New laws to reform the limited ban on abortion will only allow a pregnancy to be terminated if there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life, it has been confirmed.
The Government will introduce a combination of legislation and regulation in the new year to legalise the procedure as a last resort to save a pregnant woman's life.
Health Minister James Reilly said he was conscious of the sensitivities of the contentious issue but said that ensuring the safety of pregnant women was a priority.
He said: "We will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman's life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child."
The legislation will be drafted in accordance with the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X case, which allows for abortion when a woman's life is in danger - including the threat of suicide.
The Department of Health said in a statement: "The drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case."
Catholic leaning campaign group the Iona Institute argued it would be both wrong and unnecessary to allow abortion to prevent suicide. Spokeswoman Maria Steen said there were alternative ways to treat women at risk of taking their own lives. "A decision to include a threat of suicide as a ground for abortion would also be wrong in principle because it would authorise for the first time ever the deliberate and direct destruction of unborn human life in Ireland," Ms Steen said.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has welcomed the reform plan. It said: "The implementation of this judgment by way of legislation with regulations is also our preferred option, a decision that we reached following an in-depth review of the details provided by the Expert Group."
Catholic bishops claimed the decision to legislate for abortion would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children. They maintained if the proposal became law, the careful balance between the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child in current law and medical practice in Ireland would be fundamentally changed.
"It would pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children," they said in a statement. "This can never be morally justified in any circumstances."