Ireland’s opposition leader Micheál Martin stunned conservative sections of his Fianna Fáil party by reversing his position on legalising abortion in the traditionally conservative, deeply Catholic country.

Martin will now back a repeal of the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution that bans abortion, The proposed landmark amendment will be put to a referendum in May.

“There were two things that changed my mind on the issue. The first was hearing evidence before Christmas from women who suffered from fatal fetal abnormalities while pregnant,” he told the Guardian in an interview on Sunday.

Martin also said he had a change of heart after hearing stories of women who became pregnant as a result of being victims of rape and incest.

“After hearing their experiences in the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) and what they had to go through travelling to England for terminations, I realised I could no longer countenance supporting the status quo,” he added.

In January, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar backed a repeal of the amendment. In the event of a ‘Yes” vote, legislation is expected to be drafted by Health Minister Simon Harris that would legalise abortions under all circumstances through the first trimester of a pregnancy.