Tuesday 24 April 2018

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin backs repeal of the Eighth Amendment

Micheál Martin speaking in the Dail today
Micheál Martin speaking in the Dail today

Shona Murray

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is to support the Oireachtas Commitee's recommendations for unrestricted access to abortion for 12 weeks.

Mr Martin made his position known at today’s debate on abortion in the Dail.

“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.

"I support the idea of a time-based cut-off near the end of the first trimester", he said.

The Cork South Central TD 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. 

"She was a 31 year old, healthy medical professional who experienced difficulties during a pregnancy.

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 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”, he told the Dail.

He said these operations caused “deep trauma” and were “hidden” and could therefore have a significant impact on health and well-being on women.

The Cork South Central TD admitted that up until now he has been on record as being against abortion but his position has since evolved.

“Over the years I have been on the record as being against a significant change in our abortion laws.  I have done so from a belief that this was the most effective way of affirming the importance of the unborn” , he told the Dail.

But "if the facts become clearer, if we come to understand properly the impact of a policy on others, then we must be willing to act accordingly”, he said.

Mr Martin said the reality of the situation is that “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.”

The Fianna Fail leader said “without constitutional change" it is not possible to address the trauma faced by families who receive a fatal fetal 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 said.

“Under threat of a criminal sentence they must carry the pregnancy to its term irrespective of the potentially devastating impact it will have”, he said.

“I believe we should make provision for cases of fatal foetal abnormality and serious threats to the health of the mother.”

The Cork South Central TD's decision to move so far away from his previous stance is all the more remarkable as the Fianna Fail party voted overwhelmingly to retain the Eighth Amendment at its last Ard Fheis last October.

Online Editors

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