A bill that would allow abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman is currently before the Dail, or parliament. Some legislators have asked Minister for Health James Reilly to expand the law to include fetal abnormalities, the Irish Examiner reported.
"I know this is a very difficult situation and it is a desperate thing for a mother to know she is carrying a child that can't possibly survive," Reilly said at an event in Dublin.
But he said Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan advised him a law allowing abortions in those circumstances would be unconstitutional.
The constitution was amended in 1983 by referendum to effectively ban almost all abortions: "The state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right."
About 1,500 women in Ireland every year are told the fetuses they are carrying have severe problems that make survival unlikely. About 80 percent leave the country for abortions, mostly in England.
The proposed law sets up a procedure for determining when pregnancies can be terminated legally in Ireland. The most controversial part would allow abortions in cases where a panel of doctors finds a pregnant woman is at high risk of suicide.
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