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President to receive abortion bill today

The legislation is to be delivered to the Phoenix Park, after being passed by the Seanad yesterday.

Image: Photocall Ireland

THE PROTECTION OF Life During Pregnancy Bill will be delivered to President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin today, after passing all stages in the Seanad yesterday evening.

The President will then consider the legislation, and has the option of either signing it into law or invoking Article 26 of the Constitution and referring it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.

Although the final decision rests with President Higgins – he has the option of seeking advice on the issue from the Council of State, which is comprised of current and former senior office-holders (including the Taoiseach) and seven of the President’s own nominees.

The President has to sign or refer the legislation within five to seven days of receiving it. If it goes to the Supreme Court court, a ruling must be made no later than 60 days after the reference date.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the Bill, its constitutionality can never again be challenged.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that the President may decide to refer the Bill but he has given no indication either way.

The legislation passed by 39 votes to 14 in the upper house last night, with no surprises in the voting.

Ten Fianna Fáil senators voted against the Bill, as did independent senators Mary Ann O’Brien and Rónán Mullen – as well as former Fine Gael senators Fidelma Healy-Eames and Paul Bradford, who lost the party whip when they voted against the government last week.

Labour senator Marie Maloney, Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne, Fine Gael’s Michael Darcy and independents Feargal Quinn, James Heffernan and Seán Barret were absent for the vote.

- Additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell

Read: How does a bill become law?

Read: President Higgins announces his Council of State >

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