London: Legislators in Ireland have voted in favour of a reform that will pave the way for legalising abortion in life-threatening cases.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill passed its first hurdle after a 138 to 24 vote in favour, clearing up decades of confusion over the right of women to have abortions in extreme circumstances.
The bill will now come up for final passage next week.
The debate around Ireland`s stringent anti-abortion laws was reignited following the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died from septicaemia following a miscarriage in 2012.
Her inquest in April heard how she was repeatedly denied a potentially life-saving abortion.
Catholic leaders warned that the proposed new law, which faces potential amendments this week, was a "Trojan horse" designed to permit widespread abortion access in Ireland which, almost uniquely in Europe, officially bans abortion in all circumstances.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, however, insisted the country`s constitutional ban on abortion would remain unaffected.
Ireland`s laws on abortion commit the government to defend the life of the unborn and the mother equally. But it has been muddled since 1992, when the Supreme Court ruled that this ban actually meant that terminations should be legal if doctors deem an abortion essential to safeguard the life of the woman, including from her own suicide threats.