Ireland performs its first legal abortion under new law, and it saved a woman’s life

A woman was allowed to terminate her pregnancy after a life-threatening health complication

Topics: Abortion, abortion rights, abortion care, Women's Rights, Ireland, abortion laws, , ,

Ireland performs its first legal abortion under new law, and it saved a woman's life (Credit: AP/Shawn Pogatchnik)

Irish authorities confirmed on Friday that a woman was permitted to legally terminate a nonviable 18-week pregnancy, making it the first legal abortion to be carried out in the country since the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was passed earlier this summer. The measure is intended to provide clarity about under which circumstances therapeutic abortion is legal.

The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, where the procedure was performed, is one of 25 hospitals in the country authorized to legally provide abortions, but only under narrowly defined medical emergencies.

In accordance with the new law, the woman’s doctor certified that the pregnancy posed a “real and substantial risk” to her health, making termination necessary to save her life.

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In this case, after the woman’s membranes were ruptured for almost 24 hours and the risk of infection increased dramatically, she and her partner agreed to the procedure after discussions with doctors at the hospital. The twin foetuses had no chance of survival after being born at under 18 weeks.

Estimates vary as to the number of terminations carried out in Irish hospitals each year to save the life of the mother. During the debate on the legislation, Dr. Mahony estimated that between 10 and 20 terminations are performed, while her counterpart at the Rotunda, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, estimated the number at between 20 and 30.

To comply with the legislation, the hospital is required to provide Minister for Health James Reilly with the Medical Council registration number of the doctor who carried out the procedure and the registration number of the doctor involved in certification. It must also state under which provision of the Act the termination was carried out.

The Minister is required to publish a yearly report on terminations carried out under the terms of the Act.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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