Ireland to hold referendum to change abortion law

It called on Ireland immediately to allow abortions in cases involving fatal fetal abnormalities.

The Catholic Church opposes any kind of abortion but campaigners have argued that women should have an option to terminate unwanted pregnancies and thousands of women travel overseas for abortion every year. However, pollsters say those against the repeal are more likely to cast their vote.

The referendum will seek to repeal and replace the Eighth Amendment, which acknowledges the right to life of the unborn, equating it with the right to life of its mother. In practice, Irish legal authorities have interpreted this as a ban on abortion in nearly all circumstances.

However, Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar believes that the public should vote on the country's abortion laws, saying that he "does not believe the Constitution is the place for making absolute statements about medical, moral and legal issues", according to CNN.

The exact date for the referendum has not been formally agreed, but the Taoiseach said it would be before the end of May.

Abortions past 12 weeks would only be allowed in "exceptional circumstance" where the woman's health or life was seriously at risk.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has outlined that while he supports the repeal of the amendment from the Constitution, he believes the 12-week period in the proposed legislation goes too far.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the leading Catholic figure in Ireland, anticipated the referendum in his 2018 address and urged his followers to campaign to keep the 8th Amendment despite "the strong pressures to remain silent". Others use abortion pills to end their pregnancies.

The National Women's Council of Ireland welcomed the announcement. The teenager had expressed a wish to kill herself rather than carry the baby to term.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Vradakar said that it was time to stop "criminalising and stigmatising" Irish women who wanted an abortion.

Terminations are now only allowed in the Republic when the life of the mother is at risk, including from suicide. However, it was not yet known how the laws should be changed, with those in favour stating that the laws should be "cautious" and "conditional".

There were nationwide protests in 2012 after the death of Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital. She was 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

"We have abortion in Ireland, but it is unsafe, unregulated and unlawful, and in my opinion we can not export our problems and import our solutions, " Varadkar said.

Being a strict Roman Catholic nation, Ireland's view about abortions are very conservative. In recent years, that influence has waned in noticeable ways thanks largely to several scandals involving Church officials and priests.

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