Irish Government Announces Change in Abortion Laws

On Tuesday, the Irish government announced that it will draft new legislation to clarify the country’s restrictive abortion ban. The news comes after international pressure and two on-going inquiries following the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying.

In a statement released by the Irish health department, the government affirmed that it will draft legislation that “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.” Health Minister Dr. James Reilly spoke with reporters on the government’s decision to draft new legislation. “I know that most people have personal views on this matter,” he said. “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.”

Though there is little talk of expanding exceptions to the ban, this move on behalf of the Irish government seemed impossible to many pro-choice activists. James Burke, a member of the Termination for Medical Reasons Ireland campaign, told the LA Times, “We can see our government will be taking this issue seriously. It’s definitely a step forward.” He continued that in light of Halappanavar’s death many people are becoming aware of what issues there are with vague legislation. “We hope it opens the door to more discussion in the future,” he said.

Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. 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).


An Roinn Sláinte Health Department Press Release 12/18/12; LA Times 12/18/12; Feminist Newswire 11/14/12

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