By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – Ireland will go to the polls for a referendum on abortion in May, the Irish government announced Monday night.
The referendum will decide whether to replace the Eight Amendment, which considers the life of an unborn child as equal to that of the mother's and makes impossible for any government to pass legislation for the termination of pregnancies.
“I know this will be a difficult decision for the Irish people to make,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said.
“I know it is a very personal and private issue and for most of us it is not a black and white issue, it is one that is grey – the balance between the rights of a pregnant woman and the foetus or unborn.”
Varadkar confirmed on Saturday that he would be campaigning for more liberal abortion laws.
Currently, there is a near-total ban on abortions in Ireland. Only when the mother's life is in danger can an abortion be performed.
If passed, the new constitutional article would state that the parliament may provide for the termination of pregnancy in accordance with the law.
The draft legislation is expected to make abortion possible for women who are up to 12 weeks pregnant.
Abortion has been one of the thorniest issues for the Catholic-majority Irish community.
The Catholic Church opposes any kind of abortion but campaigners have argued that women should have an option to terminate unwanted pregnancies and thousands of women travel abroad for abortion every year.
“We should remember the saddest & loneliest journey is made by Irish women who travel to other countries in their 1000s to end their pregnancies. These journeys don’t have to happen,” Varadkar wrote on Twitter.