Ireland’s parliament approves ‘life-saving’ abortion

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Supporters of access to terminations

Supporters of access to terminations outside the Irish parliament

 

Lawmakers in the Republic of Ireland have voted to legalise abortion under certain conditions for the first time.

The move – approved by a 127-31 vote in the Dail – would authorise a termination when doctors deem that a woman is at risk of taking her life. It needs upper house endorsement, too.

The vote follows the case of an Indian woman who died in hospital after she was refused an abortion.

The debate revealed deep splits in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Opponents say the bill could lead to more widespread abortion.

Anti-abortion campaigners say that the bill will allow the intentional killing of the unborn for the first time in the Republic of Ireland.

For them, it is not just a religious but a human rights issue as they believe that in any pregnancy the mother and foetus have equal rights to life.

Others argue the bill is too limited as it does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality.

Nor does it allow for termination when the foetus cannot survive outside the womb.

Uncertainty

Members of parliament (TDs) backed the proposal shortly after midnight on Friday – after two hotly debated sessions.

Anti-abortion activists
 
Anti-abortion activists want the law to remain unchanged

Still, those who support access to abortion say the bill ignores the fact that, on average, 11 women leave the country every day for an abortion in Britain.

Since a Supreme Court ruling in 1992, known as the X case, abortion has been constitutionally available when a woman’s life, as distinct from her health, is at risk from the continued pregnancy.

X was a suicidal 14-year-old schoolgirl who had been raped by a neighbour and was initially prevented from leaving the country for an abortion in Britain.

Since then, the credible threat of suicide is, constitutionally, regarded as grounds for a termination.

But in the intervening years, until now, no government has introduced legislation to give doctors legal certainty on when an abortion can be carried out.

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