Ireland Cabinet agrees to draft legislation on abortion referendum

Ireland Cabinet agrees to draft legislation on abortion referendum

The Irish Cabinet on Tuesday agreed to draft [press release] legislation on a referendum aimed at repealing the Eighth Amendment in the Ireland Constitution [text, PDF] on abortion.

The amendment grants equal right to life to pregnant women and their unborn child. The referendum will propose deletion of this provision. A new provision is also proposed to be added, which will grant authority to the Dáil and Seanad of the Oireachtas [official website] to regulate abortion law.

Health Minister Simon Harris [official profile] says:

For the first time since 1983 the Irish people are to have their say on the substantive issue of the 8th Amendment and whether it should be removed from our Constitution. This follows recommendations from the Citizens Assembly and the cross-party Oireachtas committee, as well as a Government decision that a referendum be held.

Accordingly, the Department of Health [official website] is currently drafting legislation to replace the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which will ensure the safety of women’s health.

The referendum is slated to be held [JURIST report] in May.

Abortion law has been a heavily contested topic in Ireland. In July of last year the Irish Parliament defeated a bill [JURIST report] that would have allowed abortion. In June the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to abortions under the England’s National Heath Services (NHS) [official website]. That same month the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] found [JURIST report] that Ireland’s abortion law violates human rights. However, in December a committee in the House of Oireachtas voted [JURIST report] on a recommendation [text, PDF] to the full parliament that it repeal the Eighth Amendment.