Jul 12, 2013

Abortion Bill Passed in Ireland

Historic abortion bill passed in Ireland; MPs vote 127 to 31 in favour

Ireland's Parliament has passed the historic and ground breaking pro-abortion bill. After 48 hours of negotiations, Irish MPs who spent all of Thursday and Friday night jostling over the highly controversial legislation finally pushed through the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill. Members of the Dail voted by 127 to 31 for the motion that will for the first time ever allow abortion in catholic Ireland.

Abortion services, however, will not be open for one and all. The bill allows abortions only when a pregnant woman's life is under threat due to the pregnancy or if she is suicidal. The bill was introduced after Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar died in hospital in Galway in 2012 after being denied a termination. An inquest was told that Savita was denied abortion twice because Ireland "is a catholic country."

Savita was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital in Ireland on October 21 and died later from septicaemia and a rare strain of E coli, four days after she lost her baby. An inquest revealed an abortion would have actually saved the 31-year-old Indian dentist. The victory is being attributed single handedly to Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny who despite facing the biggest in-party revolt and threats of social ostracization by the Church went ahead with the legislation.

Ireland's European affairs minister Lucinda Creighton who is the most senior member of Kenny's party voiced concerns against the bill and voted against it. She now faces permanent expulsion from the Fine Gael parliamentary party. It has been 21 years since a judgement was passed in 1992 by the Supreme Court in Dublin - is now famously known as case X, which said abortion should be allowed if there was a threat to the mother's life, including suicide.

The case involved a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission by Irish authorities to travel to the UK for an abortion. However successive Irish governments have failed to garner courage to go ahead with the legislation due to strong protests from anti-abortion groups fearing a backlash. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition government is the first in over two decades to attempt to bring in a legislation introducing abortion. Catholic bishops have branded changes to Ireland's strict abortion regime as morally unacceptable saying "if approved would make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland."