Ireland on Tuesday adopted a long-awaited law to allow abortion under limited circumstances after President Michael D. Higgins gave his assent to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill passed by Parliament recently.

It follows widespread outrage over the death of Savita Halappanavar, a young Indian dentist, in an Irish hospital last October after being refused abortion despite apparent risk to her life. An inquiry found that she could have been saved if doctors had agreed to her request for termination.

Pro-choice campaigners hailed it as a victory though they said it did not go far enough. They praised the President for acting so quickly considering that he received the bill only a few days ago and was not required to make a decision until midnight on Wednesday. He could have also sent it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.

The new law would permit abortion if the mother’s life is in danger. It would also extend to women who are deemed suicidal if refused abortion. In effect, it simply gives effect to a 1992 Supreme Court ruling allowing doctors to perform abortion to save a mother’s life. Successive governments failed to legislate on it because of fierce opposition from the aggressive pro-life lobby.

Call to repeal law

Anti-abortion groups threatened to launch a campaign to demand the “repeal of this unjust law”. Caroline Simons of the Pro-Life Campaign group called it a “very sad day”.

For the first time “it is now legal to deliberately target the life of an innocent human being”, she said.

More In: World | International | News