Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris told Irish Parliament about his own family’s decision not to travel abroad to seek an abortion.

Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris spoke openly in the Dáil (Ireland’s Parliament) on Tuesday night about his own family’s experience with a difficult pregnancy and no access to abortions in Ireland. His grandson lived just 58 minutes and his daughter-in-law’s life could have been in great jeopardy.

This May the Irish people will have a referendum on whether the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution should be repealed. As it stands under Irish law the rights of the unborn fetus and the mother are equal. If the amendment which was, voted in in 1983, is repealed new legislation with regards to abortion will be necessary.

This Wednesday the Dáil will vote on the second stage of legislation to allow the referendum on abortion to take place. Ferris told the Dáil he believed the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed and the Oireachtas allowed to legislate.

The Sinn Fein politician spoke of his personal experience of Irish women having no access to abortion in Ireland. In 2001, during his daughter-in-law’s first pregnancy, in the fourth or fifth month, they were told that the child would not have any independent life and that the baby could die in the womb.

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The possible consequences and dangers were explained to the couple and it was suggested that they could go for an inducement or seek a termination outside Ireland.

During his emotional speech he said, “They took a decision to persevere in the hope that nothing would happen my daughter-in-law”.

Baby, Seoidín (which means little gem), was born in early 2002, just seven and a half months into the pregnancy having been induced. Ferris said “The baby lived 58 minutes and died in her arms. We were all there. I will never forget it, because if it went the other way the four children they’ve had since would not be in this world.

“So, I consider them very fortunate and very lucky insofar as it could have gone terribly wrong. And maybe if an abortion facility was available in this county at the time it might have been different.”

Ferris went on to say that he had heard other women interviewed on RTE’s Morning Ireland with similar stories. He said listening to how these women suffered “any doubts I had were wiped away”. He said Eighth Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed and the Oireachtas [Irish government] allowed to legislate.

During the Tuesday night debate however, his colleague Carol Nolan said she believed the deletion of the right to life of the unborn would be a “very regretful step and one which we as a society will live to regret”.

She continued “Every child has the basic fundamental right to life and that right is not negotiable” and Ireland should not “repeat or replicate the mistakes of England and other countries where abortion has been normalized”.

Independent politician Danny Healy-Rae it was his duty to speak for unborn babies. He added “I believe only God decides when a life should end.”

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At the conclusion of the debate Minister for Health Simon Harris praised the tone of the debate and said “What really struck me tonight is that people with whom I fundamentally disagree with on this issue, and they with me, were grappling to do the right thing.”

He also paid tribute to Ferris saying his speech brought humanity to the debate.

As the Irish government debates the upcoming referendum the Irish police are investigating a case where a 12-year-old girl traveled to the United Kingdom to get an abortion. The Sunday Times reported that a DNA sample was taken from the aborted fetus to determine who the father is. It is suspected that a 15-year-old boy impregnated her.

It is estimated that every week ten women travel from Ireland to the United Kingdom to seek an abortion. Minister Harris released figures that in 2016 3,265 women traveled to the UK. This number has also dropped in recent years as women have been purchasing illegal abortion pills over the internet.

An opinion poll, taken in January 2018, from the Irish Times/MRBI showed a clear majority of the Irish public favor abortion rights for women in Ireland up to 12 weeks. Fifty-nine percent said they were in favor of a change to the constitution which would introduce abortion in Ireland during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. While 15% were undecided or gave no response, just 29% would vote against.

Read more: Clear majority of Irish favor abortion rights up to 12 weeks

H/T: Irish Times