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No guarantee a Yes vote will lead to abortion up to 12 weeks - watchdog


Posters for the up coming referendum on Abortion. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Posters for the up coming referendum on Abortion. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Posters for the up coming referendum on Abortion. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

There are no guarantees that a Yes vote on May 25 will lead to abortion up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, the official referendum watchdog has warned.

The impartial Referendum Commission will today publish its guidelines that make it clear the question being asked of voters does not specify what type of abortion regime might be introduced.

The booklet states the legal effect of a Yes vote would be that the Oireachtas has full authority "to pass laws regulating the termination of pregnancy".

"These laws need not limit the availability of termination to circumstances where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. Any law may be changed by the Oireachtas," the commission says.

The clear outline of the referendum is likely to be seized upon by No campaigners who argue that a future Dáil could extend the availability of abortion beyond the first trimester.

It also reinforces the fact that TDs and senators may not be able to reach agreement on what type of legislation should be passed, in which case the existing laws will apply even if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

The legal impact of a No vote will be that Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which gives equal rights to the life of the mother and her unborn, will "remain in place unchanged".

The commission states that the present legal position is that outside of these parameters "it is a criminal offence to intentionally destroy unborn human life".

The chair of the Referendum Commission, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said: "Between now and May 25 there will undoubtedly be a lively debate between those advocating a Yes vote and a No vote. Our role is not to debate the merits or otherwise of the arguments of either side, but to provide an independent, neutral account of what is being proposed, so that voters can be properly informed."

The commission will be running an extensive advertising campaign on TV, radio, online, in newspapers, and on outdoor sites over the coming weeks.


An information booklet will also be delivered to all 2.2 million homes in the State during the first two weeks of May.

In a statement to be issued today, the commission will urge people to check the electoral register to make sure they are on it and their details are correct.

If the details are not correct there is time to make appropriate changes, however that needs to be done by May 8 at the latest.

"At every election and referendum there are many people who can't vote because they are not registered. There are also many people who have moved house but remain registered at their old address," Ms Justice Kennedy said.

Campaigning will continue today with the Together for Yes campaign calling on men across Ireland to 'respect and protect' women.

Ex-international footballer Richie Sadlier will tell an event he is "afraid that too many men don't realise that they have a key role in this referendum".

"If they think they can stand on the sideline, they are really saying that the status quo is ok," he will say.

Last night, the Save the Eighth campaign hit out at calls for colleges to close on polling day. "Students do not deserve special treatment. They are adults, like everybody else. They are not the only people who live away from home," it said.

Irish Independent

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