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Ireland To Legalise Abortion In Cases Where Mother's Life Put At Risk

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The Irish government is to introduce legislation to allow terminations to be carried out in the country, following a European Court ruling which found the lack of abortion law breached human rights rules.

The news means abortion is technically legal in Ireland, although only in the case where the mother's life is at risk and this can only be assuaged by an abortion.

But pro-choice activists have warned that the legislation will only impact a "limited number" of women, and it is not yet clear how it will be applied.

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Tributes to Savita Halappanavar left in Dublin

Irish politicians made the decision on Tuesday at cabinet after the European Court of Human Rights ruling and the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being allegedly refused an abortion.

Ireland will now introduce legislation around a case over whether a suicidal 14-year-old could leave the country for a lawful abortion in England, called the X case.

The country's minister for health James Reilly said the government wanted to "ensure the safety" of pregnant women.

“I know that most people have personal views on this matter. However, the Government is committed to ensuring that the safety of pregnant women in Ireland is maintained and strengthened. We must fulfill our duty of care towards them,"

"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," he said,

"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."

Mara Clarke, Director of Abortion Support Network, which helps women in Ireland access abortion, told The Huffington Post UK the case would not help the "vast majority" of women.

“While we applaud any move that allows healthcare decisions to made by women and doctors as opposed to politicians, legislation on the X case will only impact a limited number of women. The vast majority of women who need abortions – women who’ve been raped; couples whose wanted pregnancies have catastrophic foetal anomalies; women and couples who simply can’t afford a child, or, in most cases, another child – will still have to travel and pay privately for abortions.”

Darinka Aleksic, the Campaign Co-ordinator for Abortion Rights in Britain told The Huffington Post UK the country will "still have some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, but it's a highly significant step forward."

While emphasising that the exact nature of the draft legislation is not fully known, she said "they are going to bring in the most limited form of abortion reform to clarify and legalise the very limited circumstances in which abortion is permissible in Ireland."

A spokesperson for Bpas said: "We welcome moves to give clarity to doctors and pregnant women whose lives are at risk, although it is still unclear how these cases will be assessed and when a woman's life is deemed to be sufficiently threatened to warrant her request for an abortion.

"We need to bear in mind that while such steps are positive, they will do nothing at this stage to help the thousands of Irish women who travel abroad every year to end pregnancies they feel unable to continue with - including those women where serious problems have been detected with a much wanted pregnancy.

"We look forward to a time when Ireland no longer exports abortion to other countries which protect and value the ability of women to make decisions about their lives and their families."