Ireland to hold referendum on abortion law next year

A referendum in Ireland next year could put an end to one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.

Demonstrators gather and hold banners to protest for the repeal of the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution in Brussels on September 24, 2016. Ireland's prime minister announced Tuesday that the nation will hold a referendum on the abortion law next year. File Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA
Demonstrators gather and hold banners to protest for the repeal of the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution in Brussels on September 24, 2016. Ireland’s prime minister announced Tuesday that the nation will hold a referendum on the abortion law next year. File Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

In an announcement to Irish Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told lawmakers there will be a national vote in May or June to decide whether Ireland should repeal a near-universal ban on abortion, Britain’s The Guardian reported.

Ireland’s abortion law, the eighth amendment to the country’s Constitution, guarantees citizenship status to any fetus in early pregnancy. Women can spend up to 14 years in prison if they have an illegal abortion in Ireland, but can undergo the procedure elsewhere in Europe.

The Irish Independent reported that a committee in the nation’s Parliament will produce a report on the abortion law before the referendum’s wording is established.

A citizen’s committee of 91 randomly selected eligible Irish voters overwhelmingly recommended reforming the abortion law earlier this year.

But in a separate vote, the group favored changing the constitutional amendment instead of repealing it completely.

Ireland’s abortion law has come under international scrutiny. As recently as this June, the United Nations Human Rights Committee said the law violated one woman’s human rights.

By Sam Howard