The majority of Irish people fear the inclusion of suicide as legal grounds for a termination could lead to “abortion on demand”, Micheál Martin has said.
The Fianna Fáil leader is still refusing to say what position his party will take on the issue which is due to be discussed at Oireachtas committee hearings over three days from tomorrow.
“We haven’t made a definitive position yet because we haven’t seen the legislation,” he said.
Mr Martin, who has previously been wary of any moves to legalise abortion, has not stated his position since Health Minister James Reilly announced the Government would legislate.
Last July, Mr Martin said in an interview with the Irish Examiner he “remains to be convinced” that the Oireachtas should legislate for the X case ruling on abortion despite a 20-year failure to do so.
He said any such legislation could create “an open-door situation” that would turn out to be “very difficult to hold back”.
Yesterday, speaking on RTÉ radio, he said there was an acceptance termination should take place in “rare circumstances” where it was needed to protect the life of the mother.
Asked about Fianna Fáil’s position he said: “Our stance fundamentally is that the health and life of the mother must be protected and legal clarity must be given to that.” He said there must be “no doubt about the circumstances in which doctors can intervene to save the life of the mother in the very rare circumstances where that arises”.
The Government plans to introduce a combination of legislation and regulation to legalise the procedure as a last resort to save a pregnant woman’s life.
Following its hearings over the coming days, the Oireachtas committee on health and children will deliver a report which will help guide the Government on the new laws.
Mr Martin said suicide will be “the key element” of the Government’s proposed legislation. He said there needs to be a “fail safe test of whether suicide is going to occur or not” and while most doctors agree this would be very difficult “you can’t rule it out in all circumstances”, he said.
“The vast majority of people are against abortion on demand. There is a fear that the suicide option may lead to abortion on demand,” Mr Martin said.
There are “differences of opinion” within Fianna Fáil on the issue, he said.
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