26/09/2017 17:37 BST | Updated 26/09/2017 17:56 BST

Ireland Abortion Referendum Scheduled For Next Year, Government Confirms

Pope Francis is due to visit in August.

Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters
Ireland is to hold a referendum on abortion laws; demonstrators are pictured above during a protest in Dublin in 2016

Ireland will hold a referendum on whether to repeal its constitutional ban on abortion in May or June next year, the government announced on Tuesday. 

The vote will occur just before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country for the World Meeting of Families in August.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has previously said the eighth amendment, which makes abortion illegal unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, is “too restrictive”.

A woman convicted of having an illegal termination in Ireland can be jailed for 14 years, however, women are free to travel abroad to have the procedure. 

Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland but was inserted into the constitution in 1983 following a referendum, in which 67 percent of voters were in favour and 33 percent against.

The referendum was announced as the government set out a timetable for several votes over the next two years, including one on Ireland’s controversial anti-blasphemy law.

Opinion polls in recent years have indicated strong support for reform in Ireland.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee found Ireland’s abortion laws “cruel, inhuman and degrading”.

While people have reacted favorably to the news, some have pointed out that basic civil rights should not have to be voted on.