Draft wording for abortion law is agreed by Cabinet
The referendum on the Eighth Amendment is on track to take place on May 25.
Health Minister Simon Harris made the first step towards holding the referendum at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, where he presented the Heads of the Bill to his ministerial colleagues.
The Government agreed in January that voters would be asked to repeal the Eighth Amendment, and 'enable' the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.
If the Eighth Amendment is repealed it will be replaced with the sentence: "Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancies."
The full bill is due to be published during the first week of March after further legal consultation, the Taoiseach told the Dáil yesterday.
However, Government sources said this is a formality and they don't envisage any changes.
On the day of the referendum, the public will be asked whether they wish to repeal the Eighth Amendment, also known as article 40.3.3.
The subsequent proposed legislation describing the circumstances in which abortion would be legally permissible will be fully published only in the event of the referendum passing.
However, the Government will outline how it intends to change abortion laws in Ireland with a policy paper to be made available on March 6, over two months ahead of the poll.
- Read more: Poll shows strong support in favour of abortion referendum - but '12 week' proposal splits public
This paper will explain to the voting public how Ireland's abortion laws will likely be altered including allowing terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and unrestricted access to abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
It will explain how abortion will likely be regulated and in what circumstances it will be permitted if the Eighth Amendment is removed.
"Essentially it'll be a detailed policy paper on to how we transpose the (Committee on the Eight Amendment's) report into legislation," said a Government source.
"It's important that there's clarity about what's being voted for and why we came to these conclusions," they said. However, the legislation as proposed in the policy paper is not guaranteed to pass even if the public votes in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.
Once it is published as a bill it will be voted on in the Dáil.
The majority of TDs in Fianna Fáil, and some in Fine Gael including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, say they are not in favour of access to abortion up to 12 weeks.
The committee arrived at recommending 12-weeks as a cut-off point as a way of dealing with the widespread, illegal use of abortion pills here.
While some lawmakers wished to limit access to abortion to circumstances linked to rape and incest alone, experts said this was very complicated.