Irish abortion legislation passed
Published 12/07/2013 | 01:42
The Irish Government has passed legislation to allow abortion in limited circumstances for the first time.
The landmark laws, which enshrine a woman's right to a termination if her life is at risk, including from suicide, were supported by the vast majority of the country's politicians but spelled the demise of a junior minister who joined a small backbench revolt.
Despite Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton's widely anticipated rebellion, the laws were passed comfortably after a second late night of debates, with 127 members of the Dail parliament in favour and 31 against.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was drawn up following the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in an Irish hospital in October last year after being denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy.
Her widower Praveen claimed the couple had been told a termination was not allowed because "Ireland is a Catholic country".
As new figures released on Thursday revealed 11 women travelled from Ireland to Britain every day for an abortion last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was time the women of Ireland have the rights they deserve enshrined in law.
"We had 21 years of inaction, 21 years of inaction," Mr Kenny said. "What's going on here is medical clarity and legal certainty for the women of our country who have had a constitutional right conferred upon them."
The two-day debate wrapped up with the final vote shortly before 12.30am on Friday morning. It was clear the suicide clause remained the most divisive aspect of the legislation throughout.
Ms Creighton, the exiled junior minister, refused to support the rule which allows an expectant mother to seek an abortion on the grounds that she is prepared to take her own life and called for alternative therapies to be offered instead. Her demands were ignored.
She automatically lost the party whip after voting against the Government in support of an amendment proposed by fellow Fine Gael rebel Billy Timmins to remove the suicide clause from the legislation. "I'm very sad," Ms Creighton said, after casting the vote that sealed her self-imposed exile. "But at the same time I feel a bit relieved because this is obviously something that's been weighing on everybody's minds for months and months."