LONDON – Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced on Monday that the country will hold a referendum to reform the law on abortion, which is currently allowed only when a woman’s life is at risk.
After four hours of debate, the Irish Cabinet adopted this decision, which could change a law that is 35 years old and one of the most restrictive in Europe.
Varadkar made this announcement at a press conference in Dublin, in which he specified that the specific date for the referendum will be given when the debate in Parliament concludes.
“This evening the Cabinet gave formal approval to the holding of a referendum on abortion which will be held at the end of May,” Varadkar said, adding that the Irish people will be able to decide whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life to both the mother and the unborn.
The current amendment, which was approved by a 1983 referendum, bans any voluntary abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or fetal abnormality.
Since 2013, a new regulation has allowed the termination of pregnancy provided that the life of the mother is in danger, including suicidal threat.
The Christian Democrat Varadkar has expressed that the current legislation seems “too restrictive.”
“Any amendment to our constitution requires careful consideration by the people. They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate,” the minister said.
According to figures from the British Health Ministry, 3,451 Irish women attended centers in England and Wales in 2015 for abortion.
Between 1980-2015, at least 165,438 Irish women have undergone a termination of pregnancy in the United Kingdom, according to the British Ministry of Health.