Ireland divided by bitter debate on abortion law

A government committee will begin hearing testimony May 17 on proposed abortion legislation. The Irish Times reports on who will and who will not testify.

Debate over abortion began raging in the republic after the October death of a 31-year-old Indian woman refused the procedure during a miscarriage.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other proponents of the law say it will maintain Ireland’s prohibition on abortion but clarify exceptions as to when the procedure can take place to protect the life of the pregnant woman, including if she has thoughts of suicide.

The Catholic Church and other opponents see the law as a slippery slope toward ending the nation’s prohibition against abortion. More than 5,000 people attended an anti-abortion rally at the Marian shrine in Knock, County Mayo, at the beginning of the month, but the church’s opposition seems to have only emboldened its critics, including Kenny.

The controversy has crossed the Atlantic to Boston College, where Kenny is invited to address graduates May 20, prompting Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s refusal to attend the event.

The Irish government has until the end of July to pass the law before its scheduled summer recess.