'We should repeal the Eighth Amendment', FF's Martin tells Dail
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is backing the removal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans abortion.
Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Mr Martin indicated he will support unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
His stance came as a majority of Fianna Fail TDs outlined that they were against a repeal.
It also came just three months after the party voted overwhelmingly at its Ard Fheis to oppose changing the Eight Amendment.
Delegates voted by three to one to back a motion from the Kildare North constituency urging the party "to oppose any attempt to diminish the constitutional rights of the unborn".
Mr Martin admitted that over the years he had been on record as being against a significant change in Ireland's abortion laws.
"However, I believe we each have a duty to be willing to question our own views, to be open to different perspectives and to respond to new information," he said.
"The Eighth Amendment does not mean that Ireland is a country without abortion. Retaining the Eighth Amendment will not make Ireland a country without abortion.
"Nothing we say or do here could make Ireland a country without abortion.
"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 hEireann and I will vote accordingly."
Mr Martin said he came to his conclusion after reading evidence from Irish clinicians and doctors who say the Eighth Amendment creates difficulty for obstetricians, and has a negative impact on women's healthcare "including death".
"We all remember the sense of national shock at the death of Savita Halappanavar six years ago," he said.
"She was a 31-year-old, healthy medical professional, who experienced difficulties during a pregnancy."
He added that in the inquiry into her death, the current law "stood indicted" for "leading to a situation where her care was not as responsive or urgent as it should have been".
The Fianna Fail leader also said that the Eighth Amendment does not prevent Irish women from having abortion.
"Nobody can dispute the fact that thousands of Irish women have an abortion every year," Mr Martin told the Dail.
He said these operations caused "deep trauma" and were "hidden" and could therefore have a significant impact on the health and well-being of women.
Mr Martin said that "without constitutional change" it was not possible to address the trauma faced by families who received a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis.
"If a family is told of a fatal abnormality during a pregnancy, the law, as it stands and as it is required to be under the Eighth Amendment, says that they can do nothing," he added.