President Michael D Higgins signs Ireland’s new abortion bill into law

President Michael D. Higgins

President Michael D. Higgins has signed off on a new bill that will allow abortions in Ireland under certain circumstances.

The Protection of Life During Presidency Bill 2013 will provide for a woman's right to an abortion if her life is at risk, including the risk of suicide.

The bill was signed without referring it to the supreme court after Higgins met with his advisors, the Council of State.

This piece of legislation comes as a result of increasing public outcry against Ireland's refusal to allow terminations, even in the event that the pregnancy poses a danger to the woman.

In the past year, there have been two very public deaths as a result of disallowed terminations in Ireland. Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who died in October after being denied an abortion despite a miscarriage, and an unnamed Irish resident who died in a taxi in London after traveling to the UK for a termination.

This decision comes down after the bill was first passed in a landslide vote in the Irish parliament. The bill seeks to satisfy a 1992 Supreme Court judgement known as the 'X case' wherein a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant was refused travel to the UK for an abortion.

Higgins’s decision to sign the bill into law was met with mixed reactions from activist groups and politicians alike. The Journal quotes Eamon Gilmore as calling the passage of the bill “a key milestone in Irish law,” and a “historic moment, particularly for the women of Ireland.” On the other side of the coin, Independent TD Mattie McGrath found the passage “on the one hand deeply regrettable but on the other hand it has now paved the way for legal challenges to commence.”

The Pro Life Campaign were not nearly so pleased with the legislation, calling it “a very sad day for [Ireland],” and saying that the group will now “devote its energies to the repeal” of the law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights were glad to hear about the new law’s passage, but still called on the government to work harder “in order to fulfill women’s fundamental human rights to health and reproductive autonomy.”

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