President signs Bill repealing Eighth Amendment into law

Move paves way for Government to introduce law on abortion in coming weeks

Campaigners salute the outcome of the vote to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution at the  RDS count centre in May. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Campaigners salute the outcome of the vote to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution at the RDS count centre in May. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution has officially been repealed after President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill giving effect to the abortion referendum result into law.

It means that there is no longer a constitutional ban on abortion and the Oireachtas is now free to legislate to change Ireland’s existing abortion regime.

However, until such legislation is passed, the existing laws will remain in place, even though the constitutional ban has been removed.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar earlier said that legislation allowing for abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy will be introduced in the Dáil in the first week of October.

Mr Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris have promised that abortion services will be available in the new year.

Stages

Mr Harris has also raised the prospect of passing the legislation in stages which could, for example, allow doctors to refer patients to abortion service providers abroad before the new Irish system is in place.

“In accordance with Article 46 of the Constitution, President Higgins today signed the Thirty-Sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018, and it has accordingly become law,” a statement from Áras an Uachtaráin said on Tuesday.

The Eighth Amendment guaranteed an equal right to life to the mother and unborn and was inserted into the Constitution in 1983 following a referendum.

In May voters decisively backed the repeal of the amendment and for provision to be made for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

More than 2.15 million people voted in the referendum with some 1.42 million people voting to repeal and 723,632 voting to retain the amendment, also known as Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court earlier this month decided there were no grounds to hear an appeal of decisions by the Court of Appeal and High Court to reject a challenge to the referendum result.