Jan. 30 (UPI) — The Irish government announced Monday it will hold a referendum on abortion rights in May, giving the public a chance to change the country’s strict anti-abortion laws for the first time in 35 years.
The vote will decide whether to repeal the country’s constitutional amendment, which bans abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, unless the life of the mother is at risk.
If voters choose to repeal the amendment, abortions will be allowed up to 12 weeks.
“We already have abortion in Ireland but it’s unsafe, unregulated and unlawful and in my opinion we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a news conference Monday, according to Euro News. “I believe that 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 take a collective act of leadership to show empathy and compassion.”
Two recent polls indicate that between 51 and 56 percent of the Irish public support repealing the anti-abortion amendment, while 30 percent oppose its repeal.
But even if the public doesn’t vote to repeal, the Irish parliament will take up the decision, where Varadkar said he will strongly support a repeal.
“For my part I will advocate a yes vote. My own views have evolved over time — life experience does that,” Varadkar said, according to Sky News.
“The saddest and loneliest journey is made by Irish women who travel to foreign countries to end their pregnancies. That doesn’t have to happen,” he added.