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Ireland to hold abortion referendum in May

A pro-life protester outside a Marie Stopes clinic (Getty Images)

Ireland will hold a referendum in May on whether to lift a constitutional ban on abortion, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has confirmed.

Varadkar spoke after meeting with his cabinet to discuss details of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn child.

Currently, abortion is only permitted when the mother’s life is in danger.

Varadkar said he will campaign to repeal the amendment, and his government will prepare legislation to allow unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks if the referendum passes.

“My own views have evolved over time,” he said. “Life experience does that.”

“It is a matter for people to make their own decision based on the evidence they hear, compassion and empathy and I want the debate to be respectful on all sides and it should never be personalized,” he added.

Dr Ruth Cullen of the Irish Pro Life Campaign said the vote was “a very sad and serious moment for our country.”

“Tonight, the Government brought forward a proposal that for the first time in our history would withdraw basic human rights from a group of vulnerable defenceless individuals instead of strengthening their constitutional protections,” she said.

“They can’t disguise the fact that what’s being proposed is solely about stripping unborn babies of all meaningful legal protections.”

“In the coming weeks, it will become clear that the Government’s proposal would lead to abortion on demand if voted for in the referendum. As people come to realise this, I have every confidence they will vote to retain the Eighth Amendment with a renewed commitment to building a more welcoming society for expectant mothers and their unborn babies.”