* New rules were promised after decades of delay
* Move comes in wake of death of woman denied abortion
* Some members have Irish PM's party may not back laws
DUBLIN, Dec 18 Laws allowing limited access to
abortion will be introduced in Ireland, the only EU member state
that bans the procedure, following the death of a woman who was
refused a termination, the government said on Tuesday.
The death last month of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar, who
was denied an abortion of her dying foetus and later died of
blood poisoning, shocked the predominantly Roman Catholic
country and spurred the government to act on an issue it had
delayed for decades.
Abortion was banned in all circumstances by a constitutional
amendment in 1983, but when challenged by a 14-year-old rape
victim in the so-called "X-case" nine years later, the Supreme
Court ruled a termination was permitted when the woman's life
was at risk, including from suicide.
Successive governments sidestepped the politically divisive
issue of clarifying the circumstances under which the mother's
life could be judged to be at risk. Some members of the ruling
Fine Gael party have indicated that they may not be able to back
the new legislation.
"The drafting of legislation, supported by regulations, will
be within the parameters of Article 40.3.3 of the constitution
as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the X case," the
government said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The legislation should provide the clarity and certainty in
relation to the process of deciding when a termination of
pregnancy is permissible, that is where there is a real and
substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health, of the
The death of Halapannavar, an Indian living in Ireland,
highlighted the lack of clarity in Irish law that leaves doctors
in a legally risky position and re-ignited the abortion debate,
leading to large protests by both pro-choice and pro-life groups
outside parliament and around the country.
The European Court of Human Rights said in 2010 that Ireland
must clarify its law, a ruling which led to the commissioning of
an experts' report which said a woman was still only lawfully
entitled to an abortion when there was a real and substantial
risk to her life.
Members of Prime Minister Enda Kenny's conservative Fine
Gael party, including minister for European Affairs Lucinda
Creighton, have expressed particular misgivings that the
inclusion of suicide in any new legislation could lead to
abortion on demand.
There was no specific reference to the risk of suicide as
grounds for an abortion in the government's statement which said
further decisions would be made at a later stage relating to
"policy matters that will inform the drafting of the
Kenny has said that he expects the government to vote as one
on the issue, meaning that any defectors could be expelled from
While this would be unlikely to threaten the government's
large majority, it would be a blow after the junior coalition
Labour Party, which has campaigned for a clarification of the
country's abortion rules, expelled its fifth member in less than
two years last week for voting against budget cuts.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Michael Roddy)