DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish government ministers agreed draft legislation yesterday to allow for limited access to abortion where a woman’s life is in danger, including the threat of suicide, a proposal that has already divided the country’s ruling coalition.
Ireland’s two-decade-old debate over how the government should deal with a Supreme Court ruling that abortion be permitted when a woman’s life was at risk was re-opened last year following the death of a woman who was denied an abortion of her dying foetus.
Successive governments had sidestepped acting on the ruling, the result of a challenge by a 14-year-old rape victim in the so-called “X-case” of 1992 to a constitutional amendment nine years earlier that intended to ban abortion in all instances.
However the death of Savita Halappanavar and subsequent large-scale protests from both sides of the debate spurred ministers into action despite misgivings among some members of Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s conservative Fine Gael party.
The case of Halappanavar, an Indian dentist living in Ireland, highlighted the lack of clarity in Irish law that leaves doctors in a legally risky position. Critics have said this means their personal beliefs can play a role.