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Abortion services made legal in Ireland as Michael D Higgins signs Bill into law

Hospitals will provide the services in 2019.

Image: Eamonn Farrell

PRESIDENT OF IRELAND Michael D Higgins has signed the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill into law, making abortion services legal in Ireland. 

The new legislation passed through all stages of the Oireachtas this month, completing its passage in the Seanad. 

The Act allows for terminations of pregnancy up to 12 weeks. It also provides for terminations where there is a risk to the life or a serious risk to the health of the pregnant woman. 

Women who have been given a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormalities will now be able to legally avail of early termination of pregnancy in the hospital they are being treated in. 

Eighth

The general scheme of the bill was drafted ahead of May’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment when the Irish electorate voted by 66.4% to 33.6% to remove the constitutional ban on abortion services. 

Thanking campaigners who had “fought for 35 years to change a nation, to change hearts and minds”, Health Minister Simon Harris called the passing of the bill though the Oireachtas as a “genuinely historic moment”. 

“I want to thank the minority who fought the battle in here when it was convenient for the majority to ignore,” he added. 

But today, I think mostly of the thousands of women who were forced to make the journey to access care that should have been available in their own country.”

Numbers

More than 170,000 women and girls have travelled from Ireland to another country for an abortion since 1980, with the vast majority going to Britain.

Over 3,000 women travelled to the England and Wales for abortions last year, while many others bought abortion pills online. 

Abortion services are expected to being next month. However, some doctors and hospitals have said they are unlikely to be ready to provide terminations in January.

With reporting by Orla Ryan 

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