Monday 21 January 2019

Bill to legalise abortion clears final hurdle in Oireachtas

Result: Pro-choice voters celebrate the result of the referendum on abortion in Dublin last May. Photo: REUTERS
Result: Pro-choice voters celebrate the result of the referendum on abortion in Dublin last May. Photo: REUTERS

The bill to legalise abortion has cleared its final hurdle in the Houses of the Oireachtas and will now go to the President to be signed into law.

Following hours of heated debate in the Seanad - which reflected many of the hours of debate which preceded it - the legislation was passed.

The bill passed the final vote by 27 votes to 5.

There were 47 amendments tabled for the final report stage in the Seanad dealing with issues such as conscientious objection and parental consent which had been discussed at committee stage and in the Dáil.

However, they were rejected by the minister and the bill signed into law by the president will not be substantially changed from the original bill published.

The law allows for abortion up to 12 weeks. After 12 weeks a termination may be sought where there is a risk to the life or health of a woman or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The Bill will now be presented to the President for signature.

Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed the passage of the Bill as "a genuinely historic moment".

Mr Harris paid tribute to TDs, Senators and those who campaigned for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

"I want to thank the campaigners who fought for 35 years to change a nation, to change hearts and minds. I want to thank the minority who fought the battle in here when it was convenient for the majority to ignore," he said.

"But today, I think mostly of the thousands of women who were forced to make the journey to access care that should have been available in their own country."

Following the passage of the Bill Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, who chaired the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, said her work on the issue has been the privilege of her professional career and said her thoughts were with Savita Halappanavar.

Lamenting the passage of the Bill pro-life Senator Ronan Mullen said Ireland hasn’t so much caught up with the rest of the world but lost its lead.

He said it was not the end of the pro-life movement but the beginning of a new phase in it.

"I already see the early light of the bright new law that is ahead," he said.

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