Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he would “never judge any woman” who chose to have an abortion.
He was clarifying remarks he made in a radio interview in relation to rape and termination.
Mr Martin was asked on KFM Radio Kildare about his views on abortion where a father rapes his daughter and she becomes pregnant as a result.
“I know people today who are alive, whose mothers would have been [raped], “he said in the interview. “In one particular case... was raped and she was the outcome of that and she gets very angry when people suggest that she should never have had a life. So this is not simple.”
Several groups responded to Mr Martin’s statement, including the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI).
Orla O’Connor, director of NWCI, said that the woman should have a choice.
“If a person is raped they should have a choice to seek a termination,” said Ms O’Connor. “We know from the Citizens’ Assembly that some will go ahead with it and some will not, but it’s the choice.”
She also said that political parties need to have detailed information sessions, similar to those that occurred at the Citizens’ Assembly.
“Fianna Fáil needs to be clearer,” she said.
TMFR (terminations for medical reasons) Ireland, which is a group of parents affected by fatal and severe foetal anomalies, wrote an open letter to the Fianna Fáil leader.
“You are going to be asked many serious questions and you owe it to all of us to give these questions serious consideration and give us honest, complete answers,” read the letter.
“The time for hiding from questions and for hiding your true opinions from voters has passed.”
In a written reply, Mr Martin said: “I said yesterday [Thursday] that I would never judge any woman who chose to have an abortion and I meant that sincerely. Each woman is entitled to make their own decision about terminating their own pregnancy but as we all know the legislation in Ireland only allows abortions in extremely rare circumstances.
He also said: “I believe rape and incest are both horrific, inhumane crimes and a complete violation of women”, and that his party will treat the issue of abortion in a sensitive and respectful way.
He then stated that there had been a change of opinion in relation to abortion.
“Over the last few years there has been a change of opinion and there will now be a referendum so that the people will decide what changes they want introduced to the current legislation,” said Mr Martin.
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