IRELAND is to hold a referendum on its abortion ban. it was announced this week.
The Dublin government's decision to put its constitutional bar on abortion to the people lollows the refusal of the European Community to allow Ireland to amend its rules on the practice within the terms of the Maastricht Treaty on European union. The treaty guarantees Ireland's right to ban abortion in a protocol agreed by the 12 EC member states.
The EC said that any amendment could lead to a flood of similar requests from member states concerned with other issues.
Ireland has been on the brink of a constitutional crisis over its abortion laws since a Dublin Supreme Court decision overturned a lower court ruling preventing a 14-year-old rape victim travelling to Britain for to terminate her pregnancy. The Supreme Court said the girl's right to travel freely between EC countries had been infringed.
The Catholic bishops in Ireland, who maintained a strict silence while the case was before the courts, last month backed calls for a national referendum on the issue although expressing "widespread dismay" at what they perceived to be moves towards legalising abortion in te republic.
But the government has expressed fears that a referendum on abortion could confuse the future of Europe with the issue.