Abortion referendum: Varadkar aims for summer poll

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Recent years have seen demonstrations both for and against repealing the Eighth Amendment

The Irish government has agreed an “indicative timeline” for a referendum on abortion legislation.

The Eighth Amendment to the constitution, introduced in 1983, guarantees the equal right to life for the mother and the unborn.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the Dáil (parliament) the proposed timing would be May or June 2018.

This depends on an all-party parliamentary committee reporting back by Christmas.

A member of the committee, Anne Rabbitte, said it would make every effort to meet its deadline but it may not prove possible.

This could delay the legislation required for a referendum in the middle of next year.

Abortion in Ireland: The fight for choice

In 2013 new rules came into effect under Ireland’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act to allow for abortion when there is a real and substantial risk to a woman’s life – including suicide.

But the ban remains on termination in cases of rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage and fatal foetal abnormality.

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Opponents of repealing the amendment say the mother and the unborn child have an equal right to life

On Tuesday, the Irish government also announced a timetable for a number of other referendums, including votes on blasphemy, the woman’s life within the home, and the introduction of directly-elected mayors.

There are also referendums scheduled for 2019.

These include one to reduce to two years the time couples would have to live apart before getting a divorce.

Proposals to allow Irish people living abroad to vote in presidential elections, and to reduce the voting age to 16 are also planned for June 2019.