Abortion referendum to be held by end of May

A referendum on abortion will be held by the end of May, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has confirmed.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday evening, he said that the Cabinet ‘has given formal approval to the holding of a referendum on abortion'.

The exact date will be known following the conclusion of a debate and vote in the Dail and the Seanad, however Mr Varadkar said he was ‘confident that this timeline could be met'.

He said that it is already known that thousands of women travel every year for abortions and some women are now obtaining abortion pills via post ‘without any medical support, counselling or supervision'.

"So we already have abortion in Ireland, but it is unsafe, unregulated and unlawful and in my opinion, we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions.

"As Taoiseach, a medical doctor and a former Minister for Health, I do not believe we can persist with a situation whereby women in crisis are risking their lives through the use of unregulated medicines," he noted.

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

He emphasised that this is not a black and white issue. Instead, it is a decision about whether we want to continue to ‘stigmatise and criminalise our sisters, our co-workers and our friends'.

The referendum will seek to repeal and replace the Eighth Amendment, which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the right to life of its mother.

It would be replaced with new wording, which would state that the Oireachtas may provide for the termination of pregnancy in accordance with the law.

The Government would then introduce legislation allowing for abortion on request up to 12 weeks. This is in accordance with the report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which spent three months looking at recommendations on this issue from the Citizen's Assembly.

Also speaking on this issue, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that we now have ‘some very important weeks before us during which we, as a country, will debate and discuss this hugely important and sensitive issue'.

He added that this issue ‘is not going away and it is time for the people of Ireland to have their say'.


[Posted: Tue 30/01/2018]

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