The Republic of Ireland recognizes an unborn child’s right to life in its constitution. Abortion is a very limited procedure in Ireland. Abortion is allowed only when a doctor determines that there is a real and substantial risk to the mother’s life.
That isn’t changing. However, there is no current legislation clarifying the circumstances under which a doctor could terminate a pregnancy in order to save the mother’s life. The Irish government has announced that forthcoming legislation and regulations will explain the legal rules for cases when the mother’s life is at risk.
What does this mean? More abortions in Ireland. Doctors will be less hesitant to terminate pregnancies, and legally encouraged to commit abortions when health risks complicate a pregnancy. Formerly, abortions were rare in Ireland, as the law was unclear.
The announcement comes in response to public debate following the death of Savita Halappanavar, a thirty-one-year-old dentist who died from complications arising from the miscarriage of her 17-week pregnancy at Galway University Hospital. Upon learning of her miscarriage, Halappanavar requested that doctors terminate the pregnancy immediately. Doctors denied her request, refusing to intervene for three days because the daughter’s heart was still beating, and they did not believe that her mother’s life was in danger. Intervention to save Savita Halappanavar, with the consequence of terminating her unborn daughter’s life, would have been neither illegal nor impermissible under Catholic moral teaching, which inspires the Irish law.
Almost all European countries legalize abortion with few restrictions. Ireland and Poland, along with Northern Ireland, allow abortion only in restricted circumstances. In Andorra and Malta, abortion for any reason is illegal.