Ireland to hold referendum on abortion amendment in May

Leo Varadkar made various comments on the issue.

Opposition leaders are now being briefed on the Attorney General's advice.

Successive governments have shied away from grasping the thorny issue of the Eighth Amendment, which bans abortion in all but the most restricted circumstances, so the cabinet must be commended for committing to hold a referendum this year.

The Attorney General Seamus Woulfe with President Michael D Higgins.

A year ago a multi-party parliamentary committee recommended allowing abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the basis for any legislation post-referendum.

Health Minister Simon Harris was also clear on his views, stating: "For anyone who wants any change to our present regime, it is necessary to repeal the 8th".

The ballot will not be on specific terms of any new law, rather it will look at whether to repeal the constitutional amendment that bans terminations. The amendment was passed by a referendum vote in 1983, when almost 67 percent of Irish voters approved it.

"Every pregnancy is different, every decision is deeply personal".

He said he did not believe that the Constitution is the place to make "absolute statements about medical, moral and legal issues".

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Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged politicians not to engage in disrespectful or personalised attacks during the referendum on liberalising restrictive abortion laws.

When he was the country's Health Minister in 2014, Varadkar took a pro-life stance.

How have the Catholic Church reacted to the abortion referendum announcement?

It is very important to stress any legislation to amend the constitution would remain subject to review. "It will be the 36th amendment to our constitution".

Two recent polls indicate that between 51 and 56 percent of the Irish public support repealing the anti-abortion amendment, while 30 percent oppose its repeal.

A 1983 referendum on such an amendment passed with 67 percent of the vote, despite warnings from some constitutional and medical experts that the resulting ban would create hard legal and medical situations.

"When it comes to the right to choose, there is a tendency to forget that there is another person involved; a vulnerable person who has no choice and who depends entirely on others for protection", Bishop Doran said. This is a further sign of real political will to put women's and girls' bodily autonomy firmly at the centre of abortion law reform. "She'd be 21 now", he said.

Questions have been raised as to whether the 12-week time period could be watered down.

"Women will never have equality until they have full control over their bodies, and so we offer our full support to those pushing for repeal of the eighth amendment", said a representative.



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