Irish ministers have unanimously approved a referendum to be held by the end of May. Its purpose is to repeal the country’s Eighth Amendment, which prevents abortion.
The Irish Independent reports that a unanimous decision has been reached by Irish ministers to hold a referendum on the repeal of article 40.3.3 of the Irish Constitution, which gives the unborn and the mother an equal right to life.
The cabinet held a four-hour meeting on January 29. During this meeting, the ministers agreed to hold an abortion referendum by the end of May and stated their plans to establish a Referendum Commission. The wording of the referendum will ask voters to “Repeal and Enable.”
Different views were expressed on how best to organize and run the referendum, but it was eventually decided that an all-party committee overseeing the referendum was the best choice.
Health Minister Simon Harris was given permission by the ministers to begin work on legislation that would see unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks allowed in Ireland; however, a source indicated that this could be a topic for discussion at another time.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that it was time to stop “criminalising and stigmatising” Irish women who wanted an abortion. Varadkar stated that the referendum decision was difficult but that the “decision is now in our hands.”
Varadkar argued that abortions are already happening in Ireland regardless of the Eighth Amendment but are being performed in an “unsafe, unregulated and unlawful,” way. He stated, “If the referendum is passed, a doctor-led, safe and legal system for the termination of pregnancy will be introduced.”
Varadkar stated that every year, thousands of women travel from Ireland to the United Kingdom for abortions, or they simply purchase an abortion pill online. The taoiseach stated, “We cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions.”
He continued to say that the Irish government wanted to “show empathy and compassion,” and if a referendum is passed, “abortion in Ireland will become safe, legal and rare in the situation provided for by the Oireachtas.”