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Ireland to allow abortion for women at risk

Posted on Dec 19, 01:48PM | IBNS

Ireland said it would make new legislation to allow abortions in limited circumstances when women are at risk of dying, a move that was unthinkable in the past in the Catholic nation and was prompted by a European court ruling and worldwide criticism over the death of an Indian woman denied termination of pregancy despite her serious health status from a miscarriage.

Savita Halappanavar, a dentist, died in October after she was denied an abortion despite repeated requests. The woman was miscarrying but when the dead foetus was removed and Savita was taken to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, she died of septicaemia on Oct 28.

According to reports on Tuesday, the decision by the Irish government followed pressure from the European Court of Human Rights.

Ireland's Department of Health said: "Having considered the report of the of the Expert Group on the judgment in A, B and C v Ireland the Government has decided that the implementation of this judgement by way of legislation with regulations offers the most appropriate method for dealing with the issue."

"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. It was also agreed to make appropriate amendments to the criminal law in this area," it said.

"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 and this risk can only be averted by the termination of her pregnancy."

The Government has also noted and agreed to the request from the Health Minister Dr James Reilly for further decisions at a later stage related to policy matters that will inform the drafting of the legislation.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Minister Reilly said he was very conscious of the sensitivities around the issue. "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."

"We must fulfill our duty of care towards them. 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."

The Minister went on to say that "today the Government has decided the form of action to be taken. We will not preempt the debate that must follow by speculating on details to be decided later in the process."

The European Court of Human Rights had said that abortions should be allowed by the Catholic country when a woman's life is endangered.

However, it is not clear if abortion would be allowed to victims of rape who got pregnant.

Praveen Halappanavar, the husband of Savita, has been demanding justice for his wife's death.

Savita, a dentist, came on October 21 with back pain at Galway University Hospital where she was found to be miscarrying at 17 weeks.

Praveen Halappanavar, an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, said she had asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. This was refused, he said, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told: "This is a Catholic country".

An inquiry was ordered into the case and against the hospital and Praveen had demanded that truth should come out.