Ireland's Government approves abortion referendum wording

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If approved, the move would repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, which guarantees equal rights for mothers and their unborn children, and pave the way for the government to radically liberalise the country's abortion laws.

The Government has published a six-page policy paper on abortion, setting out its plans for abortion legislation provided the upcoming referendum results in the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

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"This work has so far established that provision of free access to contraception methods, which are now limited to those with eligibility through the Primary Care Reimbursement Services, would require enabling primary legislation", said Harris.

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It will say there should be abortion without specific indication for up to 12 weeks - meaning abortion will be allowed for any reason within the first trimester.

This is likely to be between 48 and 72 hours.

Ireland's health minister, Simon Harris, said on Friday that a yes vote in May would represent a "quantum leap from our position today, where have one of the most restrictive regimes, similar to Saudi Arabia".

Women beyond the 12-week period will have to be assessed by medical professionals who will determine the risk to her life, health or mental health, which also will be the case for fatal fetal abnormalities.

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"If our underlying principle is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, then we must do all we can to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and to support women in every way".

Harris completed his statement by commended the bill to the house saying: "I don't like labels but I consider myself pro-life".

Sinn Féin is unlikely to hold an Ardfheis to update its abortion policy before the eighth amendment referendum is held. The referendum, slated for the end of May, will be putting a possible repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish people.

Fianna Fáil's Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher believes the current laws are unfair. The Government has yet to establish exactly how it will provide abortion services to women.

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The debate on the controversial issue is due to resume after the St Patrick's Day week-long break on March 20.