Ireland passes controversial abortion law

Deep divisions in Ireland begin to show as MPs vote to pass a new abortion law that allows termination in limited cases.

    A hotly debated abortion bill that will allow women in Ireland to terminate pregnancies in very limited circumstances has been passed by legislators.

    The bill, which has been the subject of polarising arguments for several months, was passed by the lower house with a clear majority on Friday with 127 voting in favour and 31 against after hours of debate including an all-night sitting.

    The bill will allow abortions to be carried out when the woman's life is at risk.

    Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who was sent letters written in blood during the debate, has provoked a strong backlash from both sides by pushing for access to abortion when a woman's life is in danger.

    Those in favour of abortion rights feel the bill does not go far enough.

    The Irish leader had said that anyone in his party voting against the bill would lose their job, resulting in the departure of Europe minister Lucinda Creighton who refused to vote in favour of the law.

    "When it comes to something that is essentially a matter of life and death, I think it is not really possible to compromise," Creighton told state broadcaster RTE after the vote.

    'Emotive issue'

    The upper house, which has limited powers and is dominated by Kenny's centre-right Fine Gael, is expected to rubber-stamp the decision, after which it will become law.

    Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela, reporting from Dublin, said the departure of the minister was likely to make more headlines than the historic legislation.

    "This bill has been decades in the making," she said.

    "The right for a woman to have a life-saving abortion has existed for decades, but no government has been brave enough to enshrine it in law.

    "Politicians who voted against the bill hold anti-abortion beliefs and the Fine Gael party lost four members refusing to vote along party lines.

    "This is a very emotive issue here in Ireland."

    Abortion laws in Ireland, which is predominantly Catholic, became the focus of global attention and intense debate following the death of 31-year-old Indian woman Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October.

    Halappanavar had sought a termination when told she was miscarrying, but the request was refused as her life was not at risk at the time.

    She later died of sepsis days after miscarrying.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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