An Oireachtas Committee has voted in favour of a motion to recommend legalising abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with no restrictions.
The committee had spent the last three months looking at recommendations on this issue from the Citizen's Assembly. In a vote on the motion, 12 voted in favour of legalising abortion with no restrictions up to 12 weeks. Five voted against the motion, while there were four abstentions.
The committee also voted to recommend repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Fourteen voted in favour, while six voted against it. The committee's chairperson, Senator Catherine Noone, abstained.
The Eighth Amendment acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the right to life of its mother.
Meanwhile, the committee also voted in favour of a recommendation by the Citizen's Assembly that abortion should be legalised if there is a real and substantial physical risk to life or health of the woman.
They also voted to allow abortion where an unborn child has a life-limiting condition that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.
Mattie McGrath of the Rural Independent Group had proposed that the committee reject the risk to life of a woman by suicide as grounds for an abortion. However, the committee voted against that proposal (17-3).
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said a referendum on the issue of abortion could be held as early as May 2018.
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment warmly welcomed the recommendations of the committee to remove the Eighth Amendment in full from the Constitution and introduce legislation to allow access to abortion services.
"This is indeed a truly historic day. We warmly welcome the committee's recognition that women's healthcare does not belong in the Constitution and their clear recommendation for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.
"We would like to thank the committee for their hard work and dedication, and for their willingness to be open-minded, courageous and compassionate in considering this complex issue," commented Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.
She said that she believes the committee's recommendations ‘reflect the wishes of a majority of the Irish people'.
"The decisions of the committee are essentially an acknowledgment that it is time Ireland stops pretending that abortions do not happen. As a country, we must now take important steps to deal with the lived reality of women's reproductive healthcare needs, including the need for abortion," Ms Smyth added.