DUBLIN, Ireland, July 24 (UPI) -- A bill legalizing abortion in Ireland when needed to save a woman's life received final legislative approval Tuesday.
The Seanad or senate approved the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act by a 39-14 vote, The Irish Times reported. The bill now goes to President Michael Higgins, who is expected to sign it.
Only three senators from the opposition Fianna Fail party supported the bill. Mary White, one of the three, said her own party dodged the issue when it was in power.
"I thank the government for having the courage to bring this bill forward and I am confident that I represent the position of the majority of Irish people," she said.
The Catholic Church fought the bill, which codifies a 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling that abortions are permissible when continuing a pregnancy risks a woman's life. The most controversial part of the bill sets up a procedure for determining if a pregnant woman is at risk of suicide.
The issue was given new urgency by the death of a woman who went into labor prematurely and developed a fatal infection when doctors at a Galway hospital refused to perform an abortion as long as they could detect a fetal heartbeat. The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that Ireland has the right to ban abortions but should not force women to leave the country for the procedure when it is medically necessary.