Abortion law passed by Seanad

Abortion law passed by Seanad

Landmark laws on abortion have passed fully through parliament with a final vote from the Seanad tonight.

Members supported the contentious Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 by 39 votes to 14.

President Michael D Higgins will be asked to sign off on the legislation, thereby enshrining it into Irish law, later this week.

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

The legislation has been years in the making, but the President has the power to delay it further if he chooses to refer it to the Supreme Court for legal examination.

Mr Higgins could convene the Council of State to discuss sending the legislation to the highest court in the land, given its delicate legal footing.

So divisive was the lengthy debate on abortion that seven members of Fine Gael rebelled against the Government and rejected the legislation.

Five TDs, including Junior Minister Lucinda Creighton, and two senators lost the Fine Gael party whip following their dissention.

Their biggest bone of contention with the legislation was the so-called suicide clause. They claimed the threat of suicide should not be considered grounds for a termination.

Tthere was never any doubt that the controversial Bill would become law, however.

It passed through the Dáil earlier this month with a comfortable majority of 127 votes to 31.

TDs cast their ballots following days of debates and proposed amendments.

This followed discussions at committee level and previous debate sessions which included contributions from medical, psychiatric and legal experts dating as far back as January.

The controversial Bill 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.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government is the first in the 21 years since the X case to pass legislation on abortion.

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