Ireland set for historic vote on abortion law

Jan 31, 2018, 04:25

'For my part I will advocate a yes vote. "My own views have evolved over time - life experience does that", Varadkar said, according to Sky News.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Health Minister Simon Harris said that he would outline proposals for a potential law change that he would put before the Dail in the event of the Eighth Amendment being repealed.

Mr Varadkar said he had thought "long and hard" before deciding to support abortion without restriction in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions are permitted when there is judged to be a substantial risk to the life of the mother, including when a woman says the continuation of the pregnancy leads to suicidal thoughts.

A referendum on abortion will be held by the end of May, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has confirmed.

The cabinet agreed that the government would ask people if they wanted to retain the Eighth Amendment or to repeal it, and then add a new clause to the constitution giving parliament the power to legislate for abortion. The constitution assigns equal right-to-life to both mother and unborn child.

Government figures revealed that almost 4,000 women traveled to England and Wales to terminate pregnancies in 2016.

Over 170,000 Irish women have been estimated to have traveled to the United Kingdom to access abortion services since 1980, according to health minister Simon Harris. "So we have abortion in Ireland, but it is unsafe, unregulated & illegal", the Prime Minister's Twitter post read. "That doesn't have to happen", he said.

The Dublin Fingal TD praised Mr Varadkar for his comments on Monday night following the Cabinet debate on holding the referendum. The group's spokesperson, Dr. Ruth Cullen, said the referendum is "a very sad and serious moment for our country".

She added that the government can not disguise how its proposal is exclusively about stripping unborn babies of all meaningful legal protections. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is a leading pro-life organziation in the United Kingdom.

He said he welcomed the clarity of the decisions that was made by the Government this evening.

Mr Varadkar said Health Minister Simon Harris would prepare draft legislation proposing laws allowing for unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks that would be published prior to the referendum. The law was changed following public outrage at the death of a pregnant woman in 2012 who was refused an abortion.

"We are on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use our voices and votes to stand up for the human rights and equality of women and girls".

Today, the pro-choice group called Abortion Rights Campaign Donegal issued a statement to welcome the referendum.

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