Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said this week he is “not absolutist” on the question of abortion, and said he does not oppose it in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape or incest.
“I come from a prolife background and I have never been absolutist in relation to it I understand the difficulties that many women with crisis pregnancies are in in many families, ” he told journalists during a visit to Mullingar on Wednesday.
Deputy Martin said cases of fatal foetal abnormality are traumatic for couples.
“I don't think it's acceptable that they have to go to England and bring the remains of their baby back subsequently,” he stated.
“I think any woman who is a victim of rape – who is pregnant as a result of rape, or of incest, should not have to bring, or be forced to bring a pregnancy..or to have the baby in that situation. Those are very difficult cases,” he said.
Deputy Martin said Fianna Fáil is allowing its members vote according to their conscience when it comes to deciding on a referendum on whether to retain or repeal the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution, which bans abortion.
”Each individual will be entitled to vote in accordance – take a position in accordance - with their conscience on the issue,” he said, pointing out that this was the approach taken by Fianna Fáil with regard to the vote on the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill.
He said he had spoken with all parliamentary party members in advance of that, “and got a sense of how deeply held the views were”.
It was Fianna Fáil's view that the people should be consulted via a referendum, not least because it had been some time since the people were consulted on the issue, Deputy Martin told journalist.
He said the issue was one that the public has been raising with him, and he believed there was a large number of people “in the centre ground”, who perceived that it was a large and a complex issue, and a challenging issue.
Deputy Martin said he believed these people wanted “a respectful debate”, and an understanding that people are coming at the question from different perspectives.
He said he was going through a lot of the material presented to the Oireachtas committtee, both the obstetric and legal opinion.
“I think the people should be consulted,” he said.