Picture via Twitter
After a special Cabinet meeting last night, it was announced that a referendum on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution will be held. This amendment recognises the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn.
The meeting lasted for four hours, and the Cabinet concluded that late May would be the preferred time for the referendum to take place, or early June at the latest, RTÉ reports.
The timing of the referendum will depend on the passage of a referendum Bill through the Oireachtas.
Ministers decided that 'repeal and replace' would be the best policy so that if the Eighth Amendment is repealed by voters, new wording will be put in the Constitution stating that the Oireachtas 'may provide for the termination of pregnancies in accordance with law'.
If the Eighth Amendment is repealed, Minister for Health Simon Harris has been given permission to draft a Bill on the matter to be introduced in the Oireachtas.
As well, if this referendum passes, the Government would introduce legislation allowing unrestricted abortion access up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
After 12 weeks of gestation, abortion would only be allowed in 'exceptional circumstances such as a serious risk to the life or health of the woman or in the event of a fatal foetal abnormality'.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated in the press conference following the meeting that he wants abortion to be legal, safe, and rare, saying: "We know that thousands of Irish women - women from every single county in Ireland - go abroad for abortions every year.
If the referendum is passed, a doctor-led, safe and legal system for the termination of pregnancy will be introduced. Safe, legal & rare. No longer an article in the Constitution, but rather a private & personal matter for women & doctors.— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) 29 January 2018
"We know that many women are obtaining abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies, without any medical support, or counselling, or supervision.
"So, we already have abortion in Ireland but it is unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. We cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions.
"As Taoiseach - as a medical doctor - and as a former Minister for Health - I do not believe we can continue with a situation where women in crisis are risking their lives through the use of unregulated medicines."
In order to vote in the referendum, Irish citizens must register at least 15 days before polling day.