Irish lawmakers voted today in favor of a bill that would allow abortion in cases where the pregnancy is life threatening. Abortion is otherwise illegal in Ireland. The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that abortions are allowed to save the parent’s life. But the new bill is necessary because the court’s ruling hasn’t been effective in allowing abortion even in life threatening cases. We saw the tragedy Ireland’s abortion ban can lead to last year, when Savita Halappanavar died because she was denied a life saving abortion following an incomplete miscarriage.
The bill passed its first vote today, 138-24, and faces final approval next week. Even if it becomes law, this bill is only a first step. Restricting abortion to cases where it can be proved that pregnancy is potentially deadly is still not OK. But this first step is important in a country where abortion has been banned outright, and where religion has been deployed as an excuse to restrict reproductive rights. Ideally, this vote helps build momentum to allow full, legal abortion access in Ireland.