Ireland to extend vote on abortion

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The Independent Online
THE IRISH government last night confirmed that it is to hold referendums on the three abortion issues on 3 December.

Besides the referendum already planned on the right to travel and the right to obtain information on abortion services overseas, the two coalition parties agreed that there would be an additional vote on what they call 'the substantive' issue of whether abortion should be legal in the Irish Republic.

However, opposition parties have been invited to meet Albert Reynolds, the Taoiseach, for consultation.

A government spokesman said the wording of the main abortion proposal had been 'agreed but not finalised'. This is taken to indicate that the precise terms for medical exceptions where abortion would be legal have yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, the ruling coalition was warned by the leader of its junior party that a split on the abortion law crisis could undermine the Northern Ireland talks.

Des O'Malley's intervention came before yesterday's critical Cabinet discussion on how to resolve the legal confusion created by the March Supreme Court ruling in the 'X' case - involving a 14-year-old alleged rape victim - which allowed a termination where there was a serious risk to the life of the mother.

The Cabinet was considering the report of a sub-committee of senior ministers which has been looking at options to deal with the problem.

Mr O'Malley, leader of the Progressive Democrats, (PD), urged the government to seek pursuit of an all-party consensus through discussion with opposition parties before a definite course was adopted.

Progressive Democrat sources accepted they would have to give way on their own preferred option of deciding abortion law through the Dail, in favour of letting the electorate decide whether there should be limited abortion rights.

Anti-abortion groups and reformists welcomed the decision to stage three referendum votes.

William Binchy, of Pro-Life, which opposes any change in the law, said it was imperative the people should be given the opportunity to vote against abortion.

A spokeswoman for Repeal the Eighth Amendment, an organisation pledged to change the constitution, called the move 'a step forward'.