Irish lawmakers on Friday voted in favour of a groundbreaking law that will allow abortion in limited cases in the predominantly Catholic country, following an outcry over the death of an Indian dentist after a miscarriage in 2012.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his coalition
government pushed through the protection of life in pregnancy bill, which will allow for abortions only when a woman's life is under threat if her pregnancy continues or if she is suicidal.
The bill was voted through early morning, shortly before 12:30am (local time), by 127 to 31 against after marathon discussions on 165 amendments. The vote was greeted with applause.
Prime Minister has provoked protest from both sides of the debate by pushing through a compromise that will allow abortion, but only when a woman's life is in danger. His governing party has faced down more rebels over the issue than it did over its harsh austerity measures.
"It is the very, very bare minimum of a bill, but at the same time it feels like the end of an era," said Eleanor White, 21, one of a handful of pro-abortion rights activists gathered outside Parliament, who were outnumbered by opponents of the bill.
"We are getting to the end of the role the Catholic Church has had in Ireland," she said.
Anti-abortion activists prayed and cheered deputies who opposed the bill as they left the Parliament building.
"This is a terrible crime on the heart and soul of this nation," said Rita Daly, a 56-year-old civil servant, holding a picture of an aborted foetus. "This is the intentional killing of our children, our flesh and blood."
Abortion rights opponents were particularly upset by the bill's inclusion of the risk of suicide as a possible threat to the mother's life.
The Supreme Court ruling in 1992 resulted from a challenge by a 14-year-old rape victim to a constitutional amendment nine years earlier that aimed to ban abortion in all instances.
Ireland was forced to review its abortion law in cases where the mother's life is at risk following the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital in October 2012, after she was denied an abortion.
An inquest into 31-year-old Savita's death earlier this year was told that a timely abortion may have saved her life.
Doctors had denied her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured, because the 17-week-old foetus still had a heartbeat. By the time it stopped, Halappanavar had already contracted lethal septicaemia or blood poisoning, investigations into her death later revealed.
Pro-choice and anti-abortion groups have already threatened court cases to challenge the new law, The Guardian reported.
The debate revealed deep splits in the predominantly Catholic country.
Opponents said the bill, which still needs the Upper House's approval, could lead to more widespread abortions.
Others argue the bill is too limited as it does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality. Nor does it allow for termination when the foetus cannot survive outside the womb.
Anti-abortion campaigners have argued that the bill will allow the intentional killing of the unborn for the first time in the Republic of Ireland.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)
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