Ireland votes to allow limited abortion rights for first time

Thu Jul 11, 2013 8:53pm EDT
 
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By Conor Humphries and Sam Cage

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's parliament voted on Friday to allow abortion under certain conditions for the first time, following months of polarizing debate in the Catholic country including letters to the premier written in blood.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has provoked protest from both sides of the debate by pushing through a compromise that will allow abortion, but only when a woman's life is in danger. His governing party has faced down more rebels over the issue than it did over its harsh austerity measures.

After a marathon debate that ran past midnight for the second night in row, lawmakers passed the bill by 127-31. The vote was greeted with applause.

"It is the very, very bare minimum of a bill, but at the same time it feels like the end of an era," said Eleanor White, 21, one of a handful of pro-abortion rights activists gathered outside parliament, who were outnumbered by opponents of the bill.

"We are getting to the end of the role the Catholic Church has had in Ireland," she said.

Anti-abortion activists nearby prayed and cheered deputies who opposed the bill as they left the parliament building.

"This is a terrible crime on the heart and soul of this nation," said Rita Daly, a 56-year-old civil servant, holding a picture of an aborted fetus. "This is the intentional killing of our children, our flesh and blood."

Abortion rights opponents were particularly upset by the bill's inclusion of the risk of suicide as a possible threat to the mother's life.   Continued...

 
Pro-Choice campaigners demonstrate outside the Irish Parliament ahead of a vote to allow limited abortion in Ireland, Dublin July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton