Health Committee rejects 'cruel' DVD amendment as abortion bill moves to next stage

Latest: After more than 24 hours of debate and at times heated exchanges over three consecutive days, legislation to allow for abortion has passed Committee stage.

However, Health Minister Simon Harris will still have to meet members of the Health Committee early next week to thrash out a significant number of amendments which he has promised to seek compromise on before the Bill goes to Report stage.

A total of 180 amendments were tabled to the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill) 2018 and there were sparky engagements over a number put forward by a group of 10 pro-life TDs.

Health Minister Simon Harris

Discussing the issue of conscientious objection, Independent TD Mattie McGrath accused the Minister of "refusing to even listen to GPs" and suggested that doctors would have to turn their practices into "abortion clinics".

Health Committee chairman, Dr Michael Harty, said Mr McGrath was out of order after he suggested that Mr Harris would go down in history as the most incompetent Minister for Health in the history of the State over the issue - a claim that sparked anger among other TDs.

Mr Harris responded by suggesting "there is no decorum" among some members as during yesterday's debate he had been called "simple" and the "most incompetent minister in the history of the State".

The Committee was also delayed when the grouping called a vote on many of their amendments. Proposals which would have required doctors to offer DVDs showing abortions to women before they have a termination were rejected yesterday.

The amendment also stipulated that medical practitioners would have to give details of the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the foetus at the time the abortion is to be performed. Mr Harris said this aspect of the amendment is "particularly cruel", especially to those parents who receive a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Harris said he is "genuinely a bit confused" about a clause which stipulates that women must be informed of the rights of the father as he said it "seems to imply that it is only a certain type of woman who seeks a termination". He said the majority of Irish women who access termination services in Britain are in relationships.

There was significant disgust at a proposal that an information DVD be made available.

Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger said: "What's being proposed here is you want to force any women or pregnant person who is about to have an abortion to watch a DVD to get a description of the procedure." She asked the members who put forward the proposal to "consider how absolutely cruel you sound to the general public". Ms Coppinger suggested that a man going in for cancer treatment would never be asked to watch a DVD of the operation beforehand.

But Peadar Toibín said the proposals are about providing information.

Original story (4.52pm): Proposals which would have required doctors to offer DVDs showing abortions to women before they have a termination have been rejected.

A group of 10 pro-life TDs had put forward an amendment based around informed consent to the Bill to allow for the introduction of abortion in this country.

The amendment also stipulated that medical practitioners would have to give details of the anatomical and physiological characteristics of the foetus at the time the abortion is to be performed.

Health Minister Simon Harris said this aspect of the amendment was "particularly cruel" especially to those parents who receive a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Appearing before the Health Committee, which is in its third day of discussion of the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill, Mr Harris said he had a "huge difficulty" with the amendment adding that there is a long-established protocol around informed consent.

Mr Harris said he was "genuinely a bit confused" about a clause which stipulated that women must be informed of the rights of the father as he said it "seems to imply that it is only a certain type of woman who seeks a termination."

He said the majority of Irish women who access termination services in Britain are in relationships.

There was significant disgust at a proposal that an information DVD be made available.

Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger said: "What's being proposed here is you want to force any women or pregnant person who is about to have an abortion to watch a DVD to get a description of the procedure."

She asked the members who put forward the proposal to "consider how absolutely cruel you sound to the general public."

Ms Coppinger suggested that a man going in for cancer treatment would never be asked to watch a DVD of the operation beforehand.

Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan said giving women a DVD of a termination procedure would be "obscene in the same way as pornography is obscene" and described it as damaging propaganda which would "take the country back 60 or 70 years".

But Peadar Toibín said the proposals were about providing information.

All eight members of the committee voted against the amendment.

The Committee have now moved on to the issue of the conscientious objection of doctors with regard to providing termination services.


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