Irish Cabinet Rules to Update Abortion Laws

Sadly it took the death of a healthy woman to ignite the outrage over Ireland’s lack of abortion legislation, but a decision has finally been made.

In 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled that having an abortion was a woman’s right when her life was at risk, this risk included suicide. However, because Ireland is a Catholic country, and the ruling was never made into an actual piece of legislation it was never acted upon. Until now that is. CNN reports that Ireland’s Minister of Health, James Reilly announced Tuesday in a statement that,

Ireland’s government is to introduce a new law and regulations to clarify that abortions are permissible when the life — but not health — of the mother is at risk. [Reilly is] aware of the strength of feeling around the issue of abortion, but that the government had a duty to ensure the safety of pregnant women in Ireland. For that purpose, we will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman’s life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child.

This monumental decision, made Tuesday morning in a Cabinet meeting, came about after the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who moved from India to Ireland with her husband several years ago, turned an international spotlight on the controversy in Ireland. Halappanavar died from blood poisoning after her Doctors refused to abort the fetus she was miscarrying.

The government is acting based on a report by the Guttmacher Institute which is an internationally recognized expert group on abortion. This report was commissioned after a judgment made by the European Court of Human Rights. The Guttmacher report states,

Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates … Where abortion is legal on broad grounds, it is generally safe, and where it is illegal in most circumstances, it is generally unsafe.

Although it is likely to be several months before the proposed legislation is finalized, it is a step in the right direction and signifies progress for not only women but men as well. The more an individual is allowed to control their own fertility and reproductive choices the better the life outcome is for all involved.


Photo: alexandralee/Flickr

More on Savita Halappanavar:

Video: Man Whose Wife Died From Being Denied an Abortion Speaks Out

About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.


  1. @wellokaythen
    Hi – yes indeed we do ‘outsource’ terminations, mostly to the UK. Figures are compiled by the UK authorities of women having abortions there but giving addresses in Ireland. At least 143,000 women from Ireland have had terminations in the UK since our constitution was changed in 1983 to recognise the rights of the ‘unborn’.

    The law in Northern Ireland is different to that in the Republic. These recent articles from The Irish Times may be useful.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    I wonder if the laws are different in Northern Ireland? There must be data on the number of Irish women who simply go to the UK to have an abortion. To some degree, Ireland is just outsourcing pregnancy terminations.

  3. WHAT? Ireland’s lack of abortion legislation ?

    Has no-one in the USA never heard of case law? … er Precedent? … as in the things followed by courts including United States Supreme Court?

    “precedent” as a “rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases.” – (PayWall)

    Anyone would think the Irish are incompetent savages…. and as I have Irish Descent I’m Peed Off! I wish some would leave their knee jerks to the world abortion at home when they go to work and use a keyboard. It’s amazing how much reality just gets edited out and false ideas edited in!

    • The right to an abortion when the mother’s life is in danger is guaranteed by the Irish constitution, but there’s no legislation outlining the circumstances that constitute danger. Importantly, that meagre provision only exists because it was a concession made by the right-wingers who drafted the amendment seeking a total ban on abortions. The lack of clarity can only be explained by the cynicism and cowardice of the Irish political class. Without clarifying laws, the right-wingers that make up the Irish supreme court are free to legislate from the bench.

      We all love Ireland, sure, but the Catholic church’s history of authoritarian repression there has been nothing short of despicable.

  4. Hi Kathryn – this isn’t over yet. There’s already been a backlash against the proposal from Ireland’s most senior Catholic archbishops and everyone is expecting quite a vicious (and well-funded) campaign against the proposals by anti-choice campaigners. It’s a move in the right direction. The law here as it stands is a mess, to put it mildly. Watch closely over the coming months.

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      Elaine, thank you so much for the comment! I figured there would be some pretty angry responses but I guess I didn’t expect it quite so quickly…I should have known better though, they have probably been preparing for this for a while now. I will be watching for sure!

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