Formal approval has been given for the draft Bill, which will form the basis for the referendum on the 8th Amendment later this year.
The referendum will seek to repeal and replace the 8th Amendment, which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the right to life of its mother.
It is due to be held in late May, most likely May 25.
The Government has now taken a step closer to this by giving formal approval for the draft general scheme of the Bill, which will form the basis for the referendum.
"I now plan to finalise the Referendum Bill, so that the 36th Amendment to the Constitution Bill may be published in early March. The exact date of the referendum will be set following a debate and vote in the Dáil and Seanad, but I am confident that our timeline can be met.
"For the first time since 1983, Irish people are to have their say on the substantive issue of the 8th Amendment and whether it should be removed from our Constitution. This follows recommendations from the Citizens Assembly and the cross-party Oireachtas committee, as well as a Government decision that a referendum be held," commented the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
This referendum will propose that Article 40.3.3 ‘is deleted in its entirety and a clause inserted that makes it clear that the Oireachtas may legislate to regulate termination of pregnancy'.
"It is important to remember that the referendum must be passed, and the 8th Amendment repealed, if anything is to change for Irish women. We need to change the status quo and for this to happen, we must repeal the 8th. It is important that we are clear that if the people of Ireland do not repeal article 40.3.3, we cannot legislate for fatal foetal abnormality, rape, incest or women's health," the Minister said.
He added that the Government has some very ‘important and busy weeks ahead', and called on the people of Ireland to reflect on the current situation, which sees thousands of women forced to travel abroad for abortions, while others purchase illegal and potentially dangerous abortion pills online.
Meanwhile, an appeal begins today (February 21) at the Supreme Court over the rights of the unborn. The case centres on a Nigerian man who was facing deportation from Ireland, but whose Irish partner was pregnant with their child.
He had argued that his unborn child had the right to have its father remain in Ireland despite it not being born yet. The High Court had ruled that the unborn has rights in law that are beyond the right to life contained in the Constitution. The State is now apealing against this High Court finding.
It is unclear whether this could delay the Government's plans for a referendum in May.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.