The Davenport Hotel, Dublin 2
An address by Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin to a Lawyers 4 yes meeting.
“There are just over two weeks left before polling in this referendum. By the time it is over this will have been one of the broadest and most detailed referendum debates we have ever held.
In many ways the campaign began in January when it became clear that the Oireachtas would support the proposal adopted by the all-party committee.
I believe that the logic and core humanity of the all-party recommendations have absolutely withstood scrutiny.
These recommendations involve a regulated regime which reflects medical reality and address the clear failure of the present law to provide even basic care and compassion for many women at what is one of the toughest moments of their lives.
Since I made my personal statement in the Dáil I have visited many parts of the country and have talked to hundreds of people about the referendum. For those who have disagreed with me I have met a very open and respectful tone.
However the most common reaction I have had is from women of all ages telling me of their own experiences and how important it is for them that Irish society hears their voice.
All of the evidence is that the public is becoming very well informed on the issues at hand.
It can be very difficult to see through a passionate debate – particularly when faceless groups are appearing and spreading dishonest and offensive material.
However I believe that people are intelligent enough to see through this – and I would encourage everyone to focus on the materials provided by reputable and officially registered groups as well as the Referendum Commission.
I believe that people increasingly understand that abortion is an everyday reality in Ireland. There is no option available to make Ireland abortion-free.
What we are being asked to do is to remove a 35 year-old provision in the constitution which has not only failed to make Ireland abortion-free it has inflicted considerable harm.
There have been many attempts to change the tone and outreach of support services. There have been many court cases and attempts to slightly alter the impact of the amendment.
But what has become clearer and clearer is that 8th amendment hasn’t worked because it cannot work.
In fact it has quite obviously increased the likelihood of difficult circumstances becoming a crisis for pregnant women. At the very core of the 8th amendment is a judgement and a completely inflexible one at that.
The 8th amendment hasn’t made abortion the last resort, in fact it has made abortion the only option for many women.
Faced with a deep crisis the first consultation the woman has is often with the internet, to find flights and addresses rather than with a medical professional here who can outline different options and ensure proper and safe care.
There is persuasive evidence that the liberalisation of abortion laws in some countries has actually led to a decline in abortion rates.
This makes complete sense because reduced pressure and an increased engagement with support services creates choices which are simply not there otherwise. There is no reason why this could not be the case in Ireland as well.
The specific proposals of the all party committee provide for a new approach where we can help women in Ireland faced with terrible situations which simply cannot be addressed while the 8th amendment remains in the constitution.
The law as it stands demands that we try to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term irrespective of the impact on her health, or if she was raped, or if she has received a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.
And it is essential people understand that there is no possible way for this to change if the amendment remains.
The Supreme Court has held, and left no room for doubt, that a constitutional prohibition must be reflected in the policy of the state, in its primary law and in its criminal code.
There is no discretion and there is no way of thinking that we can address these cases without removing the 8th amendment.
It has also been suggested that the limits and regulation proposed in the legislation can’t be trusted and that effectively there will be no limits. This is entirely wrong.
We should all remember that five years ago many people claimed that abortion on demand was being introduced because limits in that legislation wouldn’t be respected.
Those claims turned out to be false.
Women and their doctors have fully respected the strict limits in that law – and they will respect whatever law is introduced.
I deeply understand how uneasy many people are with the choice to be made on Friday May 25th. For a lot of people, including me, coming to a conclusion has been a long and challenging process.
Each of us has a personal responsibility as a citizen to decide where we stand.
This doesn’t have to be without reservations, but it does have to involve a frank and honest look at the reality of Ireland today and in the future.
A No vote on the 25th will mean that nothing will change. There will continue to be a long stream of cases through our courts taken by women facing extreme situations and identified only by a letter of the alphabet.
There will continue to be thousands of Irish abortions every year with no engagement with medical professionals.
There will continue to be a rising number of unsupervised and unregulated abortions taking place here with the use of abortion pills.
A No vote will mean that Ireland will continue to be a cold place for women in the most terrible circumstances – and we will continue to be confronted by case after case of cruel insensitivity.
A Yes vote will enable a system where the first consultation a woman facing a crisis has is with a medical professional who can support her and outline different choices.
It will enable a system which is regulated, safe and humane.
It will bring to an end the failures of the 8th amendment.
As a citizen I have made my decision. I will be voting Yes and I will continue to talk about the need for the change which can only be secured by voting Yes.