Ireland Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar announced Tuesday that the nation will hold a vote in 2018 to possibly change its law that currently bans and criminalizes abortions in the country.
“A Bill to amend the Constitution will be prepared in light of the committee’s report, and subject to its passage by the Houses of the Oireachtas, a referendum will be held in May or June of 2018,” Varadkar said Tuesday according to CNN.
“Any amendment to our Constitution requires careful consideration by the people,” Varadkar said. “They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate,” he added. Varadkar, who was elected in June, is socially conservative but has expressed that the law — which outlaws abortion except to save the mother’s life — should perhaps be relaxed.
The decision to hold a vote comes after the Citizen’s Assembly put forth recommendations to abolish the 8th Amendment forbidding women from aborting their unborn children. It also follows a growing push from the Irish people to relax abortion restrictions. Thousands of women rallied in Dublin at the “Strike 4 Repeal” in March and more are expected to show at Ireland’s sixth annual “March for Choice” on Saturday.
“We have never claimed that Ireland is perfect, but we have every reason to be proud of the 8th Amendment,” Ireland Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman, Cora Sherlock, told CNN. “The Pro Life Campaign will continue to highlight the positive effects of the 8th Amendment and the devastating effect abortion has had in countries where the rights of the baby are set at zero,” she added.
Abortion advocates feel differently however.
“We welcome the news that the referendum will be in the first half of the 2018. We have all waited long enough to be allowed to make decisions about our own bodies,” Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh told CNN.
The referendum comes after Scotland and Wales decided to offer free abortions to women from Northern Ireland who can’t get abortions in their own country. Roughly 5,000 women travel to other countries each year for abortions, IFPA reports. (Related: Scotland And Wales Will Offer Free Abortions To Women From Northern Ireland).
The U.N. also ruled in 2016 that Ireland violated a woman’s human rights by preventing her from having an abortion and ordered the country to change its laws. But the order had no lawful power, and Ireland did not head the UN’s command. (Related: The UN Just Ordered Ireland To Legalize Abortion).
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