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Ireland passes first abortion bill

The Irish Government has passed legislation for the first time in its history, allowing for abortion in limited circumstances.

In the predominantly Catholic country, after days of parliamentary debate, public protests, hate mail and death threats, and following a two-day marathon discussion on 165 amendments regarding the bill, it was finally passed.

127 members of the Irish Dail parliament voted in favour, while only 31 members voting against the controversial law.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill will now legally allow abortions to be performed when the mother faces life-threatening circumstances from her pregnancy and the bill also includes a suicide clause, which was one of the amendments that was most hotly debated.

In 1992 a Supreme Court rulingsaid that Irish women were legally entitled to an abortion if their lives were at stake, known in Ireland as the X case, but legislation regulating these circumstances was never passed, until now.

The abortion ban in Ireland came further under attack with legislators being forced take a stance and try to fill in the long standing legislative gap, following the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar, last October.

Halappanavar, was 17 weeks pregnant at the time when she sought termination because she was having a miscarriage, but the request was denied because her life was not considered at risk.

Doctors at the University Hospital Galwayhad told her that even if the foetus was not viable, they could not perform an abortion under Irish Law, because the foetus's heart was still beating.

A few days later Halappanavar went into septicemia, which then led to multi-organ failure and death, and shocking the public opinion into action.

Prime Minister Enda Kennysaid, "We had 21 years of inaction, 21 years of inaction. What's going on here is medical clarity and legal certainty for the women of our country who have had a constitutional right conferred upon them."

The bill will now go to a vote in the upper house, where it is expected pass.

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