After weeks of debates, the Republic of Ireland announced on Tuesday that it is loosening its strict abortion laws and will clarify regulation that allows for the procedure if the mother's life is in danger.
"I know that most people have personal views on this matter," said Ireland's Minister of Health, James Reilly, according to Time Magazine. "However, the government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. For that purpose, we will clarify in legislation and regulation what is available by way of treatment to a woman when a pregnancy gives rise to a threat to a woman's life. We will also clarify what is legal for the professionals who must provide that care, while at all times taking full account of the equal right to life of the unborn child."
The case that moved the Irish Parliament to form a panel of experts who recommended the revision of abortion law involved Savita Halappanavar, a Hindu woman who died on Oct. 28 at a university hospital in the largely Roman Catholic country after she was denied a life-saving abortion procedure. She was 17 weeks pregnant when her baby died earlier that week and was surgically removed from the 31-year-old mother, but that did not save her as her condition worsened.
Although Ireland technically allows abortion in severe cases where a woman's life is directly in danger, many have called the current legislation inadequate, because it allows for cases like Halappanavar's to happen.
"With regard to abortion practiced in order to save the life of the mother, it has to be understood that this issue is not directly connected with the matter of the existence of a 'right' to abortion," Grégor Puppinck, Ph.D., Director General of the European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) shared with The Christian Post in an email. His organization advocates for defending religious freedom in law, and Puppinck has written about the dangers of Europe pressuring Ireland into adopting its less-restrictive abortion laws.
"The prohibition of abortion is not an obstacle to the delivery of the necessary medical treatments that should be carried out to save the life of a pregnant woman, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child, i.e. in the unintended termination of the pregnancy," Puppinck continued.
"The right of the woman which is pursued through such termination of the pregnancy is not a right to abortion, but her right to life," he added.
Puppinck noted that problems that arise in such cases deal with assessing whether the threat to the health of the mother is severe, and whether or not abortion is a claim of convenience.
"Abortion promoters insist that abortion is necessary to protect women's health and that many women die due to illegal abortions. It is true that maternal mortality is high in Africa where abortion is usually illegal or strictly limited," Puppinck told CP. "Yet, this maternal mortality is not limited to abortion, it includes miscarriages and births, and it is linked to the generally poor quality of health services."
Pro-choice activists in Ireland pushed for the legalization of abortion last month, pointing to Halappanavar's case, with two members of the Irish parliament urging lawmakers to legalize abortion completely in Ireland – but that motion was voted down 90 to 53.
The Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights have been urging the Irish parliament to revise its abortion laws, which the Irish people resisted three times in voter referendums in 1983, 1992 and 2002.
The latest development seems to have opened up more options for women, but the majority of those seeking abortions will likely have to continue traveling to England and other countries in Europe, where the procedure is much more accessible.