London: The Irish President on Tuesday signed a landmark bill on abortion into law, allowing women in the predominantly Catholic country to have an abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, following the tragic death of an Indian dentist.
"President (Michael D) Higgins has today signed the bill into law," a statement from the president`s office said, referring to the `Government`s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill`.
The bill, overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Irish Parliament this month, permits abortions only in cases where doctors deem the woman`s life at risk from continued pregnancy.
The law comes in the wake of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, 31, on October 28 last year of blood poisoning as a result of a miscarriage.
An inquest into her death earlier this year heard how she was repeatedly denied a potentially life-saving abortion.
The new legislation, which replaces 146 years old British era law, also permits abortions to alleviate life-threatening conditions, including a woman`s own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination.
Till recently, Ireland`s only legislation on abortion was a handed-down British law from 1867, outlawing the practice with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The new maximum sentence is 14 years.
Higgins convened a meeting of the Council of State on Monday to seek its advice on the bill, which he could have opted to send to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality.
The meeting, chaired by the President, was attended by 21 members of the 24-strong council and lasted for some three hours, Irish Times reported.
The 21 persons who attended, including seven members of the judiciary, still made it the biggest council since the Constitution came into effect in 1937.
The details of discussions at the council meetings are kept confidential.