Irish abortion referendum: publication of bill delayed by High Court ruling

Irish abortion referendum: publication of bill delayed by High Court ruling

Irish abortion referendum: publication of bill delayed by High Court ruling

The State has appealed a High Court finding that unborn children have constitutional rights beyond the right to life as outlined in the Eighth Amendment.

Responding to the judgment, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "I welcome the clarity that this Supreme Court judgement provides regarding the status of the unborn within the constitution".

In the High Court judgment it was found that the unborn child had rights under the Constitution beyond the right to life.

Speaking this morning the Minister said "this Bill will contain the wording to be put to the people in a referendum at the end of May".

"It is up to Government to officially set a date for the referendum on the Eighth Amendment and we look forward to having confirmation on that date in the very near future".

The court also insisted its decision does not render the unborn either "constitutionally or legally invisible" because the terms of Article 40.3.3, the court's findings on obligations to consider prospective rights of the unborn and various common law and statutory provisions "all recognise and protect the interests of an unborn child".

The following year, legislation was passed to legalise abortion when doctors deem that a woman's life is at risk due to medical complications, or at risk of taking her life. Pro-abortion government leaders said they would like to legalize abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks and later in limited circumstances.

Ireland now has some of the most robust protections for the unborn in the European Union, although most European abortion laws are more restrictive than those in the United States.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke
Chief Justice Frank Clarke

Voters will be asked to decide if the Eighth Amendment (article 40.3.3) should be replaced with a new provision that allows the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.

Labour Party TD Jan O'Sullivan welcomed the clarity provided by the ruling. "The Eighth Amendment represents a real and ongoing threat to the health and lives of Irish women".

The report stated that Constitutional provision prohibiting the termination of pregnancy in Ireland was unfit for goal and in need of reform.

The proposed wording of the question may have had to change, the referendum be delayed and it could have resulted in further legal challenges.

The landmark decision, by seven Supreme Court judges, will clear the way for a planned referendum on the country's restrictive abortion laws this summer.

The timescale is tight if the government still wants to hold a referendum in May as the cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the issue.

If they had found the rights extended beyond the Eighth Amendment, the referendum might have needed to be broadened to take in other elements of the constitution - a move that could have disrupted the timetable for holding the vote. And that we have a full day sitting on Friday to advance the legislation?

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