But the pro-life movement warned it will step up its fight against the legislation, quietly passed into law by the stroke of a pen by President Michael D Higgins yesterday.
The head of state – who consulted for four hours with his advisory panel of mostly former premiers and judges, the Council of State – had the option of sending the legislation before the Supreme Court.
But, instead, he decided there were no constitutional problems, and issued a statement confirming he had signed off on the controversial Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. It will provide for a woman’s right to an abortion in Ireland if her life is at risk, including – most contentiously – from suicide.
Tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Irish Labour Party, described it as a milestone moment.
“The core purpose of this legislation is about saving women’s lives,” he said. “It is about providing for a very basic human right.
“It has been a long time coming.”
The legislation was drawn up amid a public outcry over the death of Savita Halappanavar, a dentist who suffered multiple organ failure from septic shock and E coli in October last year, four days after she delivered a dead foetus.
She was denied an abortion as she miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy and an inquest heard she would probably have survived if the law in Ireland had allowed an abortion.
Anti-abortion campaigners said the enactment of the new laws was a very sad day for the country and Caroline Simons, spokeswoman for the group, said the Pro Life Campaign will be devoting its energies to the repeal of the law, adding: “We have seen the biggest ever gatherings of pro-life people in recent weeks.”