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Abortion referendum sought for Republic

Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch

The same-sex referendum victory has prompted renewed calls for a vote on extending abortion rights in the Republic.

Labour TD and junior minister Kathleen Lynch yesterday suggested it should be possible to repeal the controversial eighth amendment of the Constitution which asserts that: "The state acknowledges that the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and so far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."

Under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 doctors can only legally terminate a pregnancy in cases where they deem there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life, including the threat of suicide.

The state's health minister Leo Varadkar has previously warned that the law had a "chilling effect" on doctors who had to make decisions based on law and not medicine.

Speaking on RTÉ, Ms Lynch said: "I believe that if you are forceful enough in your conviction, which I think we are, that repeal of the eighth amendment is very do-able."

Equality minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said Labour would push for a referendum on the issue if the junior coalition partner is returned to government after the state's next general election.

Meanwhile, the director of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) Orla O'Connor said the amendment was "unjust and dangerous," creating a "medically unworkable distinction between a mother's life and a mothers' health."

"Building on the huge support for equality shown over the weekend by the people of Ireland, we call on the government to name a date to repeal the eighth amendment," she said.

However, the Pro Life Campaign's chairwoman Cora Sherlock criticised those pushing for change, saying: "The eighth amendment guarantees the equality of the unborn, who are a distinct group of human beings in Irish society. Any attempt to remove it would lead to a less inclusive, less fair society. This is not what the Irish people want."

Separately, David Quinn of the Catholic advocacy group, the Iona Institute, said it would "not surprise" him if there was a referendum on repealing the amendment "as soon as 2017 or 2018".

"The machine has moved very quickly over to the Eighth Amendment," he said, but added that there would be "more energy in the side defending the eighth amendment” than there had been in the gay marriage campaign.

"I also think there wouldn't be the same amount of political unanimity so I think it would be a much more closely fought thing," he said, referring to the fact that all the main parties had supported last Friday's referendum.

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