Abortion law to enter into force

Ireland's controversial new abortion law will come into effect on January 1.

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The debate on the abortion legislation sparked pro-life protests

Ireland's controversial new abortion law will come into effect on January 1.

The Department of Health confirmed medics will be allowed to terminate pregnancies in the new year after the commencement order and regulations were signed yesterday.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 allows for abortion when there is a real and substantial risk to a woman's life - including the threat of suicide.

But it still prohibits termination in cases of rape, incest, inevitable miscarriage and fatal foetal abnormality.

Health chiefs said the regulations outline when a termination can be carried out, information on notification, and details on applying for a review of a medical opinion.

A priest recently resigned from the board of one of the country's largest Catholic-owned hospitals after it agreed to carry out abortions under the legislation.

Outspoken Dublin cleric Father Kevin Doran maintained he cannot in conscience subscribe to the Mater hospital's plan to comply with legislation.

The Mater, in Dublin's north inner city, is one of 25 named in the legislation where a pregnancy can be terminated if the woman's life is in danger.

The controversial abortion debate reignited late last year when Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar died from septic shock after she was refused a termination as she miscarried because a foetal heartbeat was present.

An inquest returned a verdict of medical misadventure while two major reports found medics in the Galway hospital missed several early opportunities to terminate her pregnancy on health grounds and unacceptable clinical practice.

Her widower Praveen Halappanavar is taking legal action against health chiefs.

But the Irish Government has also been accused of violating the basic human rights of women forced to travel to Britain for an abortion when diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormality.

Amanda Mellet has filed papers before the United Nations Human Rights Committee to hold Ireland accountable for what she claims was the inhumane and degrading way she was treated.

Her case, and the upcoming cases by two other women - Ruth Bowie and Siobhan Whelan - are being backed by the Centre for Reproductive Rights and Terminations for Medical Reasons.