Social Issues July 2, 2013
Ireland's Lawmakers Back Bill Allowing Abortions In Medical Emergencies

Abortion rights protesters march in Dublin, November 17, 2012, holding signs with images of Savita Halappanavar (Photo: AP)

Lawmakers in Ireland voted 138-24 today in favour of a proposed law that could end decades of confusion over women's right to receive abortions in life-threatening cases, AP reports.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill was put forward by Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny, and it seeks to clarify the circumtances under which an abortion is allowed in the country.

At the moment, Irish law takes a hard line on abortion: it is banned in all circumstances, including cases where the mother's life is in danger.

The abortion debate came to the forefront last October, when a 31-year-old woman named Savita Halappanavar died at University Hospital Galway in Ireland.

Halappanavar was suffering from a miscarriage after 17 weeks of pregnancy, and she went to the hospital for medical treatment.

An undated photo of Halappanavar (Photo: AP/The Irish Times)

She repeatedly asked for an abortion to be performed, but hospital staff refused.

They told Halappanavar that the fetus was not viable, but because Ireland is a "Catholic country" they were not allowed to perform an abortion while the fetus's heart was still beating.

Over the next several days, Halappanavar developed septicemia, which led to multiple organ failure and death.

The case received a lot of media attention, and rallies and protests were held in Ireland calling for a change to the country's abortion laws.

In June, an official report from Ireland's Health Service Executive ruled that confusion over Ireland's abortion laws was a "material factor" in Halappanavar's death, the Telegraph reports.

Today's vote was the first part of the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in Ireland's Parliament, the Oireachtas.

Four of those who voted against the bill are members of the prime minister's own party, the socially conservative Fine Gael.

The bill faces several more tests, with the final decision on whether or not it will become law next week.


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