The people of Ireland will be asked to decide whether abortion should be legalised in the country. Under the Eighth Amendment of the predominantly Catholic country's constitution, abortion is banned unless the mother's life is in danger, making it one of the strictest, most draconian such laws in Europe.
The Irish government said a referendum could be held in May or June 2018, according to a statement from Leo Varadkar, the country's prime minister, the BBC reported. "Any amendment to our constitution requires careful consideration by the people," he said. "They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate."
The Eighth Amendment, which gives a pregnant woman and her unborn foetus an equal right to life, has been law since 1983. The law also bans abortion in cases of rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage and fatal foetal abnormality.
The UN Human Rights Committee last year deemed Ireland's abortion law to be "cruel, inhuman [and] degrading", and there has been a marked shift in public attitudes towards abortion in recent decades. In an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll in May 2017, the majority of people agreed abortion should be legal in certain circumstances, with 73% of those respondents saying it should be allowed up until 12 weeks gestation.
Pro-choice campaigners, who have long been fighting to Repeal the 8th, said they are waiting for a date for the referendum to be confirmed and other campaign groups, including reproductive rights charity BPAS, and human rights campaigners said they welcomed the announcement and would be campaigning for the amendment to be repealed.
Others suggested a referendum was the wrong approach, with Independent journalist Holly Baxter arguing that men "voting on whether or not women deserve bodily autonomy feels less and less liberating the longer you think about it."
Pro-choice activists will be holding a March for Choice in Dublin on Saturday 30th September.