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Ireland to legalise abortions that save mothers

Date

Bruno Waterfield

Calling for legal abortions ... rights protesters in Dublin.

Calling for legal abortions ... rights protesters in Dublin. Photo: Shawn Pogatchnik

DUBLIN: Ireland will legalise abortions when the mother's life is at risk, including when suicidal, following the death of a woman refused the procedure while undergoing a miscarriage.

Ireland's cabinet took the decision on Tuesday after a public outcry over the death of Savita Halappanavar, 31. She died of septicemia. Her repeated requests for a termination had been refused by doctors who reportedly told her: ''This is a Catholic country.''

The government will repeal the legislation that criminalises abortion and introduce regulations setting out when doctors can perform the procedure. This will be when a woman's life is regarded as being at risk, including the threat of suicide.

Died ... Savita Halappanavar.

Died ... Savita Halappanavar. Photo: Supplied

The Irish Health Minister, James Reilly, said the government was aware of the controversy surrounding the issue, but the safety of pregnant women had to be ''strengthened''.

''I know that most people have personal views on this matter. However, the government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfil our duty of care towards them,'' he said.

Ireland's abortion laws are the strictest in Europe and the proposed legislation will stoke furious debate. The Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, said draft legislation would be published in the new year with a view to having legislation ready by Easter.

The government whip would be applied to MPs in the ruling Fine Gael party, which is deeply divided over the proposals. ''There will be no free vote on this,'' Mr Kenny said.

Under present law abortion is a criminal act unless it occurs as the result of a medical intervention performed to save the life of the mother.

However, until now the government has not enacted legislation to give certainty to doctors as to when terminations can be carried out and under what circumstances.

The new moves are intended to bring legal clarity to the issue.

The legislation will be drafted to comply with a landmark ruling in the European Court of Human Rights two years ago and a 1992 Irish Supreme Court decision in the ''X case''.

This ruling overturned an injunction preventing a 14-year-old girl, who had been raped and was suicidal because she could not get a legal abortion, from travelling to Britain to have her pregnancy terminated.

Telegraph, London

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