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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Higgins convenes Council of State to ponder abortion Bill move

Lyndsey Telford

Published 29/07/2013 | 10:16

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29/07/13 Back row from left, Professor Gearoid O'Tuathaigh, The Hon. Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, The Hon. Mr Justice John Murray, The Hon, Mr Justice Ronan C Keane, Bertie Ahern, Michael Farrell, Professor Deirdre Heenan, Ruairi McKiernan, Brian Cowen, Professor Gerard Quinn, Sally Mulready. Front row, from left, Professor Mary McAleese, Cathaoirleach, Senator Patrick Burke, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett T.D., Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, President Michael D Higgins, Chief Justice Susan Denham, The Hon Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Attorney General, Ms. Maire Whelan SC, Liam Cosgrave, and The Hon Mr Justice T A Finlay pictured this afternoon at v?ras an Uachtarain for the Council of State meeting on the Abortion Bill....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
29/07/13 Back row from left, Professor Gearoid O'Tuathaigh, The Hon. Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, The Hon. Mr Justice John Murray, The Hon, Mr Justice Ronan C Keane, Bertie Ahern, Michael Farrell, Professor Deirdre Heenan, Ruairi McKiernan, Brian Cowen, Professor Gerard Quinn, Sally Mulready. Front row, from left, Professor Mary McAleese, Cathaoirleach, Senator Patrick Burke, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett T.D., Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, President Michael D Higgins, Chief Justice Susan Denham, The Hon Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Attorney General, Ms. Maire Whelan SC, Liam Cosgrave, and The Hon Mr Justice T A Finlay pictured this afternoon at v?ras an Uachtarain for the Council of State meeting on the Abortion Bill....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
29/07/13 Former president, Mary McAleese pictured arriving this afternoon at v?ras an Uachtarain for the Council of State meeting on the Abortion Bill....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
29/07/13 Former president, Mary McAleese pictured arriving this afternoon at v?ras an Uachtarain for the Council of State meeting on the Abortion Bill....Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
President Michael D Higgins

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins today sought advice from the Council of State on whether he should refer new abortion legislation to the Supreme Court.

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The meeting finished this evening at 6.45.

The group of advisers, which includes former presidents, taoisigh, judges and individuals personally appointed by the President, met at Aras an Uachtarain at 2.30pm.

They discussed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 under Article 26 of the Constitution.

As President, Mr Higgins has the right to refer the legislation to the highest court in the land for it to test its constitutionality.

This is one of few powers the President has.

If Mr Higgins refers the legislation and the court rules that it does adhere to the Constitution, it will never be open to challenge once enshrined into law.

The landmark Bill passed through parliament completely last week after a final vote in the Seanad.

Members of the upper house supported the contentious legislation by 39 votes to 14.

Once enacted, the laws will provide for a woman's right to an abortion if her life is at risk, including from suicide.

The Bill passed through the Dail earlier this month with a comfortable majority of 127 votes to 31.

The controversial legislation was drawn up following the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital last October after being denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

It follows a 1992 judgment by the Supreme Court in Dublin, known as the X case, where judges ruled that abortion should be allowed if there was a threat to the mother's life, including suicide.

Ireland was also under pressure after a European Court of Human Rights ruling that a woman in remission with cancer was discriminated against because she was forced to travel overseas for a termination.

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