Ireland will clarify its abortion laws within weeks, the government has said, as it strives to answer criticism after the death of a woman who was refused an abortion of her dying foetus.
Abortions were banned in all circumstances in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland by a 1983 constitutional amendment. However, when the ban was challenged in 1992 by a 14-year-old rape victim, the supreme court ruled a termination was permitted when a woman’s life was at risk.
Successive governments not clarified the conditions under which the mother’s life could be judged to be at risk.
“A government decision will be made in relation to this before the end of December and implemented in the new year,” health minister James Reilly said yesterday. “This issue will not be allowed to drag on.”
The issue of abortion has been highlighted in the past fortnight by the death of 31-year-old Indian woman Savita Halappanavar, who was denied an abortion of her dying foetus at a hospital in Ireland and later died of blood poisoning.
The death re-ignited the abortion debate in Ireland and highlighted the lack of clarity in law.
The European Court of Human Rights said in 2010 Ireland must clarify its law, a ruling which led to the government to commission an experts’ report on the issue.