On Thursday 11 July, Irish parliamentarians passed a law finally allowing limited abortion rights in Ireland.
The law, passed by 127 votes to 31, allows for abortion only in cases where a woman’s life is in danger or if she is suicidal.
The new legislation, the first of its kind, does the bare minimum to comply with the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling which found that Ireland’s failure to regulate access to abortion was a violation of its human rights obligations.
However, it does not reform or add any new grounds for legal abortion.
The law does not apply to cases of rape and will do little to stem the tragic flow of women across the Irish Sea to British hospitals and clinics to terminate their pregnancies. Department of Health figures released last week show that around 4,000 such journeys took place last year alone.
Mara Clark from the Abortion Support Network charity told the Guardian: “Even if this law is enacted, only a very, very small percentage of women who need abortions will be able to access them in Ireland.
“Women pregnant as result of rape, women with fatal foetal anomalies, couples who simply can’t afford to care for a (or in most cases, another) child, will still be left behind.”
The clarification was welcomed by the family of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian woman who died after being denied access to an abortion in a Galway hospital last October.
Bishops from the Catholic Church are threatening to launch a legal challenge but the tide of public opinion is increasingly against them, with polls indicating that over 70% of people in Ireland supporting a relaxation of the law.