Ireland’s lower house of parliament passed a bill shortly after midnight in Dublin providing a legal framework for abortions in the nation for the first time.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s government won the ballot by 127 votes to 31. The bill will now be considered by Ireland’s upper house of parliament.
The law would create a legal framework for a 1992 Supreme Court ruling granting women the right to an abortion if the mother’s life is at substantial risk, including suicide. Until now, there’s been no legislative basis for abortion in Ireland.
Kenny pushed for the legislation after an Indian woman died in an Irish hospital last year after being refused a termination. Opposition to the bill resulted in the expulsion of five members of Kenny’s Fine Gael parliamentary grouping, including former European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton.
Creighton voted against the government on an amendment to the bill at about 9 p.m. yesterday and Kenny replaced her as a junior minister with Paschal Donohoe. Four members of Kenny’s Fine Gael party were expelled last week after casting ballots against the bill in an earlier vote.
Successive Irish governments, fearing a backlash in the traditionally Catholic nation, have avoided introducing laws to pin down the meaning of the Supreme Court ruling. The death of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicaemia in October, reignited the battle over abortion, which remains among the most divisive issues in Irish society.
Health Minister James Reilly said in parliament yesterday that the bill “isn’t a change in the law, it is a clarification of the existing law.” About 4,000 women travel to the U.K. every year for an abortion, he said.
Lawmakers, including Creighton, opposed the suicide clause in the legislation that allows for an abortion.
Kenny’s Fine Gael party and coalition partner Labour now have 102 members out of 165 in the parliament, excluding the speaker of the house.