Ireland to legalise abortion: Terminations will be allowed if a woman feels "suicidal"

Ireland to LEGALISE abortion: Terminations will be allowed if a woman feels 'suicidal'Legislation comes after dentist died from septicaemia after her miscarriage

|

UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 18 December 2012


Tragic: Savita Halappanavar died after Irish surgeons refused to remove her miscarrying baby on grounds it is a Catholic country

Tragic: Savita Halappanavar died after Irish surgeons refused to remove her miscarrying baby on grounds it is a Catholic country

Ireland is to legalise some abortions after the death of a pregnant woman who was refused a termination.

It was announced yesterday that the Dublin government would legislate to decriminalise abortion if the mother’s life was at risk.

Reforms are expected to include the threat of suicide as a ground for abortion but may not extend to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The country has the strictest abortion laws in Europe and any move to change them is expected to face strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

Doctors previously had the discretion to abort a pregnancy if they believed the mother’s life was in immediate danger.

But campaigners claimed they were often unwilling to intervene because of legislation that made abortion a criminal act, leaving doctors open to prosecution.

There was a huge public outcry seven weeks ago when Savita Halappanavar, 31, died after she was refused an abortion, even though her pregnancy had begun to miscarry.

Her husband Praveen claimed doctors refused to intervene for almost three days because her unborn baby still had a heartbeat, and allegedly told the couple: ‘This is a Catholic country.’

Mrs Halappanavar, a dentist, died in Galway University Hospital from blood poisoning, four days after doctors removed the dead foetus. Under the Irish constitution, an embryo is officially an Irish citizen from conception and has full legal rights, even if doctors believe there is no hope it will survive the full term of the pregnancy.

So happy: Savita her husband, Praveen, who was left devastated after losing his wife and their daughter

So happy: Savita her husband, Praveen, who was left devastated after losing his wife and their daughter

The abortion ban has forced thousands
of Irish women to travel abroad for terminations, including victims of
rape and incest and women who have been told their babies will be born
dead or with fatal abnormalities.

The latest figures from the Department
of Health showed 4,149 Irish women came to England and Wales for
abortions in 2011. Charities warned the true number could be far higher,
as some women do not declare they are from the Republic of Ireland.

In a statement, Irish health minister
James Reilly said he was ‘very conscious of the sensitivities’
surrounding the controversial issue.

He said: ‘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.

Investigation: A statue of St Patrick outside University Hospital in Galway, where Savita died

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to the media during a press conference, where he spoke about the death of Savita Halappanavar, at Government Buildings, Dublin.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) addressed the Irish Government after Savita's death at University Hospital, Galway (left)

Protest: Anti-abortion campaigners hold placards in Dublin following Savita's death

Protest: Anti-abortion campaigners hold placards in Dublin following Savita's death

‘For that purpose, we will clarify in
legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a
woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life.

‘We will also clarify what is legal
for the professionals who must provide that care, while at all times
taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.’

But the Iona Institute campaign group
said it would be wrong to allow abortion to prevent suicide. Spokesman
Maria Steen said: ‘If the Government introduces abortion to Ireland on
the grounds of suicidal intent, it will have crossed a moral rubicon.’

Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister,
said draft legislation would be published in the New Year and that the
government whip would be applied to MPs in the ruling Fine Gael party to
ensure the controversial law was passed.