Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted today to back Ireland’s first bill on abortion, legalizing the practice in exceptional cases where doctors deem the woman’s life at risk from her pregnancy, as the predominantly Catholic country took its first legislative step away from an outright ban.
Exhausted legislators applauded today’s 127-31 vote, while outside the parliament gates abortion-rights activists cheered as they watched the result on their smartphones. It capped a grueling debate that locked lawmakers in argument from Wednesday morning to 5 a.m. Thursday and, after a pause for sleep, through midnight Thursday and into today.
While the decisive outcome was expected given Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s lopsided parliamentary majority, passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill did inflict damage on Kenny’s 2-year-old coalition government.
Catholic conservatives vowed to drive his centrist Fine Gael party from power for violating its 2011 campaign pledge not to legislate on abortion.