An Oireachtas Committee has voted to recommend repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

The committee also voted in favour of legalising terminations of pregnancy up to 12 weeks with no restrictions.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a referendum on the issue could be held in May next year once the Oireachtas has considered the committee's recommendations.

The committee has spent the past three months considering recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly.

Today it voted by 12-5 in favour of a motion to recommend making the termination of pregnancy lawful with no restriction up to 12 weeks. There were four abstentions. 

The motion stated that this would be through a GP-led service or delivered in a clinical context and determined by law and licencing practice in Ireland. 

This recommendation was made in view of the complexities of legislating specifically for the termination of pregnancy for reasons of rape and incest.

The first vote of the day saw members of the committee vote 14-6 to recommend to the Oireachtas repealing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

The proposal, which was put forward by Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan, stated that having regard to the decision of the committee not to retain Article 40.3.3 in full, the committee recommend its repeal.

The Committee Chair Senator Catherine Noone abstained.

The committee also voted in favour of a recommendation by the Citizens' Assembly that termination of pregnancy should be lawful in Ireland if there is a real and substantial physical risk to the life or the health of the woman.

Earlier this year, 99% of the Citizens' Assembly voted in favour of this particular reason for termination of pregnancy.

Members voted to allow termination of pregnancy where the unborn child has a life-limiting condition that is likely to result in death before or shortly after birth.  

The committee voted by 18-3 to accept that a medical diagnosis of a life-limiting condition made by a doctor in good faith requires a compassionate approach to the family affected and that termination of pregnancy services should be available in such circumstances.

A motion to remove gestational limits in cases of significant fatal feotal abnormality was defeated.

The next vote was on a proposal by Mattie McGrath of the Rural Independent Group that the committee reject the risk to life of the woman by suicide as a ground for the lawful termination of pregnancy. The committee voted by 17-3 against that proposal.

One of the tighter votes this afternoon was on termination of pregnancy when socio-economic considerations were taken into account.

Members voted by 10-9 against that proposal by the Independent Senator Lynn Ruane. There were two abstentions from Ms Noone and Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O'Sullivan.

For the past three months, members of the committee have considered the Citizens' Assembly recommendations on constitutional, legal and medical grounds.

Having already voted not to retain Article 40.3.3 in full after the first module a number of weeks ago, the committee has received criticism from those in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment.

The committee will meet again tomorrow to consider ancillary recommendations. The result of the votes will feed into the committee's final report, which will be published next week.

Ailbhe Conneely: Committee vote is start of journey towards referendum

Earlier, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he was in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Harris said he did not believe the Constitution was the best place to deal with the issue of abortion.

Mr Harris said he had been working with the Attorney General to prepare for all possible scenarios that the Oireachtas Committee might recommend, including laws to allow unrestricted access to abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. 

He said if a referendum is to be held next summer, a referendum bill would have to be brought to the Dáil in February.

Meanwhile, Mr McGrath has reiterated his criticism of the chairperson and secretariat over the selection of witnesses and experts that went before the committee over the past number of months. 

The Independent TD said experts going before the committee did not leave their "political desires" to change the legislation outside the door. 

Speaking to journalists earlier, on the potential outcome of this afternoon's meeting, Mr McGrath said he did not know what wording would go to the Oireachtas, adding, "but the fat lady hasn't sang here yet, I'm not talking about the chairperson, in case you think I am or anything like that".

He said he was just saying it as an "old saying".

Questioned further on his criticism of Senator Noone, including his comments this morning, Mr McGrath said the comment "was nothing to do with Catherine Noone".

"The fat lady sings is a known statement around political issues and other issues, no personally, I get on with Catherine Noone, have always," he said.

Mr McGrath said he has since spoken to Senator Noone and "she fully accepts that I did not mean any disrespect to her".

Ms Noone told RTÉ News that she did not wish to dignify his comments with a public response.