FIANNA FÁIL leader Micheál Martin will vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment on abortion due to its “cruel inflexibility and unintended consequences.”
Mr Martin has said that he agrees with the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee that examined the amendment, and will vote to legalise abortion on request in the early months of pregnancy.
However, he said that he wants to see further detail on how those recommendations will work in practice.
The recommendations allow unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks and in cases thereafter of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality and where the parent’s health is at risk.
Having previously supported the retention of the Eighth Amendment, he said that his view evolved after listening to women and medical and legal experts.
“If we are sincere in our compassion for women and if we are sincere in respecting their choices then we must act. Because the Eighth Amendment has been shown to cause real damage to Irish women.
“Because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments. Because it has not and cannot change the reality that abortion is a present and permanent part of Irish life.
“Because it seeks to force women to carry a pregnancy to term when they have been the victim of a rape or incest or when they have received the diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.
“Because it requires that pregnant women and doctors are faced with criminal sanctions.
“And because it prevents us from responding in a humane way in order to help women in the most traumatic situations.
“Because of these reasons and following a long period of reflection and assessment of evidence before the Oireachtas Committee, I believe that we should remove the Eighth Amendment from Bunreacht na hÉireann and I will vote accordingly,” he said.
His party will still be allowed a free vote on the issue. His stance goes against the majority of his parliamentary party who have spoken out on the issue, and against a resolution adopted by the party’s membership at its Árd Fheis in October.
Earlier in the day, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Jonathan O’Brien, who was a member of the Oireachtas committee and previously identified as pro-life, said that the law needs to change.
“I considered myself pro-life and given some of the stuff outside the gate today and some of the vile posters, it’s not a tag I want to use again and I now consider myself a realist when it comes to women’s healthcare,” he said.
He said that there is no “compassionate” way of legislating for abortion in the case of rape without allowing a 12-week window for unrestricted access, and said that medical professionals and their patients should be trusted and supported.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Fianna Fáil health spokesperson, and Cork North Central TD, Billy Kelleher, said that Ireland has been “exporting” its problems and that the treatment of families in crisis under the Eighth Amendment has been “inhumane.”
He said that he knew one family who went through a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis and had to go abroad to terminate the pregnancy.
“They wanted to have this child. They kicked the sand up and down Garryvoe beach for weeks on end because of that diagnosis, wondering what they would do. Would she continue with the pregnancy or would she have it terminated? They made the decision to go abroad. It was inhumane that our country could force this on our citizens.
“They decided to terminate the pregnancy because they felt that they could not go through with it in light of the prognosis of certain death ex utero, so the idea that we would ask people like them to FedEx their little baby back home to Ireland is inhumane,” he said.