Updated: 30/01/18 : 06:58:17
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Abortion referendum confirmed for late May

Sligo voters will cast their votes on the contentious issue to repeal or retain the Eighth Amendment in late May.

A high turnout is expected and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he trusts the Irish people to make the right decision “based on compassion” in the abortion referendum.

Last night the Cabinet ministers voted unanimously to hold a referendum asking voters if they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment which gives equal status to a mother and her unborn child.

The public will be asked on the ballot paper whether they wish to repeal the Eighth Amendment and replace it with an enabling provision giving the Oireachtas explicit responsibility to legislate in this area.

In confirming his position in favour of recommendations allowing abortion up to 12 weeks, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the reality is that Ireland “already has abortion, but it is unsafe.”

In welcoming the announcement spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) Linda Kavanagh said, “While ARC has always campaigned for repeal simpliciter as advised by the Joint Oireachtas Committee, it appears that the enabling provision proposed by the Government will remove the constitutional barrier to abortion care and allow for more progressive and compassionate healthcare to be provided for all those who can get pregnant.”

“We would still prefer if abortion care was not singled out in our Constitution, but we are willing to support this provision, if worded properly, and heed the legal advice given by the Attorney General.”

“However we will be watching the Government very closely and encouraging our members and supporters to do the same in the weeks ahead with regards to the wording of a referendum bill and the proposed legislation. Generations of people have fought too long and too hard for change in our abortion laws, and we will not accept any fudges or half-measures. Modern, accessible and compassionate abortion care must be a guaranteed outcome of the referendum passing – that is non-negotiable.”

“We are looking forward to an energetic, compassionate, and respectful referendum campaign. We are repealing the 8th Amendment because we want an Ireland where everyone has access to compassionate, timely, local healthcare.”

Pro life

The Pro Life Campaign has deemed the announcement from the Government on the Eighth Amendment "as bad as anyone could have envisaged: the removal of legal protection from unborn babies and providing for abortion on demand".

Pro Life Campaign spokesperson, Dr Ruth Cullen said: "It is a very sad and serious moment for our country. Tonight, the Government brought forward a proposal that for the first time in our history would withdraw basic human rights from a group of vulnerable defenceless individuals instead of strengthening their constitutional protections. They can't disguise the fact that what’s being proposed is solely about stripping unborn babies of all meaningful legal protections.

“The right to life is an inalienable right. It’s not something that can be conferred or withheld by the State at its pleasure. The Eighth Amendment acknowledges this basic right to life; it doesn’t claim to be its initiator – merely its protector."

Dr Cullen added: “In the coming weeks, it will become clear that the Government’s proposal would lead to abortion on demand if voted for in the referendum. As people come to realise this, I have every confidence they will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment with a renewed commitment to building a more welcoming society for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.”

Health Minister Simon Harris will publish the Referendum Bill and the month of March will be dominated by the bill with the referendum taking place in the month of May.

Independent.ie reports that in confirming his position in favour of recommendations allowing abortion up to 12 weeks, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the reality is that Ireland “already has abortion, but it is unsafe.”

He said “women from every county are risking their lives” by obtaining abortion tablets through “the post.”

“Abortion is not a black and white issue; it is a grey area” but we can’t continue to “criminalise our sisters and friends” he said.

But there will be “restrictions” said Mr Varadkar of the likely legislation.

Abortion tablets won’t be available “over the counter”.

He also pointed to the fact that the the majority of Irish abortions have taken place in the UK, and said as a Government “we are no longer willing to export our problems.”