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Justin Trudeau: Ireland should treat abortion as a human right

21 August 2017


​Mr Varadkar and Mr Trudeau at the Pride march in Montreal on Sunday. (PETER MCCABE/AFP/Getty Images) 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Ireland should treat abortion as a "human rights" issue.

At a three-day meeting in Canada between Mr Trudeau and Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, the two leaders spoke about Mr Varadkar’s plan to hold a referendum next year to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, which protects the right to life of the unborn child.

"We discussed the issue of abortion, which I know is an important issue for a lot of campaigners for women’s rights in Canada," Mr Varadkar said. "I updated the prime minister on our plans to have a referendum next year to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to remove our constitutional ban on abortion, should they wish to do so."

"Fundamental rights"

Asked whether he had any advice for Mr Varadkar, Mr Trudeau said so-called "reproductive rights" were fundamental human rights.

"On the issue of reproductive rights, I shared our perspective that reproductive rights for women are integral to women’s rights in general and women’s rights are human rights and I encouraged him to look at it as a question of fundamental rights for women and we had a good discussion on that," he said.

Example to follow?

Canada has one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world with abortion allowed up to birth and for any reason. Mr Trudeau has also made clear that all MPs in his Liberal Party are required to vote with the "pro-choice" side on any bills, regardless of their personal beliefs. In Britain abortion has traditionally been seen as a conscience issue. 

Mr Varadkar did not seem to mind Mr Trudeau intervening in the debate on Ireland's abortion laws, despite having recently rejected such interference by the UN. He dismissed criticism of Ireland's abortion laws from the UN committee against torture, saying: "One thing I would be very firm about is that whatever laws we have in Ireland, those laws should be determined by either the Irish people through a referendum or through the Oireachtas voting democratically."

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