Ireland to Hold Abortion Referendum in May

The Irish cabinet gave the go-ahead for a referendum to relax the country’s strict abortion laws on Monday, 35 years after the Catholic-majority country enshrined abortion as a crime in its constitution.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said a referendum will be held at the end of May. A statement from the Irish leader added that the exact date of the referendum would be determined following a debate and vote in Parliament, and could extend to early June.

Speaking on Monday night after a lengthy cabinet meeting, Varadkar said he would advocate a “yes” vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which gives equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child.

Referring to thousands of Irish women who travel abroad each year to terminate their pregnancies and the thousands of others who take abortion pills without medical supervision, Varadkar said: “We already have abortion — unsafe, unregulated, unlawful. We cannot continue to export our problem and import our solution.”

He added that he believed that the “time had come” to allow the public to make a decision and said that he was convinced that the issue of abortion had no place in the Irish Constitution.

“I do not believe that the Constitution is the place for making absolute statements about medical, moral and legal issues. An issue that is not black and white can never be explained in black and white.

“I believe this is a decision about whether we want to continue to stigmatize and criminalize our sisters, our co-workers and our friends. Or whether we are prepared to make a collective act of leadership to show empathy and compassion,” he said.

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SOURCE: CNN, Kara Fox and Angela Dewan