Ireland to enact abortion legislation by July

Ireland to enact abortion legislation by July

File picture of protests after Savita Halappanavar's death

London:  The Irish government has said it would enact a law by the end of July to reform the nation's controversial rules for abortion following the death of Indian-born dentist Savita Halappanavar.

The government has informed the Council of Europe that it plans to publish the bill by April and enact the legislation by the end of July.

Ireland's stringent anti-abortion laws reignited protests and debate after 31-year-old Halappanavar died as a result of a miscarriage at University Hospital Galway back in October 2012.

Halappanavar died due to blood poisoning after Irish doctors allegedly refused to terminate her 17-week-long pregnancy, telling her that "this is a Catholic country".

The family of Halappanavar claims her death was avoidable as she had asked for an abortion several times before she died.

An independent review into her case had highlighted a "litany of failures" by hospital staff.

The Strasbourg-based Council monitors the implementation of judgements made by the European Court of Human Rights, which had ruled in December 2010 that Ireland was under a legal obligation to put in place legislation or regulation on the issue.

Despite the fact abortion has been legal in circumstances where there is a substantial risk to the life of the mother since a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, successive Irish governments have failed to enact legislation to give full effect to the ruling.

In the aftermath of Halappanavar's death, a committee set up by the Irish Parliament heard submissions in Dublin earlier this year on drafting new abortion laws.

The nation's Health Service Executive (HSE) had also announced a plan to roll out the Irish Maternal Early-Warning System this month as a response to the death of the Indian dentist, who died at Galway University Hospital.

The early-warning system is designed for early detection of a range of life-threatening conditions, including sepsis, among women during and before childbirth - believed to be the ultimate cause of Halappanavar's death.

An early-warning system for patients is in place in most hospitals in Ireland, including Galway, but it was not in place in the hospital's maternity unit, as currently a different system is required for pregnant patients.

In its update on the case, due to be published on Monday and reported in the Irish media today, the Council of Europe said the committee "noted with satisfaction" that the Irish authorities have decided to implement the judgement by way of legislation and regulations.

It also reiterated the need for the Irish authorities to "take all necessary measures" regarding women who are of the opinion that their life may be at risk during pregnancy, pending full implementation of the judgement.

Story First Published: March 09, 2013 20:37 IST

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