Ireland sets date to hold referendum on abortion

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Ireland will conduct a referendum on 25 May to decide whether the country needs to liberalise its strict abortion laws.

The voters will be asked whether to repeal the article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment, which is the issue of contention. The article, put in place in 1983, gives equal right to life to the pregnant woman and the foetus.

The Catholic country had lifted a total ban on abortion only in 2013, by allowing women whose life was in danger to terminate the pregnancy.

The current ban has been described by the UN’s human rights committee as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

The date was set after the Seanad, the second chamber of the Irish parliament passed a legislation and the order was signed by the health minister, Simon Harris, and housing minister, Eoghan Murphy.

The yes vote to repeal is supported by the prime minister, Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael, and the Fianna Fáil opposition leader, Micheál Martin.

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