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Irish government announces plans for referendum on abortion

Wednesday, 31 January, 2018 - 21:54

The Irish government has called a referendum on the legalisation of abortion to take place at the end of May this year, it was announced on Monday. This vote will give the Irish the first opportunity in 35 years to revise one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, which only allows the voluntary termination of pregnancy in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.

After months of refusing to his state his position on the issue, batting off enquiries with the response that he couldn’t say which way he will vote until the wording of the referendum was finalised, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, put an end to speculation by saying that he believes the amendment prohibiting abortion is too strict.

On Twitter, Varadkar wrote: “If the referendum is passed, a doctor-led, safe and legal system for the termination of pregnancy will be introduced. Safe, legal & rare. No longer an article in the Constitution, but rather a private & personal matter for women & doctors. The question has to be a Yes or No one; do we reform our abortion laws or not? I will advocate for a Yes vote.”

By indicating that he intends to vote to repeal the amendment, Varadkar is joined by the leader of the largest opposition party Michael Martin of Fianna Fail who surprised parliament last week when he also came out in support of changing the law.  

Voters will be asked if they wish to repeal the eighth amendment to the Constitution, which was passed in 1983 and which enshrines the right to life of both the mother and the unborn. If the voters give their approval, this amendment would be replaced by a text that would enable Parliament to legislate on abortion.

Polls indicate that 56 percent of citizens are in favour of the right to abortion up until 12 weeks of gestation, according to a survey published last Friday by The Irish Times, the first national survey on the subject. Twenty-nine percent of respondents were opposed and 15 percent gave no opinion.


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