DUBLIN (AFP) – Irish lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly approved abortion for the first time in limited cases where the mother’s life is at risk, in a vote that revealed deep divisions in the predominantly Catholic nation.
The change was prompted by the death last year of an Indian woman due to complications from her pregnancy, but more broadly ends years of uncertainty over the legal status of terminations in Ireland.
Legislators voted through the bill by 127 to 31 against in the early hours after two days of marathon debate in parliament. It will now go to a vote in the upper house, where the government has a majority.
But in a sign of the rifts that remain on the issue, a junior minister quit her post after voting against the bill and faces exclusion from Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s ruling Fine Gael party.
Kenny revealed recently he had received abusive letters written in blood and opponents of the bill have branded him a murderer, while 35,000 abortion opponents marched in Dublin on Saturday.
“I am deeply disappointed to have to vote against the government’s abortion bill today,” said Lucinda Creighton, junior minister with responsibility for European Affairs in Kenny’s cabinet.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill allows for abortion in circumstances where doctors certify there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, as opposed to a risk to her health.
It also permits a termination when one obstetrician and two psychiatrists unanimously agree that an expectant mother is a suicide risk.
The “suicide clause” in particular has divided society, with some anti-termination lawmakers warning that it will lead to a more liberal abortion regime in Ireland.
The bill follows a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that found Ireland failed to properly implement the constitutional right to abortion where a woman’s life is at risk.