March 8 (UPI) -- The government of Ireland announced Thursday it will hold a referendum in May asking voters to repeal the Eighth Amendment, bringing the country one step closer to legalizing abortion.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the referendum, which campaigners on both sides have long awaited, is about allowing women to make major decisions for themselves.
"It's about trusting women to decide, in the early weeks of their pregnancy, what's right for them and their families," Varadkar said. "And it's about trusting our doctors to decide when continuing with a pregnancy is a risk to the life or health of a woman. Above all, it's about trusting Irish people to consider this matter in depth, with compassion and empathy."
Health minister Simon Harris said if people vote no on the issue, it will be impossible for the government to address issues around female healthcare in Ireland.
"We will not be able to address issues in relation to women who have had fatal fetal abnormalities in their pregnancy, in relation to women and girls who have been raped and abused in this country, to the fact that our daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, work colleagues could be using the abortion pill without medical supervision," Harris said.
On Friday, the government will outline the legislation, which would allow abortions up to 12 weeks, with a waiting period of no longer than three days after the request.
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. An appeals process will also be implemented.