Early Friday morning, Irish lawmakers passed a bill allowing abortions if the mother’s life is in danger. For the first time the Roman Catholic country approved a bill in the lower house of the parliament (Dail) in a 127 to 31 vote. The controversial bill will allow a woman to terminate her pregnancy if two physicians can verify that there is a “real and substantial” risk to the mother’s health in continuing with the pregnancy. Only one physician’s verification is necessary if the health risks to the mother are immediate. One of the more controversial aspects of the bill is the provision that allows three physicians to approve a termination if the woman is in danger of committing suicide due to the pregnancy.
This legislation was prompted by the preventable death of Savita Halappanavar in November 2012. Halappanavar was 17-weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Doctors determined that she was miscarrying, and despite serious threats to her health, the physicians refused to remove the fetus because there was a heartbeat. After the heartbeat stopped, she was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of a condition similar to blood poisoning.
Many countries in the world are now facing debates on abortion laws. Most recently, an 11-year-old Chilean girl who was raped and faces serious health risks if she chooses to continue the pregnancy has sparked serious debate in her country. And a woman from El Salvador was forced to challenge the country’s Supreme Court in order to receive an abortion that would save her life, in which the court rejected.