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Big Abortion Changes in Store for Ireland: President Amends Ban and Legalizes Contentious 'Suicide' Provision

"a legislative and political Trojan horse"

Protesters hold a anti-abortion placards in front of the gates of the Irish Parliament building in Dublin on July 10, 2013 during a demonstration ahead of a vote to introduce abortion in limited cases where the mother's life is at risk. The bill follows a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that found Ireland failed to implement properly the constitutional right to abortion where a woman's life is at risk. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

DUBLIN (TheBlaze/AP) -- Ireland's head of state has signed the country's first bill on abortion into law, legalizing the practice in exceptional cases where doctors deem a woman's life at risk. There's one issue, though, that is creating quite a bit of furor: The notion that a woman who is at risk of suicide can seek an abortion.

President Michael D. Higgins surprised some analysts Tuesday by signing the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill rather than referring it to Ireland's Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality.

Protesters hold a anti-abortion placards in front of the gates of the Irish Parliament building in Dublin on July 10, 2013 during a demonstration ahead of a vote to introduce abortion in limited cases where the mother's life is at risk. The bill follows a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that found Ireland failed to implement properly the constitutional right to abortion where a woman's life is at risk. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The new law does amend the constitution's ban on abortion, so anti-abortion activists are likely to pursue a Supreme Court challenge.

The law permits abortions to alleviate life-threatening conditions. Contentious in its own regard, the law becomes even more divisive when considering that it covers a woman's own threat to commit suicide if refused a termination.

Catholic leaders have been speaking out against the latter provision. Earlier this month, Cardinal Seán Brady called to attention the potential ramifications of the law, the Irish Times reported at the time. He called the bill "a legislative and political Trojan horse" and he spoke out against the "suicidal feelings" embedded in it.

Pro-Choice supporters hold placards in front of the gates of the Irish Parliament building in Dublin on July 10, 2013 during a demonstration ahead of a vote to introduce abortion in limited cases where the mother's life is at risk. The bill follows a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that found Ireland failed to implement properly the constitutional right to abortion where a woman's life is at risk. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The new law will definitely face battles.

Until now, 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.

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