Ireland’s abortion referendum next summer

Irelands abortion referendum next summer
8th Amendment Handmaids costumes. Members from ROSA (Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism Austerity) activists dressed as Handmaids in costumes pass by members of the gardai on duty outside Leinster House. Photo:Leah Farrell/

It has been confirmed that Ireland will have a referendum on the eighth amendment in either May or June of next year.

Varadkar told the Irish parliament that a national vote on whether to abolish the eighth amendment to the constitution, which gives a foetus the status of a citizen even in early pregnancy, would take place in summer 2018.

The government set out a timetable for several votes over the next two years, including one on an anti-blasphemy law. In 2015 Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage through a referendum.

Claire McGowran, a volunteer with London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, told The Independent that they were waiting for an exact date and the wording of the referendum question and were ready to start a year of campaigning.

“Our ideal is that the eighth amendment is completely repealed, and not replaced,” she said.

“The very minimum is that it’s not confusing anymore and gives free, safe abortions to women in Ireland regardless of how they became pregnant.”

Irelands abortion referendum next summer

Ailbhe Smyth, of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said: “[We have] repeatedly expressed the view that a referendum should be held as soon as possible. We look forward to a firm commitment to a specific date for a straightforward referendum to repeal the eighth amendment entirely from the constitution.”

Mr Varadkar used his first speech as Taoiseach to promise that the first referendum of his term would be on the eighth amendment.

However, last month he said he was not sure what options would be given to voters and that he believed the public were not yet ready for abortion on demand.

The Citizens’ Assembly recommended access to terminations in a variety of circumstances, with a majority favouring available up to 12 weeks’ gestation.

Asked about the Assembly’s report, Mr Varadkar said: “I honestly don’t know if the public would go as far as what the Citizens’ Assembly have recommended.

“Public opinion polls have indicated that they wouldn’t but that may change during the course of the debate and having observed the Citizens’ Assembly and how that debate evolved, we have become aware of the availability of abortion pills. It is actually quite possible that people’s views may change.”

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