Ireland’s President formally repealed a constitutional amendment that banned abortion in the country, following a resounding referendum vote in favor of changing the law.
President Michael D. Higgins signed the abortion referendum bill into law on Tuesday, less than four months after the nation voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to enable legislation that would allow women to have an abortion.
The Eighth Amendment, which was added to the constitution following a referendum in 1983, placed the rights of the fetus and those of its mother on equal footing, effectively banning abortion barring a “real and substantial risk” to the mother’s life.
Higgins’ signature of the 36th Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018 means the constitution is now officially changed.
However, the existing laws will remain in place until lawmakers pass new legislation that is expected to allow for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – and later in cases where there is a risk to the mother’s life or the fetus is not expected to survive.
Ireland’s prime minister, or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar tweeted Tuesday that the government was “ready” to pilot through the changes.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the government would put legislation before the Cabinet next week, with the aim of introducing it in Ireland’s lower house, or Dáil, in October.
“This is a very important day and I know so many people worked so hard to get to this day,” Harris said in a video posted to Twitter. “We now need to bring in the legislation so we can add services to look after women with care and compassion in our own country.”
Repeal of the amendment has completed a circle of sweeping social reforms in the European Union nation that fly in the face of the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, from contraception to divorce, and most recently same-sex marriage.