Irish abortion law passes first vote

Politicians in the Republic of Ireland have overwhelmingly voted to introduce limited abortion.

Tuesday's vote is the first in a series of stages the proposed bill must pass.

It will allow for a termination where three medics unanimously agree that a suicidal woman is at risk of taking her life because of her continuing pregnancy.

If passed it will be the first legislation allowing limited abortion in Ireland.

One hundred and thirty eight members of the Irish Parliament voted to give the controversial bill a second reading and move the legislation to the committee stage, while 24 voted against.

Four members of Fine Gael, the main government party, defied the party whip by voting against the bill.

As a result, Billy Timmins, Peter Mathews, Brian Walsh and Terence Flanagan have been expelled from the parliamentary party.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín also voted against the government's proposal, in defiance of his party.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said his decision to do so was regarded as a serious breach of party rules and he would face disciplinary action, which has yet to be decided.

In a statement, Mr Tóibín said: "Its is with great sadness that I have had to separate from my party on this, but I cannot vote for a medical evidence free bill that will result in the death and disablement of children.

"I am committed fully to the republican project of unity, equality and prosperity and I hope that I get an opportunity to put my energies into the republican project again."

Anti-abortion campaigners believe the bill will lead to more widespread abortion, while many on the pro-choice side say the legislation is too restrictive in only allowing a termination where there is a credible threat of suicide.

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