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Irish politicians to vote on divisive abortion bill

By Ben Brumfield and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
July 10, 2013 -- Updated 2143 GMT (0543 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A bill would permit a woman to terminate a pregnancy if it threatens her life
  • It includes a provision for women who are suicidal during pregnancy
  • Conservative and Catholic critics say this opens doors to abortion access
  • Prime minister says it's a compassionate measure

(CNN) -- Abortion is banned in Ireland, a historically devout Catholic country. Come Wednesday, that may change a little.

Dublin lawmakers will vote on a bill that will permit a woman to terminate a pregnancy if it poses a threat to her own life, including if she is contemplating suicide.

It's the last stipulation that has raised the ire of conservative lawmakers and religious citizens. Catholic leaders have called it a 'Trojan horse' leading to easy abortion access.

But abortion rights proponents have said it will still be difficult for women to access the procedure, and passing the law will help stem the flow of Irish women traveling to Britain to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Ireland amends abortion law

Woman's death in Ireland abortion case ruled 'medical misadventure'

It is about "saving lives" when pregnant women are in danger, Prime Minister Enda Kenny has said. He said it won't change Ireland's general ban on abortion.

His government wants the legislation, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013, to become law before the summer recess at the end of this month.

Read more: Husband testifies his wife died after abortion was denied in Ireland

Members of parliament will discuss the bill, which has led to heated public debates, before taking a vote Wednesday.

They have allowed 12 hours for arguments before the mandatory voting deadline comes at 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET).

Kenny has acknowledged how uncomfortable the proposal may be in the majority Roman Catholic country.

"This is an issue that has been very divisive and contentious for over 30 years," he said. "It's also an issue that is complex and sensitive, about which many Irish people have sincere and strongly held views."

"This is about women, it is about saving lives -- the life of the mother and the life of the unborn."

He is calling on the population and lawmakers to have compassion on both.

Opinion: If Ireland had abortion rights

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