Abortion Review Panel in Ireland Calls for Team of Experts in Each Case

The Republic of Ireland's strict abortion laws should be loosened and a team of medical professionals added to each case, an expert review has concluded following the death of a Hindu woman who was denied an abortion in the largely Catholic country.

"Leaving not just medics, but women in a very vulnerable position is no longer an option," said Kathleen Lynch, the Irish Republic's junior minister for disability, equality and mental health.

"We are going to have to act, and act not just responsibly but as quickly as possible," she said.

Abortion in Ireland has been banned in all circumstances by a 1983 constitutional amendment, but a 1992 challenge on that law concerning a 14-year-old rape victim persuaded the Supreme Court to permit early termination when the mother's life is at risk, Reuters noted.

The passing of Savita Halappanavar on Oct. 28, when she was 17 weeks pregnant at an Irish university hospital has sparked global outrage, with many pointing the finger at Ireland's laws, some of the strictest in all of Europe, as the cause of the Hindu woman's death. Her baby, which died earlier that week, was surgically removed from the 31-year-old mother, but her husband is saying that if doctors had listened to their request for an abortion earlier, Halappanavar could have been saved as well.

Late last week, a motion calling for the legalization of abortion positioned by two members of the Irish parliament, Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams, was voted down 90 to 53 by the parliament, with many saying the details about the case were still too unclear to push for such a drastic change so soon.

The expert review, however, insists that Ireland's laws on what conditions need to be met in order for a mother to prove that her life is in danger are still too vague, which allows for cases like Halappanavar's death to happen.

The European Court of Human Rights has also said that Ireland needs to come up with clearer laws on the issue, otherwise it allows for personal beliefs to play a key role in determining whether a woman can have a life-saving abortion or not.

The report concludes that under law, a woman is only entitled to an abortion when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother – but what determines what is "real and substantial risk" is up to the hospital treating her. Lynch says that a panel of experts needs to be set up for women who have been refused an abortion so that other medical professionals can review each case before a final decision is made.

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