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Social Issues
Ireland Lawmakers Vote For “Life-Saving” Abortion Bill
July 12, 2013
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Pro-choice demonstrators gathered outside Ireland's parliament buildings on July 10, 2013 (Photo: Getty)

After a marathon debate session, lawmakers in Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of Ireland's first bill on abortion on Friday.

The new bill legalizes the practice in extreme cases where doctors say the mother's life is in danger from her pregnancy.

There was applause in Ireland's parliament as exhausted legislators completed the 127-31 vote, after a lengthy and heated debate.

Arguments began Wednesday morning and continued non-stop until 5 am on Thursday. Lawmakers took a short break for sleep, and then returned to the parliamentary chambers, finally wrapping things up at midnight on Friday.

The bill was introduced following the death of a woman in an Irish hospital last year.

ireland-abortion-vote-savita.jpg31-year-old Savita Halappanavar died at University Hospital Galway. She was miscarrying after 17 weeks of pregnancy, and went to the hospital to request an abortion.

Hospital staff refused to perform the procedure, and Halappanavar died nearly a week later from blood poisoning.

The bill, which marked the first time Ireland has drafted abortion legislation, followed a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that found life-saving abortions, including those that might prevent maternal suicide, should be legal in the country.

The deepest divisions on the bill were around provisions that would allow abortions in cases where a three-doctor panel determines that a woman is likely to take her own life unless allowed to terminate her pregnancy.

Anti-abortion activists argued that some women and sympathetic doctors would exploit the rule, while abortion rights lobbyists said that was unlikely, and that cases of suicidal mothers are rare. They also suggested that most distressed abortion seekers would travel to England, where abortion has been legal since 1967.

ireland-abortion-vote-up-to-birth.jpgLast year, nearly 4,000 Irish women traveled to England for abortions, and hundreds more performed their own procedures at home using miscarriage-inducing pills bought online.

The lengthy debates took a toll on lawmakers in Ireland's parliament.

One, Tom Barry, grabbed a female colleague, Aine Collins, by the hips during a 3 am amendment vote and pulled her onto his lap.

They are both members of the ruling Fine Gael party, and Barry said he was kidding around after Collins said it was too cold in the debating chamber.

Video of the moment went viral, and Barry has issued an apology, saying his actions were "disrespectful and inappropriate... No excuses, I just shouldn't have done it."

When the debates resumed Thursday morning, the speaker told both sides to be quiet because they were making his head hurt.

Protesters on both sides of the issue remained outside the parliament building throughout the vote, with police keeping them separated from one another.

Via CBC News


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