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TDs approve Eighth Amendment referendum Bill

Health Minister Simon Harris said Ireland’s abortion law must change to help women who are currently “isolated and neglected”.

28/11/2017 Cabinet Meetings Health Minister Simon Harris Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated 9.30pm 

THE DÁIL HAS approved the Bill that will form the basis of the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

TDs tonight backed the Bill by 97 votes to 25. It will now be debated in the Seanad.

Earlier, the second stage of the Bill was passed by 110 votes to 32.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the passing of the Bill means plans to hold the referendum by the end of May are “very much on track”.

Earlier, Harris thanked his colleagues “who have contributed to this very important debate to date, and who have done so in a respectful manner”.

It is important to remember that the referendum must be passed, and the Eighth Amendment repealed, if anything is to change for Irish women.

“I believe that as people reflect on the current situation in Ireland, where women are forced abroad to have a termination, where women are purchasing abortion pills unsafely online and where women in extremely difficult situations are left isolated and neglected, that the Irish people will vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment,” Harris said.

Second stage

A total of 41 Fine Gael TDs voted in favour of the second stage of the Bill earlier today, while Seán Barrett and Peter Fitzpatrick were the only party members to vote against it.

Fianna Fáil was rather evenly split, with 20 TDs voting in favour and 21 voting against the Bill. Sinn Féin TD Carol Nolan has been suspended from the party after voting against the Bill. All seven Labour representatives voted in favour of the Bill.

DY1rsDiX0AUhvDU Tonight's vote Source: Screengrab/Oireachtas.ie

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil earlier that, whatever the result of the referendum, there will not be another one during the lifetime of this government. Varadkar previously said he will be campaigning for the Amendment to be repealed.

Legislation 

The Cabinet gave its formal approval to the draft scheme of the Bill on 20 FebruaryLast week, the Cabinet agreed the wording of what will replace the Amendment in the event that a vote to repeal it is passed.

The date of the vote has not been announced, nor has the wording for the referendum itself. However, it is expected the referendum will be held on 25 May.

In the event of a Yes vote, the text of the Amendment will be replaced by this line:

Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies.

It has also been announced that Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy will chair the Referendum Commission.

In December, the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth – which was tasked with examining the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on the subject - voted in favour of repealing the Eighth. It recommended for abortion without restriction to be legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Cross-party members came to the majority-decision after hearing testimony from medical and legal experts, as well as personal stories, over the course of three months.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

Read: Cabinet approves draft bill clearing way Oireachtas to set new abortion laws if 8th is repealed

More: Danny Healy-Rae criticised for ‘vile comments’ in the Dáil about abortion

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Órla Ryan

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