Is Ireland’s new abortion bill really such a big change?

In the predominantly Roman Catholic country, Irish opinion is deeply polarised on the issue. (Dan K)

In the predominantly Roman Catholic country, Irish opinion is deeply polarised on the issue (Dan K)

RADIO:

Last Friday, Irish lawmakers overwhelmingly approved abortion for the first time in limited cases, where the mother’s life is at risk, in a vote that revealed deep divisions.

However, many are angry at the proposed changes. Even some pro-choice campaigners have called it a “total disappointment”, arguing that the bill will barely change women’s lives in Ireland. 

The abortion debate continues to be incredibly emotive for many.

Some consider abortion a fundamental human right for women, whilst others view it as tantamount to murder.

Over the last few months Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he has faced death threats and received several notes written in blood criticising the new legislation.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 is a first for Ireland.

It allows for terminations if a mother is at risk of suicide.

However, it still will not allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, or when there is a foetal abnormality.

Yet pro-life campaigners say that the bill’s provisions to allow doctors to abort a foetus if a woman is suicidal is too broad, and will open Ireland up to too many abortions.

Currently, doctors risk being criminalised if they abort a foetus in the wrong circumstances. Both the doctor and the woman risk 14 years in jail.

Savita Halappanavar

This uncertainty was highlighted in October last year, when Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old woman died in an Irish hospital in Galway. She was rushed to hospital whilst having a miscarriage, and asked to have an abortion.

However, she was refused and she died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband said that doctors said they were not clear whether her circumstances gave them the right to abort.

Some pro-choice activists fear that doctors will still be left in the same dilemma.

Last Friday, I reported on the proposed new legislation for the Voice of Russia radio.

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