On Wednesday, the Irish parliament unveiled the Protection of Life In Pregnancy Bill which clarifies when a woman can have a life-saving abortion.
Under the new bill, women can terminate a pregnancy when there is a significant threat to her life, including suicide. In the case of an emergency, a single doctor can approve and perform the abortion. In non-emergency cases, a woman would have to get the approval of two doctors that the pregnancy poses a significant threat to her life and abortion is the only option. In cases where a woman is suicidal, she must have the approval of a doctor and two psychiatrists that the threat of suicide is legitimate. The bill will now be debated in committee.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, was quick to clarify that the bill would not alter Ireland’s current laws on abortion. “This bill restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland,” he said at a press conference. “The law on abortion in Ireland is not being changed.” Currently abortion in all cases is prohibited, including rape, incest, or severe, non-viable fetal abnormality. The only except is when a woman’s life it at risk as a result of the 1992 Irish Supreme Court decision, known as the X Case.
The barriers to terminating a life-threatening pregnancy in Ireland gained international attention last year when a woman died after being denied an abortion. Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain in October 2012. Hospital staff determined she was miscarrying, however doctors refused to remove the pregnancy until three days later. After the pregnancy was removed, Savita was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of what was determined to be septicaemia (similar to blood poisoning).