Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says referendum is “to allow women to make major decisions for themselves”
The Irish Government has signed off on the Eighth Amendment referendum bill.
The Cabinet has unanimously agreed to hold a referendum asking voters to repeal the Eighth Amendment, allowing “provision be made in law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”, should it be repealed.
This decision follows a ruling by the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon, confirming that the unborn child has no Constitutional rights outside of Article 40.3.3.
Minister for Health Simon Harris spoke on Thursday after the meeting about Irish women's plight for bodily autonomy in recent decades.
“The women we’re thinking of today, on International Women’s Day, are the women who have courageously told personal, sensitive stories. Women like Amanda Mellot and Siobhan Whelan who felt like they needed to go to the United Nations to highlight how they’d been treated," he said.
“Women like Savita Halappanavar who never even got to tell her story in relation to her pregnancy. Women who’ve been raped and told they had to carry their pregnancy to full term."
The Eighth Amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3 of the constitution, will be deleted in full should the referendum pass in its favour.
Article 40.3.3° reads: "The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
"This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state. This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a qualified GP, announced today that the impending referendum is about asking citizens “to allow women to make major decisions for themselves."
“It’s about trusting women to decide, in the early weeks of their pregnancy, what’s right for them and their families," he said.
“And it’s about trusting our doctors to decide when continuing with a pregnancy is a risk to the life or health of a woman. Above all, it’s about trusting Irish people to consider this matter in depth, with compassion and empathy, as I know they will.”
The Government will later publish the referendum bill, with a Dáil debate expected to begin tomorrow morning following a meeting of the Business Committee – the committee which determines the Dáil agenda.
The intended date for the abortion referendum is 25 May 2018.
As of 2010, the abortion rate in Ireland was 4.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years.