Ireland sets May referendum on legalized abortion

Ireland will get a glimpse today of what the legal landscape, post-repeal of the eighth amendment, might look like, following the publication of a government policy paper on abortion legislation.

The government approved the referendum bill in Dublin on Thursday, coinciding with International Woman's Day.

The yes-or-no answer to the statement "Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies" will determine the fate of the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution.

On the subject of women and girls who become pregnant through sexual violence, the bishops said: "A child conceived following rape is also a person". Cabinet will likely commit to 12 weeks unrestricted abortion access and propose that a time period should be introduced between the request for a termination and the abortion pill being accessed, according to the Irish Times, that would be three days maximum. "The way the day is being exploited is a total betrayal of women and their unborn babies".

Citizens will be asked whether they want to remove the Eighth Amendment, which gives equal right to life to the mother and the unborn, and replace it with wording that would allow politicians to set Ireland's abortion laws in the future.

"The policies outlined in this paper would only be relevant in the event that the proposed referendum on Article 40.3.3 is passed". What specifically "health" refers to is not clear, but the proposal indicates that "physical and mental health risks will be treated the same". Moreover, in nearly all these 40 countries, once the time-period for legal abortion on a woman's request or on broad socioeconomic or psychological grounds ends, doctors can also legally perform abortion for one or more exceptional reasons also specified in laws or regulations.

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had chose to wait for the Supreme Court judgment in a case that was being appealed by the state before finalizing the exact wording and date of the referendum.

On International Women's Day yesterday, Health Minister Simon Harris said: 'Today, as you know, is International Women's Day.

While claiming to be pro-life, Harris said he supports legalizing abortion. "[But] retaining the Eighth Amendment does not negate the fact that abortion is already a reality in this country".

"We must all redouble our efforts to ensure that the 8th Amendment is retained and that unborn babies are properly protected", he added.

A change to the law would be a monumental step for Ireland, where since 1983 it has been estimated that 170,000 women have left the country to terminate pregnancies.

  • Adam Floyd