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Irish President Signs Abortion Bill Allowing Procedure When Woman's Life is at Risk

Irish President Signs Abortion Bill Allowing Procedure When Woman's Life is at Risk

July 31, 2013 — Irish President Michael Higgins on Tuesday signed into law a bill that continues to ban most abortions but allows the procedure to save a woman's life, the AP/WKYT reports. Under the legislation, abortion would also be permitted if there was a medical consensus that a woman would commit suicide if the pregnancy continued (AP/WKYT, 7/30).

Earlier this month, Ireland's parliament voted 127-31 to pass the bill and send it to Higgins, who could either sign it or ask the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality. For the first time since taking office, Higgins called for a meeting with the Council of State, which consists of about 25 current and former senior office holders and presidential appointees, to help him decide what to do with the bill (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/26).

According to BBC News, Higgins met with the council for four hours before deciding to sign the bill instead of referring it to the Supreme Court. He faced a deadline of Wednesday to make a decision (BBC News, 7/30).

Abortion-rights opponents likely will seek a Supreme Court challenge to the law, the AP/WKYT reports.

Previously, the country's only abortion-related legislation had been inherited from 1867 British law that banned the procedure and allowed a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for those who violated the statute. The new law changes the maximum sentence to 14 years (AP/WKYT, 7/30).

The bill was spurred in part by public outrage over the death of Savita Halappanavar in October 2012 after she was denied an abortion at an Irish hospital (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/26).