In Brief

Ireland debates referendum on abortion law reform

Cabinet meeting could pave the way for historic vote

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will campaign for a loosening of strict abortion laws as his cabinet prepares for a special meeting tonight to discuss a historic referendum.

The Fine Gael leader will lobby for support to hold a referendum on the Irish Constitution, which currently gives the unborn and the mother an equal right to life under Article 40.3.3, The Irish Times reports.

Varadkar told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he is in favour of changing Ireland’s abortion laws and that a referendum could take place in May or June.

Abortion in Ireland is illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger. The law does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality, Sky News adds. 

In 2017, an all-party Oireachtas committee recommended that the Constitution be modified to allow terminations without restriction for up to 12 weeks. The subject is a particularly emotive one in Ireland, where almost 80% of residents identified themselves as Catholic in the 2016 Census

Catholic Bishop Kevin Doran, who is among those opposed to the liberalisation of laws, says the same arguments used to justify abortion will be used to justify ending the lives of the disabled or frail older people, state broadcaster RTE reports.

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