Ireland is moving to legalize abortion, the Financial Times reported Tuesday, detailing how the country's government will introduce legislation to allow abortions in Irish hospitals when the mother’s life is at risk.
The move is highly controversial and is likely to ignite a firestorm of oppositon from religious groups, the Times reported.
Ireland’s cabinet took the decision on Tuesday after several weeks of public pressure following the death in October of a pregnant woman in Galway, who was refused repeated requests for an abortion while she was suffering a miscarriage. She died of septicaemia three days after requesting a termination.
The new push will actually be a combination of legislation and regulations to remove legal uncertainty over exactly when doctors can perform an abortion if a woman’s life is at risk, the Times reported.
Legislation will be drafted in the new year. The Irish parliament’s health committee will debate it before it will be voted on in the Dáil. Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, has ruled out giving a free vote on the legislation to members of the government.
Several members of Kenny’s Fine Gael party have called for a free vote and several have threatened to vote against any law that liberalises abortion.
Abortion is a deeply divisive issue in Ireland. The Irish have held five bitterly fought referendums on the subject since 1983. It is one of only two EU countries – the other is Malta – where women cannot have an abortion even when their lives are endangered by a pregnancy, suicide or medical conditions.
The effective ban on abortion in Ireland remains in place despite a ruling by the Irish Supreme Court in 1992 that abortion was legal under limited circumstances. This ruling was given in the so called “X” case, in which the Irish authorities imposed an injunction preventing a 14-year-old girl who was pregnant after being raped from travelling abroad for an abortion.
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