Latest: Pro-choice and pro-life rallies take place in Dublin as Gov signs off on referendum bill

International Women's Day event protesting the abortion bill at Leinster House this afternoon. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Update 9.05pm: A number of pro-choice and pro-life rallies have been held in Dublin today as the Government signed off on a referendum bill.

It will be debated in the Dáil tomorrow, and Health Minister Simon Harris will outline the legislation the Government want to bring in if the Eighth Amendment is repealed.

Cora Sherlock from the Pro-Life Campaign has dismissed the Minister's claim that the constitution is not the place to look after abortion.

"I think the constitution is the ideal place for the right to life because the right to life is a fundamental human right and our constitution is a place where we protect the human rights of every person, born and unborn, living in Ireland.

"I think what the Supreme Court did was it showed how lucky we are to have the Eighth Amendment.

"The Eighth Amendment has saved 5,000 lives every year and if we didn't have it then unborn human beings would have no protection."

Meanwhile, the National Campaign to Repeal the 8th called the referendum bill a critical step forward on the road to providing safe, regulated abortion care to women who need it.

"This is a historic and momentous day for Ireland, and for the women of Ireland, in particular," said Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

"It has been a very long time coming. Today is a significant milestone for the tens of thousands of supporters who have been campaigning for decades to remove the Eighth from the Constitution for once and for all.

"We need abortion care that is safe and regulated, in line with best medical practice, and today brings us a crucial step forward in trying to achieve this important goal."

The Cork Coalition out in force for today's March for Choice in Cork. Photo: Jannik Pietzsch
The Cork Coalition out in force for today's March for Choice in Cork. Photo: Jannik Pietzsch

Rallies were also held around the country, including pro-choice marches in Galway and in Cork.

- Digital Desk

Earlier: Taoiseach: Abortion referendum 'about trusting women to decide'

Update - 1.48pm: After the Cabinet meeting, Leo Varadkar said: "On my first day as Taoiseach I committed to holding a referendum this year. The matter has been considered by the Citizens' Assembly and a cross-party Oireachtas committee.

"The Cabinet has now taken the next important step which paves the way to holding a referendum in the summer.

"This referendum is about asking our citizens to allow 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. 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, as I know they will."

12.24pm: Government approves referendum bill on 8th Amendment

The Government has signed off on the referendum bill to allow a vote on the 8th Amendment.

Ministers approved the bill in the last hour, and the next stage will require the Dáil and Seanad to give their approval before a date can be fixed for the referendum.

Ministers have also been considering a policy paper outlining possible legislation if people vote to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said this will then be published tomorrow before further details are revealed in about three weeks.

"We will bring forward draft head of a bill at the end of this month or at the very start of April," he said.

However, he made the point that legislation to follow but that remains "academic and hypothetical" until the amendment is actually repealed.

"I hope that as we discuss the detail of what may follow, we don't lose sight of the importance of repealing the 8th Amendment in the first place," he said.

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