ARC Welcomes Taoiseach's Support For Referendum

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced that he will be campaigning for more liberal abortion laws in the upcoming referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

Leo Varadkar stands centre frame

The Abortion Rights Campaign have welcomed the Taoiseach’s announcement that he will campaign to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws.

Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, where Varadkar was attending the World Economic Forum, the Taoiseach clarified his position on the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

In an interview with the BBC, Varadkar said he believed Ireland’s current abortion laws are too restrictive and indicated he would support liberalisation.

He said: “We will have that referendum, hopefully in the summer and we should be in a position to make a decision on that in Government next week.”

When questioned if he will be campaigning for abortion laws to be relaxed he stated: “I’ll be campaigning for them to be changed and to be liberalised, yes”.

He was also asked if his “pro-life stance” had changed since 2014 he replied:

“I suppose 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, you know, I think even people who are in favour of abortion in certain circumstances are pro-life, you know.

“I still believe in life but I understand that there are circumstances under which pregnancies can’t continue,” said Mr Varadkar.

When asked if he was prepared to say he was pro-choice, Mr Varadkar said:

“What do those words even mean? Every single person I know who says they’re pro-choice believes in some sort of restriction. These terms pro-life and pro-choice don’t really comprehend the complexity of this issue, which is a very private and personal one and one I think that contains a lot of grey areas.”


Welcomed Comments

In response to Leo Varadkar’s comments, Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh said:

“We commend the Taoiseach for the journey he has taken in the past few years. As we have seen from the Citizens Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee, the more factual information people have, the more they come to a compassionate pro-choice position. We welcome the leadership shown by the Taoiseach as we move forwards toward repealing the Eighth and making abortion care available in Ireland for all who need it.”

The commitments from Varadkar come less than one week after the Abortion Rights Campaign sent a letter to the Taoiseach. In the letter, ARC made clear that repeal simpliciter is the only option that should be put to the people in a referendum.

Commenting on the letter, spokesperson for the campaign Clare Lanigan added: “As both legal and medical experts to the Joint Oireachtas Committee made clear, the Constitution has never been the right place to deal with abortion care provision.”

“Successive governments have had 35 years to address the 8th Amendment. We are alarmed to see a replace option now being hastily proposed. The opportunity to finally address the issue of the 8th Amendment effectively is too important to be affected by last-minute scrambles.”

“Full repeal is the only option we’re going to support. We’ve strongly urged the Taoiseach to put this option in front of the people.”

A special Cabinet meeting on the terms of the proposed referendum is due to take place this evening.

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