London, Jul 12 (PTI): Irish lawmakers today overwhelmingly voted in favour of a groundbreaking law that will allow abortion in limited cases in the predominantly Catholic country, following an outcry over the death of an Indian dentist after a miscarriage last year.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his coalition government pushed through the protection of life in pregnancy bill, which will allow for abortions only when a woman's life is under threat if her pregnancy continues or if she is suicidal.
The bill was voted through early morning, shortly before 12:30 am (local time), by 127 to 31 against after marathon discussions on 165 amendments.
Ireland was forced to review its abortion law in cases where the mother's life is at risk following the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October after she was denied an abortion.
An inquest into 31-year-old Savita's death earlier this year was told that a timely abortion may have saved her life.
Doctors had denied her pleas for an abortion, even though her uterus had ruptured, because the 17-week-old foetus still had a heartbeat. By the time it stopped, Halappanavar had already contracted lethal septicaemia or blood poisoning, investigations into her death later revealed.
Pro-choice and anti-abortion groups have already threatened court cases to challenge the new law, The Guardian reported. The debate revealed deep splits in the predominantly Catholic country.
Opponents said the bill, which still needs the Upper House's approval, could lead to more widespread abortions.
Others argue the bill is too limited as it does not allow for terminations in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality. Nor does it allow for termination when the foetus cannot survive outside the womb.
Anti-abortion campaigners have argued that the bill will allow the intentional killing of the unborn for the first time in the Republic of Ireland. The Irish High Court yesterday refused to grant an injunction aimed at stopping provisions of the abortion bill being voted into law.
The legislation which passed through the Dail after 24 hours of debate will not stop the annual abortion trail from Ireland to Britain.
According to Irish department of health figures released yesterday, about 4,000 Irish women travelled to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies last year. They included 124 who were under 18.