Bill introduced into Dáil to allow referendum on abortion next year

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger says recent opinion polls showed support for referendum

A Bill has been introduced in the Dáil to allow a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment to the Constitution. which prohibits abortion.

As another "March for Choice" protest takes place on Saturday, Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger introduced the private member's Bill and called for a referendum to be held on the same day next year as the plebiscite on marriage equality.

Last week Minister for Health Leo Varadkar cautioned against a referendum next year in the run up to a general election.

He said the 1983 referendum, which introduced the ban on abortion was held in the run-up to an election and candidates made ill-judged commitments.


Mr Varadkar also said the Church should not be brought into the debate but Ms Coppinger said in the Dáil the Catholic Church was the only religion to support the amendment in 1983 and no other religion supported the ban.

The amendment is sectarian.

She said the Catholic Church does not enjoy the support it once did “but the political establishment seem to be giving it inordinate power”.

She also said recent opinion polls showed support for a referendum with only 19 per cent of people opposing it.

Ms Coppinger said the continuation of the ban was a “life and death issue for many women”.

She highlighted the case of Miss Y who was raped in her country of origin, but refused an early abortion in Ireland.

The Dublin West TD said migrants made up 24 per cent of her own constituency. She said many working class women could not afford to travel, adding that this generation of women of childbearing age never got a chance to vote on the issue.

She called on the Tánaiste Joan Burton to support the Bill.

The Bill is expected to be debated next week during opposition private member’s time.

Earlier in the Dáil Independent TD Catherine Murphy reiterated the call for a referendum.

But the Tánaiste repeated her view that the people had voted in 1983 “in their wisdom”.

She said at the time the Labour party did not support it and opposed it when it was not popular to do so.

Ms Murphy paid tribute to Labour’s stance in 1983 and said it showed courage to go against popular opinion.

But she said the party was 31 years later now disappointing it members with its stance.

Ms Burton has already confirmed that there would be no referendum relating to abortion in the lifetime of this Government.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times