The prime minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, announced in his first speech as prime minister that a referendum on the country’s constitutional ban on abortion would be scheduled for May or June 2018.
Ireland is one of the last European countries where abortion is illegal in all cases, except where the mother’s life is endangered.
A referendum is required to change the law because Ireland’s 8 amendment to the constitution says that mothers and unborn children have an equal right to life.
“We have known this was coming for some time. But what will be crucial is the wording of the actual referendum because surveys have shown that the majority of Irish people oppose abortion on demand, but want to see it legalized for limited circumstances,” said Nick Park, spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance of Ireland.
According to a May survey, 82 percent of Ireland’s population believed that abortion should be allowed in cases where there was a serious risk to the mother; 76 percent agreed for pregnancies that resulted from rape, 72 percent agreed in cases where the mother’s mental health was at serious risk and 67 percent agreed in cases were an abnormality would likely lead to the child’s death.
In that survey, nearly 70 percent said they were opposed to abortion on request.
In another poll by Behavior and Attitudes for the Sunday Times, 61 percent of Irish voters said they were against abortion even in legal cases.
The Irish Citizens’ Assembly, a group committee of 99 randomly selected members of the public, has proposed unrestricted abortion up to the 12 week of pregnancy with certain restrictions after the 12 week.
Ireland’s Pro-Life campaign tweeted “Usually referendums add protection to human rights. #Repealthe8th would strip the unborn child of all meaningful protections.”
Ireland’s 8 amendment was approved in 1983 and broadened in 1992 to allow women to travel to another jurisdiction to have an abortion.