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Irish Lawmakers Back Repeal of Abortion Ban

DUBLIN — An Irish parliamentary committee recommended on Wednesday that a constitutional ban on abortion be repealed, paving the way for the liberalization of one of the world’s strictest abortion laws.

The committee recommended removing the provision in the Irish Constitution that gives a fetus and the mother an equal legal right to life, which has been the law since 1983. That provision has been used to ban abortion in all circumstances, including rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality and any risk to the life of the mother.

The committee also said women should have unrestricted access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy.


The committee’s recommendations will now go to the full Parliament, which can decide whether to accept them and whether to call a referendum for a vote on changing the constitution.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has already said he was committed to holding a referendum on the issue by next May. Simon Harris, the minister for health, said this week that he supported repealing the constitutional ban and allowing free access to abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

Ailbhe Smyth, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, a group pressing to repeal the constitutional provision that bans abortion, praised the committee’s decision, calling it “a very major step forward.”

Ronan Mullen, an independent member of the committee, opposed repeal of the ban and any measures to decriminalize abortion.