President of Ireland signed the Abortion Bill into Law

Jul 31, 2013 17:58 IST

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins on 31 July 2013 signed the bill (Government’s Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill) into law. The bill, overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Irish parliament in July 2013, permits abortions only in cases where doctors deem the woman's life at risk from continued pregnancy. The law comes in the wake of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, on 28 October 2012 of blood poisoning as a result of a miscarriage. Savita was reportedly denied a potentially life-saving abortion. The new legislation, which replaces 146 years old British era law, also permits abortions to alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a woman's own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination.

Till recently, Ireland's only legislation on abortion was a handed-down British law from 1867, outlawing the practice with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The new maximum sentence is 14 years.

Higgins convened a meeting of the Council of State on 29 July 2013 to seek its advice on the bill, which he could have opted to send to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality. The meeting, chaired by the President, was attended by 21 members of the 24-strong council. The 21 persons who attended, including seven members of the judiciary, still made it the biggest council since the Constitution came into effect in 1937.

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