Skip to main content

Irish Parliament passes exception to abortion ban

By Michael Martinez and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
A protester displays a banner against Ireland's abortion laws in Dublin on November 24.
A protester displays a banner against Ireland's abortion laws in Dublin on November 24.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Human Rights Watch says the bill fails women in Ireland by not going far enough
  • The final bill includes a provision allowing abortion if the mother is at risk of suicide
  • The majority government supports the bill
  • Conservative and progressive lawmakers argue over various amendments

(CNN) -- Irish lawmakers overwhelmingly passed new legislation early Friday that allows abortions if the mother's life is at risk.

Members of Parliament in the devoutly Catholic country spent hours before its passage debating the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013. The vote was 127-31 in favor of the bill.

Conservative and progressive lawmakers argued over amendments to the draft law.

Religious lawmakers and church leaders are upset over a provision allowing abortion if a pregnant woman is acutely at risk of committing suicide. They called it a "Trojan horse" leading to easy abortion access and wanted it removed, but the provision was included in the final bill, according to The Irish Times.

Ireland abortion bill vote
Historic abortion vote planned in Ireland

A woman can't just threaten to commit suicide and expect to receive an abortion, according to the bill. Two psychiatrists and an obstetrician must certify that the risk of suicide is "real and substantial."

Female lawmakers introduced an amendment to permit abortions if a woman becomes pregnant after incest or rape, but later shelved it when it ran into resistance, the Times reported.

In its final provisions, the bill underlines existing Irish laws to protect the fetus.

"It shall be an offense to intentionally destroy unborn human life," it reads. A woman who violates the law could face a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The bill has proved divisive even within the government. European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, who was opposed to elements of the legislation, resigned Thursday, Prime Minister Enda Kenny confirmed.

Doctors and hospital personnel involved in illegal abortions face the same punishment, according to the bill.

Woman's death in Ireland abortion case ruled 'medical misadventure'

The issue was brought to the forefront last year when a 31-year-old woman died after doctors refused to perform a life-saving abortion.

Savita Halappanavar went into a hospital in Galway, Ireland, in October, complaining of severe back pain.

Doctors established Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, was having a miscarriage. But they did not terminate the pregnancy, afraid the law would not allow it.

Three days after the request for a termination was made, the fetus died and was removed. Four days later, Savita died of a blood infection.

Public outrage over her death likely hastened the passage of the new legislation.

It was proposed after a 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, but had been moving slowly through the legislative system.

The European Court of Human Rights found that Ireland's failure to regulate access to abortion had led to a violation of its human rights obligations.

Twenty years ago, the Irish Supreme Court ruled abortions are allowed when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.

But the ruling was never enacted into law, meaning there was little clarity for doctors or patients as to when an abortion could not take place.

Human Rights Watch said the new legislation failed Ireland's women by not going far enough to reform the country's abortion laws.

It did "the bare minimum" to comply with the European court ruling, and did not address other issues such as the rights of women who are pregnant as a result of rape, it said in a statement.

"The new law does add clarity, but requiring women to seek multiple approvals from health professionals may delay or defeat access to legal abortions," said Gauri van Gulik, women's rights advocate for Human Rights Watch.

"Ultimately it does little to improve the draconian restrictions on abortions."

Husband testifies his wife died after abortion was denied in Ireland

Opinion: If Ireland had abortion rights

CNN's Peter Taggart in Ireland contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 9:30 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Tucked away near the border with Cameroon, this poor corner of Nigeria is no stranger to such brazen, violent acts.
updated 8:34 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
An infant mountain Gorilla sits in the dense jungle canopy on the edge of Uganda's Bwindi National Park in this 29, January 2007 photo. Bwindi, or the 'Impenetrable Forest' as it is known to many tourists is home to the majority of Uganda's rare and endangered mountain gorilla population where plans are underway to habituate two more gorilla family groups to counter growing demand from a flourishing gorilla trek tourism business, a major source of income for the Uganda tourism Authority. AFP PHOTO / STUART PRICE. (Photo credit should read STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)
Tthe constant threat of poaching, deforestation and human diseases means the world's mountain gorillas could be completely wiped out.
updated 9:33 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Prince George takes a special interest in an Australian animal on a zoo trip.
updated 10:02 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
How could a teenage stowaway survive hours in a jet's sub-zero wheel well at 38,000 feet?
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
updated 6:58 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
See what life is like for superyacht stewardesses-in-training. One thing's for certain -- they can never say "no."
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Home of Bruce Lee, divine dim sum, lofty buildings, loftier real estate prices and easy access to the great outdoors.
ADVERTISEMENT