Taoiseach rejects ‘unconstitutional’ call for abortion law threshold
Ministers are expected to confirm May 25 as the date for the referendum by the end of the week.
The Taoiseach has rejected as unconstitutional a suggestion from the Tanaiste that any future changes to proposed abortion laws would require a two thirds majority.
Leo Varadkar said Simon Coveney’s proposal would not be incorporated into legislation the Government will table if citizens decided to repeal the constitutional prohibition on abortion in this summer’s referendum.
Citizens will be asked whether they want to repeal the Eighth Amendment of Ireland’s constitution, a provision that makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances, and replace it with wording that hands responsibility for setting the country’s abortion laws to politicians.
I sought advice from the Attorney General (Seamus Woulfe) on that matter today and the Attorney General advises me it would be contrary to Article 15 of the constitution and therefore could not be included in this legislation and therefore will not be Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
If the public vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment, the Government intends to table legislation that would permit women to abort within 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Mr Coveney had proposed that any future changes to those laws would require a two thirds majority in the Dail.
Mr Varadkar told the Dail that such a locked majority would breach the state’s constitution.
“I sought advice from the Attorney General (Seamus Woulfe) on that matter today and the Attorney General advises me it would be contrary to Article 15 of the constitution and therefore could not be included in this legislation and therefore will not be,” he said.
“So there will not be any requirement that any change to primary legislation would require a two thirds majority, as doing so would require an amendment to the constitution itself and it’s not proposed to do that.”
Earlier, Health Minister Simon Harris said a date for the referendum would be confirmed this week.
Mr Harris said the procedural and legislative timetable was on track to enable a vote at the end of May.
May 25 is widely seen as the likely date of the referendum.
Mr Harris outlined details of that legislation to cabinet colleagues in Government Buildings, Dublin on Tuesday.
“I have set out a very detailed and ambitious and demanding timetable that we would facilitate a referendum by the end of May and I am pleased to say that is firmly on track,” he said outside Government Buildings.
“I expect we will be in a position to set the polling day this week so that the people of Ireland can know exactly what day in May this referendum will take place and I think that is important in terms of providing people with certainty about making sure that they can be in the country to vote.”
Under the proposed legislation, access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy would be accompanied by rigid medical protocols, including a pause period between requesting an abortion pill and it being prescribed.
The proposed laws will also outlaw late-term abortions, other than in medical emergency situations.