Irish abortion plan 'may be step too far'

Leo Varadkar Image copyright PA
Image caption Leo Varadkar has said it is the Irish government's intention to hold a referendum on the issue by the summer

Politicians are concerned a proposal to allow unrestricted abortions in Ireland up to 12 weeks may be a step too far for most people, Leo Varadkar has said.

The Irish PM said he understood the logic of a parliamentary committee's recommendation.

But he said it went further than many would have anticipated two years ago.

The eighth amendment of the Irish constitution, introduced in 1983, gives an equal right to life to a pregnant woman and an unborn child.

However, thousands of women a year go abroad to have an abortion.

The Irish government is to hold a referendum this year on whether to change the country's laws on abortion, which are among the strictest in Europe.

Mr Varadkar said there were diverse views at cabinet during a discussion about the likely referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The cabinet will make a decision before the end of the month on this issue and Mr Varadkar said it was the Irish government's intention to hold a referendum by the summer.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption In recent years there have been demonstrations both for and against repealing the Eighth Amendment

Mr Varadkar would not be drawn on his own view and said he would have to see the referendum question first.

He added that when he makes his decision he will advocate along the lines of how he is voting, and said ministers would be free to campaign on either side of the debate.

It was a private and personal matter and there was a diversity of views in "almost every household in the country", Mr Varadkar added.

Irish justice minister Charlie Flanagan has indicated he supports the repeal of the eighth amendment, saying he did not believe it was an issue that should be in the constitution.

The minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said the issue was "complex and emotive" and that she would continue to consult members of her constituency, particularly women.

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