The Parliament of Ireland on Thursday passed a bill to legalise abortion, seven months after citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of getting rid of the law that banned it. The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill will now be sent to President Michael Higgins for his assent, BBC reported.
The bill was approved by the Seanad, or Senate, on Thursday, a week after the lower house, the Dail, passed it. It allows abortion “on demand” for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, in cases where the mental or physical health of the mother is a concern, or if the foetus has an abnormality. The law will be reviewed every three years.
In May, a referendum held in Ireland showed 66.4% citizens voted against the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution, which bans abortions.
“Historic moment for Irish women,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar tweeted on Friday. “Thanks to all who supported and well done to [Health Minister] Simon Harris for steering this through both Houses.”
“Just over 200 days ago, you, the people of Ireland voted to repeal the 8th so we could care for women with compassion,” Harris said. “Today we have passed the law to make this a reality. A vote to end lonely journeys, end the stigma and support women’s choices in our own country.”
Amnesty International Ireland chief Colm O’Gorman welcomed the passage of the bill, AFP reported. “We welcome the passage of this bill, and fully appreciate the importance of its enactment by year’s end so that abortion services can begin in January,” he said. “Women have waited 35 years for this, the daily violations of their human rights must come to an end.”
One of the cases from Ireland that caught global attention was that of 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicemia in 2012 following a miscarriage at 17 weeks. Though doctors had known she might miscarry, they refused to abort the foetus as they had detected a foetal heartbeat. Three years later, an inquiry committee revealed that Halappanavar did not receive proper medical attention and a series of wrong decisions led to her death.
After the referendum in May, Halappanavar’s parents had told The Irish Times that they were “really, really happy” with the result, and suggested that the amended law be called “Savita’s law”.