“This is a genuinely historic moment,” Health Minister Simon Harris, who helped shepherd the bill through parliament, told the Irish Times. “It is the start of a new era for women’s healthcare.” On Twitter, Harris characterised the bill’s passage as a “vote to end lonely journeys, end the stigma and support women’s choices in our own country.”
In a Historic May referendum, almost 66% Irish voters had voted to abolish the law. The referendum was resoundingly won by the ‘Yes’ campaign on the question whether the deeply conservative Catholic country should legalise abortion. This win did not make the procedure legal in the country but it paved way to pass legislation to officially legalise abortion.
Ireland’s abortion laws came under international scrutiny in 2012 when Savita Halappanavar died of sepsis in Galway after being denied abortion during protracted miscarriage. Savita, a dentist became an icon of the ‘Yes’ campaign during the referendum. Her smiling image on posters was one of the prominent ones in the ‘Yes’ campaign, with the words, ‘Savita Matters, Women Matter’. The ensuing law was widely called ‘Savita law’ after her.
The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill will now be given to President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law. Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had supported the ‘Yes’ campaign during the referendum.
The bill passed by Irish lawmakers isn’t without restrictions. It will only allow abortions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy, except in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality or where the physical or mental health of the mother is in danger.
It is a HUGE change for a country that’s long had some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.