Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail leader backs removal of Eighth Amendment

Micheal Martin made his call for reform as the Dail debated the contentious issue of abortion.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will vote for the constitutional restrictions on abortion to be changed.

During a Dail debate on the recommendation to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which gives the mother and unborn child equal right to life, Mr Martin said he wanted to see it removed.

“I believe the case for change is justified by the full range of evidence available to us and I will vote for this change,” he said.

A referendum on the contentious issue is expected in late May or early June.

Last December, a report by a specially convened Oireachtas committee found that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, known as the Eighth Amendment and passed in 1983, was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

It recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision, and that the procedure should be allowed if the life or health of the woman was at risk.

It also called for expectant mothers to be allowed an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy if doctors diagnosed a foetal abnormality that was likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

Mr Martin said he supported the logic and the basic approach proposed by the committee.

“Nothing we say or do here could make Ireland a country without abortion,” he said.

Fianna Fail TDs and Senators can vote as they wish.

Mr Martin said: “If we are sincere in our compassion for women and if we are sincere in respecting their choices then we must act.

“Because the 8th 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.”

Mr Martin told the Dail he was keen to see legal advice being drafted for the Government on whether the Eighth Amendment should be repealed or repealed and replaced.

He said he expects the article will have to be replaced with onus put on the Oireachtas to legislate on abortion laws.

And the opposition leader called for any prospective legislation to be published for voters to study ahead of the referendum.

“I support the logic and the basic approach proposed by the Committee but want to see proposals about how it might operate and to hear from the government about the legal advice which it has sought,” Mr Martin said.

The Fianna Fail leader said he favoured a time based cut-off towards the end of the first trimester.

And he said provisions should be made for cases of fatal foetal abnormality and serious threats to the health of the mother.

The debate involved speakers from all parties including committee members.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said that it was when Ireland was at its most Catholic that it had been at its least Christian.

“Irish women were quite literally enslaved in an act of church and state collusion that can be honestly characterised as nothing other than sexual apartheid,” she said.

“Their babies were sold like puppies to foreign homes or enslaved in industrial schools to be prayed upon those in power wielding authority.”

Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick, who was also a committee member and opposed the recommendations, voiced his opposition to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, adding that he found  the committee’s work very testing and troubling.

“The truth is the committee spent most of its time simply undermining and attacking the Eighth Amendment and no time looking at all at the good the Eighth Amendment has done saving lives,” he said.

“We cannot allow the baby in the womb to be described as nothing more than clump of cells which has happened too much to date.”

Independents for Change TD Clare Daly became emotional as she outlined her thoughts on the issue.

“We have abortion. We have a constitutional right to abortion as Irish citizens but shamefully that constitutional right has to take place outside of these
shores,” she said.

The cabinet is expected to discuss the recommendations to repeal the amendment and set out Government position on the issue towards the end of the month.

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