Abortion Bill: becomes law in Ireland
Irish President Michael Higgins has finally signed the country’s first abortion bill into law, legalizing the practice in exceptional cases where doctors deem a woman’s life at risk. The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill allows women to pursue an abortion to alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a women’s own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination. The bill is Ireland’s first legislation on abortion since 1867, which outlawed the practice with a maxi- mum penalty of life imprisonment. The current maximum sentence for an abortion is 14 years. While the bill does grant women the right to an abortion in life-threatening conditions, amendments that would have allowed for an abortion in cases of rape or incest were withdrawn during the debate over the bill. Similar amendments permitting the procedure for cases of fatal foetal defects were also abandoned during debate. It should here be noted that the law comes in the wake of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, in October 2012 because of blood poisoning as a result of a miscarriage. An inquest into her death earlier this year heard how she was repeatedly denied a potentially life-saving abortion. The new legislation, which replaces 146 years old British era law, also permits abortions to alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a woman’s own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination. Till recently, Ireland’s only legislation on abortion was a handed-down British law from 1867, outlawing the practice with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The new maximum sentence is 14 years.