The Catholic Church has reacted with dismay following the 127 to 31 vote passed in Ireland’s government on Thursday to legalize abortion in certain circumstances.

The new bill satisfies a 1992 Supreme Court judgement known as the “X Case”, when a suicidal 14-year-old was raped and refused travel to Britain to have an abortion. The new bill will allow doctors to carry out abortions if the mother’s life is at risk, including the risk of suicide.

Following the vote the Associated Press reported that Catholic conservatives vowed to drive Fine Gael, the leading party in Irish Government, out for violating their 2011 elections campaign pledge not to legislate on abortion.

Bishop Bill Leahy, of Limerick, said people should challenge the new bill.

He told Vatican Radio “People of course will say [the bill] is limited, but we know from the experiences of countries around the world that even with the most restrictive regimes of abortion once it is introduced it tends to expand dramatically.

“That is our concern. We are very concerned, naturally, with the unborn.

“Apart from legal issues or specific political moves in this or that country, and we have it here now in Ireland, we [the bishops] are still promoters of life and I think that, for us, is always going to be a priority.

“After that we will have to see what course this law will take, and I noted already this morning politicians already raising the point that the constitutionality of this legislation is probably in question, so that will be something that I think all people in Ireland will be interested in, in seeing how that plays out.”

Speaking about the so called “suicide clause” he said “There is now some medical evidence to say that if a person who is suicidal is told to go and have an abortion that it is even more detrimental to their personal health.”

Others against the Bill believe that the legislation “fails women”.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) told Reuters that the new law “neither reforms nor adds grounds for legal abortion, nor does it address other rights issues women in need of abortion in Ireland face.

“A woman pregnant as a result of rape, for example, or whose pregnancy is not viable, still can’t get a legal abortion in Ireland.”

Mara Clarke, director of the London-based Abortion Support Network told the Guardian newspaper “Even if this law is enacted, only a very, very small percentage of women who need abortions will be able to access them in Ireland.”

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