Irish government backs May abortion vote

The Irish government agreed late Monday to back a referendum on repealing Ireland’s abortion ban.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced that his Cabinet had formally agreed to hold a vote on repealing the ban at the “end of May.” He said the exact date would be determined after the Irish parliament, where there’s strong support for a referendum, has its formal say in March.

The referendum would ask Irish voters if they want to repeal the eighth amendment of Ireland’s constitution and adopt language granting the parliament the right to legislate on abortion, Health Minister Simon Harris said at a press conference.

The eighth amendment gives a mother and unborn child an equal right to life, meaning abortion is banned in almost all circumstances. A parliamentary committee recommended last year to change the law to allow abortion under any circumstance up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and beyond that in cases of rape and incest, fatal fetal abnormalities or when the mother’s health is at risk.

“In recent weeks many people, mainly men, have spoken about the personal journeys they have been on,” Varadkar said. “We should remember the saddest and loneliest journey is made by Irish women who travel to other countries in their thousands to end their pregnancies.”

Anti-abortion campaigners decried the decision.

“This is a sad day for our country. We expect our politicians to guard the constitution as a human rights document which protects vulnerable members of society,” the LoveBoth Project tweeted.

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