'We must question our views': Irish opposition leader backs abortion reform

83 women from Louth travelled to the UK for an abortion in 2016

Only a thin line separates key life and death issues

Micheal Martin, leader of Fianna Fail, told the Dail the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution - passed in 1983 to recognise the equal right to life of a mother and an unborn child - "has been shown to cause real damage to Irish women".

"The Eighth Amendment does not mean that Ireland is a country without abortion". He said he saw "the logic and the basic approach proposed by the Committee" but "wants to see proposals about how it might operate".

The leader of Ireland's main opposition party said on Thursday that he had changed his views on Ireland's strict abortion laws and would support their removal, in a potentially significant intervention ahead of a referendum in the coming months.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Mr Martin indicated he will support unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Mr Harris said his department is working to find a way of legislating for the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

Minister Harris says the figures represent real women at a crisis point in their lives.

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.

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"Women become pregnant and it is a joyous thing for many".

The debate involved speakers from all parties including committee members.

He warned that there are now "new realities" to consider with this issue, such as the fact that some women are now resorting to obtaining abortion pills online.

"Their babies were sold like puppies to foreign homes or enslaved in industrial schools, to be preyed upon by those in power-wielding authority".

With a traditionally strong rural vote, Fianna Fail are considered a more conservative party than Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's fellow centre-right Fine Gael and party members voted against changing the laws at its conference previous year.

"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.

I'll admit to being in a bit of a quandary about our forthcoming referendum on the abortion issue and I suspect too that there are a lot more people like me, tossing around many conflicting issues in their heads.

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