Landmark Bill to legalise Abortion services in Ireland passes final stage in Oireachtas

The bill to legalise abortion services in Ireland has cleared its final hurdle in the Houses of the Oireachtas on Thursday evening and will now go to President Michael D Higgins to be signed into law.

The Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill finished its final stage in the Seanad night after weeks of sometimes heated debate in both the Dáil and Seanad.

The bill has been debated for weeks and more than 400 amendments were tabled over the course of the number of weeks, but only a handful of proposed Government changes actually passed. The changes included one which would drop the requirement that the doctor who certifies a woman for an abortion must be the same one who performs it.

The bill passed the final vote by 27 votes to 5; the law allows for abortion up to 12 weeks. After 12 weeks a termination may be sought where there is a risk to the life or health of a woman or in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. The Bill will now be presented to the President for signature.

A "historic moment"

Health Minister Simon Harris welcomed the passage of the Bill as "a genuinely historic moment".

He paid tribute to TDs, Senators and those who campaigned for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

"I want to thank the campaigners who fought for 35 years to change a nation, to change hearts and minds. I want to thank the minority who fought the battle in here when it was convenient for the majority to ignore," he said. "But today, I think mostly of the thousands of women who were forced to make the journey to access care that should have been available in their own country."

The intention is to make the services available from the 1st of January onwards.

Those against the bill lamented its passing with some reported angry exchanges in the Seanad during the final stages of the debate on Thursday.

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