Abortion referendum Bill to be published on Thursday, Taoiseach says

Leo Varadkar renews appeal for respectful debate to change ‘fundamental law’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said “this is going to be a profoundly deep and difficult debate for everyone,” when announcing significant dates in the abortion referendum bill. Video: Oireachtas TV


The Government intends to publish the abortion Referendum Bill tomorrow and may begin debate on it tomorrow evening, or on Friday, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

He said the Attorney General wanted the remainder of today to study the judgement of the Supreme Court which ruled that the right to life of the unborn was confined to the Eighth Amendment.

The Cabinet will meet on Thursday at 11am after which it is proposed to publish the legislation which will provide for a referendum to be held on whether to delete the Eighth Amendment which prohibits abortion in most cases and provides for the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald had called for the Cabinet to meet the Attorney General and for the Referendum Bill to be published today but the Taoiseach told her they wanted to “dot the ‘i’s” and cross the ‘t’s” and not make any “errors”.

Mr Varadkar said “this is going to be a profoundly deep and difficult debate for everyone” and he renewed his appeal that it should be a respectful debate that “would never be personalised”.

He said the referendum is “going to be about asking the Irish public to change the most fundamental law”.

It will ask the public to “trust women and to trust doctors to determine when it is medically appropriate to conduct a termination”.

Ms McDonald said there was no reason for further delay and the subject “has been marked by a history of delay and prevarication”.

The Dublin Central TD said it was time “to ensure that we no longer allow women to suffer the degradation” they had suffered because of the Eighth Amendment.

She said that “respect and compassion for women must prevail. It is time to trust women. It is time to let doctors to do their job and it is time for us to do ours”.

Ms McDonald said the “Eighth Amendment represents a real and ongoing threat to the health of women”.

She added: “It is a relic of the Ireland of the past and yet it restricts the rights of women in the here and now.”

The Taoiseach told her that nobody could accuse him of delay on the issue. He had made it a priority and the Bill would be published tomorrow after the Cabinet heard the advice of the Attorney General and the debate would begin on Thursday evening or Friday.

He added that a referendum commission, which will explain the referendum, will then be established.