Abortion referendum bill: The latest developments

Why does this week’s abortion legislation debate matter?

Because a referendum cannot take place without a referendum bill being passed by both houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.

Will the bill pass through the Seanad?

Yes, but a small, but significant, number of senators are set to vote against the bill allowing the referendum to take place.

Will pro-life senators try to delay the bill?

Pro-choice groups and Government members had privately feared that the referendum bill would be the subject of filibustering or endless amendment requests to delay it past Easter. However, similar to last week’s Dáil, pro-life senators are instead likely to simply vote against the bill itself.

What will happen when the bill is passed?

Health Minister Simon Harris has indicated that, should the referendum bill pass through the Seanad, it will be immediately sent to President Michael D Higgins before a Friday, May 25 polling day is announced. The Government believes a May 25 date is key to a yes vote as it will ensure that young voters students are in the country for the vote.

Cabinet also published draft abortion laws yesterday. What does this mean?

The Government will seek to make this draft document the law at a post-referendum Oireachtas vote allowing unrestricted access to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy if the referendum passes. However, despite an expectation that these Oireachtas debates will take place soon after the referendum, the vote may be delayed a number of months.

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