Ireland moves ever closer to an abortion referendum this summer as the Supreme Court clears the path to a vote.
The Irish Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Eighth Amendment is the only article in the Irish constitution that allows the unborn the right to life. The decision has now cleared the way for the Irish government to publish the abortion referendum bill on Thursday, March 8, International Women’s Day.
The government is expected to debate the bill on Thursday evening or Friday morning, either rubber-stamping the wording on the referendum or making some changes before the decided wording of the vote is placed on the public.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously decided that the government would await the Supreme Court decision on whether the right to life lay solely within the Eighth Amendment before the bill would be published. The government had appealed a previous decision by the Irish High Court that stated the unborn’s right to life was not just confined to this article.
The Supreme Court decision now allows for the referendum, expected in May or June 2018, to ask whether the Irish public wish for the eighth amendment to remain in place or whether it should be repealed.
The Eighth Amendment (Article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution) grants equal protection to the life of the unborn as the life of the mother under Irish law. While abortion is supposed to be allowed in Ireland if the life of the mother is at risk, it is illegal apart from this, even in the cases of rape, incest, or a fatal fetal abnormality. Despite this, it is estimated that as many as 12 Irish women a day travel abroad for an abortion or illegally purchase abortion pills.
After the decision of the Supreme Court, the Irish Attorney General will now use the remainder of Wednesday evening to study the judgment before the bill is published by the government on Thursday morning.
Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar once again warned that the abortion referendum and the upcoming campaign “is going to be a profoundly deep and difficult debate for everyone” and stressed that the debate “would never be personalized.”
Varadkar continued to say that the referendum would be asking the Irish public to “trust women and to trust doctors to determine when it is medically appropriate to conduct a termination.”
The National Women’s Council of Ireland, Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, and Abortion Rights Campaign, who are all campaigning for a repeal of the eighth amendment, welcomed Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision.
“We know that the vast majority of people want to see a change to our abortion laws so that women and their families can make personal and private decisions about their healthcare without fear of prosecution,” Linda Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, said in a statement to Vice News.
On Thursday afternoon, International Women's Day will be marked in Dublin with a rally for choice led by pro-choice and Repeal the Eighth campaigners.
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