Ireland has passed the "Protection of Life During Pregnancy" bill into law - and thank (non-denominational) God(s), the "life" being protected here is actually the pregnant woman's.
Ireland's zealously religious "pro-life" cultural climate pushed against this decision with protests and debates for months now. Even when Savita Halappanavar tragically died after being denied an abortion in Ireland last year, her widower Praveen had a straightforward explanation: “Ireland is a Catholic country.” At that time, the pro-life state denied Savita the option of having an abortion even as she experienced a fatal miscarriage.
Those days are gone. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy bill was drawn in response to Savita's death, providing women with the right to termination, only if her life is at risk, even if it's at risk from suicide. The Dàil Èireann, the lower house of Irish Parliament, has been debating this bill with extreme opinions on either side. The passing of the bill is monumental: it's the first time in Ireland that laws exist to legalize abortion under any circumstances, though the protections are still quite limited.
Over the lengthy debate period, protesters took to the streets, including many pro-choice supporters with photographs of Savita’s face. There have also been candelight vigils in her honor, using her catalyst case as a point of reference for opposition to the tight restrictions included in The Protection of Life During Pregnancy law.
Even now that it has passed (a victory for sure), outrage remains against the limitations of this law. Pro-choice supporters are still opposing the legislation, including the partner coalition party Fine Gael, because it doesn’t go far enough. It’s a little sick that someone would need to feign a suicide attempt in order to be allowed to get an abortion.
The Minister of State for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, has opposed The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill for these reasons. Ultimately she demanded that alternative therapies be provided for the expectant mother, provided she is suicidal. Creighton was ignored and her position in Irish politics was taken from her. It's clear that Catholicism still has a strong hold on Ireland's legal system.
All said and done, the bill has passed 127 to 31, Lucinda Creighton has been replaced by deputy Paschal Donohoe, and Ireland's pro-choicers (and pro-lifers) are still fighting as hard as ever.
How you fellow BUSTies feel about this decision?
Check out these articles for more on Ireland's ongoing struggles for reproductive rights:
Photographs via The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Province and EuroNews.