(DUBLIN) — Ireland has long maintained strict abortion laws, but a new proposal has sparked a heated debate over the issue. If new proposed legislation is approved by Irish lawmakers, abortions will be permitted on an emergency basis.
According to the law, called the Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill, in cases where there is threat to a woman’s life, including suicide, an abortion would be allowed, the New York Times reports. Approval of the bill would not change the current abortion law, said Prime Minister Enda Kenny.
“This bill restates the general prohibition on abortion in Ireland,” Kenny explained Wednesday at a press conference, according to the New York Times.
The bill would require that any woman seeking an abortion must obtain the signed approval of two medical physicians, including an obstetrician or gynecologist, saying there is a potentially fatal risk to the woman’s life. In cases where suicide is cited as reason for abortion, the procedure cannot be performed without the signature of two psychiatrists and an obstetrician.
Pro-life supporters oppose the legislation, but officials defended it Wednesday, saying that the bill could save lives. In one recent case, they argue that a 31-year-old dentist, Savita Halappanavar, could have lived if this legislation had existed.
“Talking about Savita and [her husband] Praveen, they would have had access if the legislation had been in place, they would have had access to a procedure as outlined in the bill, and who knows what the situation may have been?” Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who helped draft the legislation, said, according to The Irish Sun.
The newspaper said Halappanavar died last fall after suffering from blood poisoning days after she had been denied a pregnancy termination, despite the fact she was having a miscarriage.
Prime Minister Kenny expressed his hope that the public understand the full intent behind the bill: to present another life-saving intervention to doctors and pregnant women by “clarifying the circumstances.”
The Irish Sun quotes the prime minister as saying, “We are a compassionate people. This is about women. It is about saving lives, the life of the mother and the life of the unborn.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Junko Ogura, Madison Park, Yoko Wakatsuki and Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Ivana Kottasova and Armelle De Oliveira, CNN