News from Europe

Irish abortion bill passes final stage in senate

A bill to legalise abortion services in the Republic of Ireland has passed all stages of the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament). On Thursday evening the report and final stages of the bill passed in the Seanad (Irish Senate), reports Irish Broadcaster RTÉ. The Seanad spent nine hours debating the bill on Thursday.


The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill will now be given to the President to be signed into law.

The Republic of Ireland overturned its abortion ban in a referendum in May 2018.  The Republic of Ireland then voted overwhelmingly to overturn the abortion ban by 66.4% to 33.6%. So far, abortion was only allowed when a woman’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality.

The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill allows for abortion services to be provided “on demand” up to the 12th week of a pregnancy, in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality or where the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Since the bill’s introduction at first stage in October, there have been some minor changes, including a decision to review the legislation after three years, rather than five years as was originally planned.

Two different doctors will be allowed to assess a woman in early pregnancy and the offences section has been moved from the front of the bill. 

Conscientious physicians objectors may avoid participating in abortions themselves, as the procedure will be performed by doctors who opt in. However, conscientious objectors would have to refer to participating colleagues. 

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ who were meeting in Maynooth last week, issued a statement expressing their dismay that “the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored.”

“Every one of us has a right to life. It is not given to us by the Constitution of Ireland or by any law. We have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick,” they continued. “The direct and intentional taking of human life at any stage is gravely wrong and can never be justified.”

The bishops said that “any law which suggests otherwise would have no moral force,” they said. “In good conscience it cannot be supported and would have to be resisted.”



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