Ireland Legalizes Abortion

President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland signed a bill today legalizing abortion for the first time in the country. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act will allow terminations of pregnancies in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

The law does include a woman’s own threat to commit suicide as a “life-threatening condition,” and would thus allow an abortion in that case.

The new law is an amendment to the Irish constitution, which previously banned abortion, so anti-abortion activists seeking to overturn it must seek a Supreme Court appeal, according to the New York Times

The law also amends the only preexisting law on abortion Ireland, which prohibited abortion with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The new maximum sentence is 14 years.

The passing of this bill into law comes on the heels of a massive upset over the death of Savita Halappanavar. Halappanavar died of an infection from a miscarriage after her request for an abortion was turned down. A report leaked by The Independent detailed the shortcomings of the hospital during her treatment, one of which included the staff’s failure to “consider performing an abortion – even before the couple requested it.”