Irish PM will campaign to liberalise abortion laws

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said he will campaign for abortion laws to be "liberalised" in an upcoming referendum on the issue.

The Taoiseach said his views had "evolved" since 2014 when he described himself as "pro-life" while acknowledging that current laws were too restrictive.

Ahead of a proposed referendum in summer, Mr Varadkar said he would be campaigning to change Ireland's abortion laws.

A woman holds a candle as the coalition to repeal the Eighth Amendment hold a vigil to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after she was denied a medically recommended abortion following a miscarriage, at the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street. (Niall Carson/PA)
A woman holds a candle as the coalition to repeal the Eighth Amendment hold a vigil to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died after she was denied a medically recommended abortion following a miscarriage, at the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street. (Niall Carson/PA)

"I believe Ireland's abortion laws are too restrictive and need to be liberalised," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We'll have that referendum hopefully this summer, and we should be in a position to be making a decision on that in government next week.

"I'll be campaigning for them to be changed and to be liberalised, yes."

Discussing his own views, he said: "I think in that period I think it's fair to say that my own views on this matter have evolved.

"But I think sometimes that term - pro-life and pro-choice - can be misunderstood.

"I think even people who are in favour of abortion in certain circumstances are pro-life, I still believe in life, but I understand that there circumstances under which pregnancies can't continue."

Anti-abortion campaigners outside Leinster House, Dublin. (Brian Lawless/PA)
Anti-abortion campaigners outside Leinster House, Dublin. (Brian Lawless/PA)

A referendum on the contentious issue is expected in late May or early June.

Last December, a report by a specially convened Oireachtas committee found that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, known as the Eighth Amendment and passed in 1983, was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

It recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision, and that the procedure should be allowed if the life or health of the woman was at risk.

It also called for expectant mothers to be allowed an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy if doctors diagnosed a foetal abnormality that was likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.

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