unique aspects of sexuality unknown in other European countries. Irish men possess unique aspects of sexuality unknown to other males in Europe. Therefore, we must have a uniquely Irish solution to the problem.

The Minister is making a bad situation worse. Our young people, including my children, will be more contemptuous of politicians when this Bill is passed. Permissiveness is more likely to develop from contempt than from encouragement, sanity and normality.

Debate adjourned.


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