Ireland on Tuesday announced that it will legalise abortions when the mother's life is at risk, weeks after the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused an abortion in the European country.
The decision comes after a huge public outcry over the death of 31-year-old Savita, who died on October 28 at Galway University Hospital. She had been 17-weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying.
Savita's husband said she asked repeatedly for a termination of the pregnancy but was refused. She was told the foetal heartbeat was still present and the abortion could not be carried out as Ireland was a Catholic country.
The Irish government has decided to repeal the legislation that makes abortion a criminal act and to introduce regulations clearly stating that doctors can perform an abortion when a woman's life is regarded as being at risk, including by suicide, the Telegraph newspaper reported.
Irish Health Minister Dr James Reilly said that the government was aware of the controversy surrounding the abortion.
"I know that most people have personal views on this matter. 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," the paper quoted Reilly as saying.
"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. 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," he said.
Ireland's abortion laws are the strictest in Europe and any proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion will stoke furious debate in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.