A citizen's advisory body has recommended that abortion is allowed in Ireland under a wide range of circumstances.
The landmark decision represents a huge break from the strictly conservative attitude towards abortion that has traditionally prevailed in Ireland.
The Citizen's Assembly, specially established to discuss key legislative issues, was made up of 92 random members of the public and voted overwhelmingly to liberalise Ireland's laws on abortion.
"The recommendations you have made certainly have called for a change to the status quo," said Supreme court judge Mary Laffoy, who oversaw the assembly, the Irish Mirror reported.
In particular, the assembly voted by 64% to legalise abortion 'on request', meaning it would not be subject to restrictions – an overtly liberal decision which surprised many observers.
The assembly also generally approved of abortion under other circumstances. In cases of pregnancies resulting from rapes, there was 89% approval of legalising abortion. The same number supported legal abortions for children likely to be born with a severe abnormality likely to result in death around the time of the birth.
For foetal abnormalities which were not likely to result in death, there was 80% support for terminations.
In addition, 78% supported abortion in cases where the mother's health was at risk, with 72% of members saying there should be no distinction between physical or mental health. Also, 72% of members said abortion should be legal for socio-economic reasons.
The assembly's recommendations will be passed on in a report to the Irish legislature for consideration in June.
Ireland's abortion ban is enshrined in the eighth amendment to the country's constitution and a referendum would have to be held at the Oireachtas's approval to enact the changes.
Since 2013, abortion has been allowed in order to save the life of the mother because of health issues or suicide risk.
While reproductive rights campaigners welcomed the assembly's decision, the Church was quick to voice its opposition.
"Demands to quash and abolish this amendment go against the good news that the life of every person is sacred and inviolable, irrespective of the stage or state of that life, from the first moment of conception until the moment of natural death," said Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, the country's most senior priest, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
He added: "To deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life, is always gravely morally wrong."
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