Supreme Court rules on Constitutional rights of the unborn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris

The Republic of Ireland now has a near total ban on abortion.

The eighth amendment to the Republic's constitution, introduced in 1983, "acknowledges the right to life of the unborn".

For some it protects life but for others it restricts the rights of women to make choices during pregnancy.

Ms Noone chaired the all-party parliamentary committee on the Eighth Amendment, which recommended the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution be repealed. This article recognises "the unborn" as having a right to life equal to that of "the mother".

The report stated that Constitutional provision prohibiting the termination of pregnancy in Ireland was unfit for goal and in need of reform.

What was today's judgment about?

The judgment came from an immigration case where a Nigerian national attempted to repeal an order of deportation on the basis that his Irish partner was pregnant with his child.

They argued the essential question was whether an unborn child, outside Article 40.3.3, is a constitutional "cipher" or "nullity" whose existence and rights do not have to be given any recognition or weight whatever in assessing whether to revoke the deportation order.

The landmark judgement stated that the unborn does not have inherent Constitutional rights outside the right to life in the Eight Amendment, overruling the previous of the High Court which stated that babie in the womb could have similar rights to children.

Delivering judgment this morning he said the court also found that the unborn was not considered to be a child for the purposes of Article 42A of the constitution, introduced with the passing of the children's rights referendum in 2012.

The Irish government said in January it intends to hold a nationwide vote.

The Government will now finalise the wording for the referendum.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case urgently because of the forthcoming referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

What has the reaction been?

Deputy McDonald said: "Now that we have legal clarity, and given the unanimity of the Supreme Court decision, can I put it to you that the Cabinet meets with the Attorney General today on this matter?"

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said if the referendum backs a change to the constitution the Government will table legislation that would allow for unrestricted abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court ruling has been widely welcomed across the political divide with TDs welcoming the clarity it provides and calling for the referendum to be held as promised.

"I look forward to engaging in the debate with my Oireachtas colleagues, and would again call on the Government to ensure it keeps to its timetable of a May referendum on the Eighth Amendment so that the maximum number of people will be available to vote on the issue, many for the first time".

However, there have been significant challenges and changes to the law in recent years.

Latest News