Irish PM announces abortion referendum: 'Above all, I have listened to women'

Laura Christensen
January 31, 2018

The government announced yesterday that it has chose to hold a referendum on Ireland's abortion laws by the end of May.

Currently, abortion in in Ireland is only permitted when the mother's life is in danger.

There was also a vote previous year by the Citizens Assembly, a public forum which advises the Irish government, resulting in 87% in favour of changing abortion laws.

Thousands of Irish women already travel overseas for abortion or obtain pills that are taken without medical supervision, he said, adding that Ireland could not continue to "export our problems and import our solutions" on abortion.

The amendment reads, in part, "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right".

Abortion in Ireland would be "safe, legal and rare" in the situation provided for by parliament, Varadkar said.

The amendment enacted by referendum in 1983 makes predominantly Roman Catholic Ireland the most restrictive country in Europe on abortion.

However, Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar believes that the public should vote on the country's abortion laws, saying that he "does not believe the Constitution is the place for making absolute statements about medical, moral and legal issues", according to CNN. "It is time for the people of Ireland to have their say on that". "Life experience does that".

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Trade Minister Pat Breen, Sports Minister Brendan Griffin and Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh said they now support repeal but have doubts over whether they could vote for unrestricted abortion.

"This evening, the Cabinet gave formal approval to the holding of a referendum on abortion, which will be held at the end of May", Varadkar said at a press conference in Dublin, following a lengthy meeting with ministers.

Throwing his weight behind the issue, Varadkar said he can not allow the Irish problem to be exported.

"It is a matter for people to make their own decision based on the evidence they hear, compassion and empathy and I want the debate to be respectful on all sides and it should never be personalised".

However, Mr Varadkar added: "The saddest and loneliest journey is made by Irish women who travel to foreign countries to end their pregnancies". It called on Ireland immediately to allow abortions in cases involving fatal fetal abnormalities.

When is the Irish abortion referendum?

The National Women's Council of Ireland welcomed the announcement.

Voters will be asked whether they want to keep the constitutional restrictions or scrap them, allowing MPs to legislate on the sensitive issue. Women and girls in Ireland deserve their dignity.

Other reports by My Hot News

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