Council of State to advise President Higgins on abortion Bill

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

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

They will discuss 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 a Galway 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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