Ireland to revamp abortion laws after Savita's death

DUBLIN Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:06am IST

1 of 3. Andanappa Yalagi, father of Savita Halappanavar holds her portrait as he poses for a picture at their house in Belgaum in November 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui/Files

Related Topics

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Laws allowing limited access to abortion will be introduced in Ireland, the only EU member state that bans the procedure, following the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar who was refused a termination, the government said on Tuesday.

The death last month of Halappanavar, who was denied an abortion of her dying foetus and later died of blood poisoning, shocked the predominantly Roman Catholic country and spurred the government to act on an issue it had delayed for decades.

Abortion was banned in all circumstances by a constitutional amendment in 1983, but when challenged by a 14-year-old rape victim in the so-called "X-case" nine years later, the Supreme Court ruled a termination was permitted when the woman's life was at risk, including from suicide.

Successive governments sidestepped the politically divisive issue of clarifying the circumstances under which the mother's life could be judged to be at risk. Some members of the ruling Fine Gael party have indicated that they may not be able to back the new legislation.

"The drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case," the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The legislation should provide the clarity and certainty in relation to the process of deciding when a termination of pregnancy is permissible, that is where there is a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the woman."

The death of Halapannavar, an Indian living in Ireland, highlighted the lack of clarity in Irish law that leaves doctors in a legally risky position and re-ignited the abortion debate, leading to large protests by both pro-choice and pro-life groups outside parliament and around the country.

The European Court of Human Rights said in 2010 that Ireland must clarify its law, a ruling which led to the commissioning of an experts' report which said a woman was still only lawfully entitled to an abortion when there was a real and substantial risk to her life.

Members of Prime Minister Enda Kenny's conservative Fine Gael party, including minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, have expressed particular misgivings that the inclusion of suicide in any new legislation could lead to abortion on demand.

There was no specific reference to the risk of suicide as grounds for an abortion in the government's statement which said further decisions would be made at a later stage relating to "policy matters that will inform the drafting of the legislation"

Kenny has said that he expects the government to vote as one on the issue, meaning that any defectors could be expelled from his party.

While this would be unlikely to threaten the government's large majority, it would be a blow after the junior coalition Labour Party, which has campaigned for a clarification of the country's abortion rules, expelled its fifth member in less than two years last week for voting against budget cuts.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Michael Roddy)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Republic Day

Reuters Showcase

RK Laxman Dead

RK Laxman Dead

'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93  Full Article 

Banking Revolution

Banking Revolution

India turns to corner shops, mobile phones for banking revolution.  Full Article 

Nuclear Group

Nuclear Group

China urges India to take steps to satisfy standards of NSG  Full Article 

Gold Market

Gold Market

Chinese gold demand holds up ahead of holiday, Indian buying weak  Full Article 

India-U.S. Relations

India-U.S. Relations

Column - U.S. and India should join to balance China's rise  Full Article 

Padma Bhushan

Padma Bhushan

India honours Bill Gates with civilian award  Full Article 

Fashionable Modi

Fashionable Modi

When Modi met Obama, his name was all over - his suit  Full Article 

New Greek PM

New Greek PM

Greek leftist Tsipras sworn in as PM to fight bailout terms  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Venus fireworks illuminate Australia Day  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage