Irish parliament's lower house passes historic bill to legalise abortion

Politicians are racing to have law in place by January

Adam Withnall
Thursday 06 December 2018 05:46 GMT
Yes voters in Dublin celebrate the result of the vote in May
Yes voters in Dublin celebrate the result of the vote in May

The lower house of Ireland's parliament has passed historic legislation to make abortion legal for the first time, after members voted overwhelmingly in favour at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday.

The bill put before the lower house, the Dáil, would legalise free access to abortion up to 12 weeks. After that, it would permit abortion only in cases where the woman was at risk of serious harm or death, or where a doctor has given a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.

It was passed by 90 votes to 15, with 12 abstentions. According to the Irish Times, a total of 65 amendments were approved by members, but these were all brought by the minister for health himself, Simon Harris.

A number of amendments brought by anti-abortion politicians, including an attempt to force women to notify their parents if they wanted an abortion, were voted down.

The government is trying to push through the legislation in line with a pledge to have abortion services in place by 1 January. It was expected to continue its progress in the upper house, the Seanad, on Friday.

Six months ago, Ireland's public voted by a landslide to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution, which declared that mothers and their unborn foetuses had an equal right to life - effectively banning abortion.

The referendum received the highest turnout on a social issue in Ireland's history, of whom 66.4 per cent voted "Yes" to repeal. Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, said at the time the result showed Ireland was "a nation that is united, and we want to make this change".

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