Irish lawmakers pass bill allowing abortion following landmark voter repeal

Lawmakers in Ireland late Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to pass a bill introducing free and legal abortion in the Catholic nation, a move that comes months after citizens voted to repeal a constitutional ban.

Politicians in Ireland’s lower house of Parliament debated for hours before approving the measure just before midnight on Wednesday by a vote of 90-15 with 12 abstentions, The New York Times reported.

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The bill moved to the upper house on Thursday and Ivana Bacik, a Labour Party lawmaker, told the newspaper that she expects it to pass.

The measure would allow a woman to seek an abortion for any reason until the 12th week of her pregnancy. 

The procedure can be performed later in the pregnancy if there is a case of fatal fetal abnormality or a health risk to the mother’s life. The bill requires a pregnant woman to consult with a doctor first and wait a mandatory three days before having an abortion after 12 weeks.

Irish Health Minister Simon Harris praised the passage of the bill in the lower house on Twitter, saying women will no longer have to travel out of the country to terminate a pregnancy.

“The people have spoken. Care and compassion in our own country,” Harris wrote.

The bill comes roughly seven months after Irish voters overwhelming voted to repeal the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution — considered to be one of the world’s most restrictive bans on abortion. 

The amendment was originally approved by 67 percent of voters in 1983 when the Roman Catholic Church was a social and political powerhouse in the country.

Sixty-seven percent of the nation voted to reject the amendment in 2018, while just 33 percent voted to preserve it.

Irish President Michael Higgins signed the referendum into law in September, officially reversing the constitutional ban.

The move from the Irish government comes just three years after the nation voted to legalize same-sex marriage.