Dublin - Irish lawmakers will resume discussion on
controversial new abortion legislation later on Thursday, after failing to go
to a final vote despite debating into the early hours.
The new bill will allow for abortion in limited cases
where the mother's life is at risk, and is expected to pass as the coalition
government enjoys a large majority and the support of some opposition.
But the divisions over the issue in the predominantly
Catholic country were evident as lawmakers only debated a fraction of the 165
amendments tabled, despite a marathon sitting lasting until 05:00 on Thursday.
Following the death of 31-year-old Indian woman Savita
Halappanavar in a Galway hospital last October, Ireland's strict abortion laws
have been the topic of intense debate at home and abroad.
Halappanavar had sought a termination when told she was
miscarrying, but the request was refused as her life was not at risk at the
She later died of sepsis days after miscarrying.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said he wants the new law
The bill follows a 2010 European Court of Human Rights
ruling that found Ireland failed to properly implement the constitutional right
to abortion where a woman's life is at risk.
Under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling, women in Ireland are
legally entitled to an abortion if needed to save a mother's life - but six
successive governments have failed to introduce legislation to reflect this.
Protection of life
The new protection of life during pregnancy bill allows
for abortion in circumstances where doctors certify there is a real and
substantial risk to the life of the mother, as opposed to a risk to her health.
The new bill also permits a termination when one
obstetrician and two psychiatrists unanimously agree that an expectant mother
is a suicide risk.
The "suicide clause”, in particular, has divided
society, with some lawmakers sharing the view it will lead to a more liberal
abortion regime in Ireland.
Kenny has not allowed a free vote on the matter with four
government lawmakers expelled from the parliamentary party, after voting
against the bill at an earlier stage.
Much of the attention now is heaped on junior minister
and member of Kenny's Fine Gael Party, Lucinda Creighton, who has indicated she
will not vote with the government and will, therefore, lose the party whip and
her ministerial position.