Irish abortion bill becomes law

Michael D Higgins Michael D Higgins has signed the bill into law

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Abortions under limited circumstances will be allowed in the Republic of Ireland under a new law.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act will allow terminations to be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother.

It will also be allowed where there is medical consensus that the expectant mother will take her own life over her pregnancy.

Irish President Michael D Higgins signed the bill into law on Tuesday.

He decided not to refer the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill to the Supreme Court.

A meeting of the president's advisory body, the Council of State, was held on Monday to consider the bill.

President Higgins held four hours of talks with the council before making his decision.

He had until Wednesday to either sign the bill into law or refer it to the Supreme Court to assess its constitutionality.

President Higgins' signing of the bill into law, means it does not have to be forwarded to the Supreme Court to determine whether it is constitutional.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act will now be added to the statute book.

Irish deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore referred to the decision as a key milestone in Irish law.

The Pro Life Campaign said on Tuesday that the passing of the bill into law was "a very sad day for our country".

The introduction of the legislation follows the case of an Indian woman who died in an Irish hospital after she was refused an abortion.

The death of Savita Halappanavar drew attention to the lack of clarity about the legal position.

Mrs Halappanavar was a 31-year-old Indian dentist who was admitted to hospital in Galway in October 2012 while miscarrying.

She died a week later from septicaemia.

Her request for an abortion was turned down.

Her inquest heard that she could not get a termination at the time because her life was not in danger but, by the time her life was at risk, an abortion would have been too late to save her.

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