Irish PM to campaign to ease abortion laws in referendum

The government has agreed to hold an abortion referendum in the first half of 2018.

Terminations are now only allowed when the life of the mother is at risk, with the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

In a pastoral letter to churches on Sunday the bishop of Elphin, Dr Kevin Doran, claimed that abolition of the eighth and introduction of abortion in Irish hospitals would pave the way for euthanasia in Ireland.

"If the Eighth Amendment is repealed, legislation to allow for abortion in certain circumstances will be brought before the Oireachtas".

Last December, a report by a Dáil committee found that the section of the constitution that confers equal rights on the mother and unborn child - the Eighth Amendment - was not fit for goal and should be repealed.

Taoiseach Leo Vardkar said that he would be advocating a Yes vote and the referendum would take place before the end of May.

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.

"But I think sometimes that term - pro-life and pro-choice - can be misunderstood".

It also called for expectant mothers to be allowed an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy if doctors diagnosed a foetal abnormality that was likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

At this evening's meeting, ministers are set to give the Health Minister Simon Harris permission to draft the referendum bill.

Ministers decide on Monday how best to go about a referendum vote on the subject that will ask the Irish people if the constitution's eighth amendment should be abolished.

When asked if their opinion had changed in the past year, 19 per cent said they were now more open to the idea.

  • Rogelio Becker