Personal Essay

Irish government agrees to propose referendum on abortion

On Monday, the Irish Government reached a historic agreement to propose a referendum to liberalize Ireland’s abortion laws. It will give people born since 1965 their first opportunity to vote on the issue.

Ciara Kenny
Ciara Kenny The Irish Times, Ireland
Source: The Irish Times
Irish government agrees to propose referendum on abortion - NewsMavens
Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Opinion polls consistently show that the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which grants equal rights to life to both the mother and the unborn child, is no longer reflective of the views of the Irish people.

The last time the people had a chance to vote on abortion was in September 1983, a year before I was born. Irish women of my generation -- indeed any women under the age of 52 -- want to have our say on an issue that affects so many of us directly. We don't have a date yet -- it is likely to be May 25th -- but referendum day can’t come quickly enough.

health, women's issues, politics

Details from the story:

  • As Minister for Health Simon Harris said on national radio on Tuesday, abortion is already a reality for Irish women -- more than 3,000 travelled across the water to the UK for a termination in 2016, and many more chose to take abortion pills purchased online.
  • A referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment has been coming down the tracks for a long time. The government has been indicating since last year that a vote was likely to be held in summer 2018 on allowing abortion in the case of rape, incest and fatal fetal abnormality. But following the recommendations of a government committee, the provision for abortion on request up to 12 weeks gestation, without limitation, will also be included.
  • Ministers agreed on the proposal to “repeal and replace” the Eighth Amendment after a three-hour meeting on Monday.
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said after 12 weeks, abortion would only be permitted in "exceptional circumstances" where there was a serious risk to the life or health of the woman or where there was a fatal fetal abnormality.
  • A referendum Bill will be drafted in the coming weeks, and the vote held in May or June 2018.
  • 170,000 people from Ireland travelled abroad for terminations since 1980.
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