Ireland will vote in a referendum next year on whether to lift the country’s ban on abortion, AFP reported on Wednesday. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced that the vote will be held in May or June 2018.
Varadkar has previously said that the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution, which makes abortion illegal unless there is a substantial risk to the mothers’ life, was “too restrictive”. The amendment was passed by a two-thirds majority in 1983 and gives an unborn child a right to life equal to that of its mother.
This means Irish women who want to abort, even in cases of rape or incest, must travel abroad. According to a report in The New York Times, at least 3,400 Irish women travelled to England and Wales for abortions in 2015.
Several recent polls in Ireland have shown that a substantial number of voters approve relaxing the law, AFP reported.
Support to do away with the ban started primarily after the death of Savita Halappanavar, a dentist of Indian origin, in 2012. An Irish hospital had denied her abortion even though she was at risk of a life-threatening miscarriage in the 17th week of pregnancy. Halappanavar died of severe infections.
Power to the people
The Irish Constitution can only be amended by referendum.
In 2015, it became the first country to legalise gay marriage through a referendum.
On Tuesday, the government set out a timetable for several votes over the next two years, including on reducing the time couples must wait before a divorce from four to two years, and one on the constitutional amendment that makes illegal the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious or indecent matter”.