New Irish abortion bill, after PM sent letters in blood

DUBLIN (AFP) - Ireland published a draft new abortion bill on Thursday after Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he had received plastic foetuses and letters written in blood claiming he is a murderer.

The parliamentary bill was published ahead of the release later in the day of a long-awaited report into why an Indian-born dentist who was miscarrying died after being refused an abortion in an Irish hospital.

The death of Ms Savita Halappanavar, 31, in October ignited calls for the new legislation in Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country.

The new legislation is aimed at clarifying the rules that legalise abortions in exceptional cases where doctors deem it necessary to save a woman's life.

Abortion is currently illegal in Ireland except if there is a substantial risk to the mother's life but there has been much confusion about implementing it.

Mr Kenny said he had received a barrage of insults over the legislation.

"I am getting medals, scapulars, plastic foetuses, letters written in blood, telephone calls all over the system," he told parliament on Wednesday.

"I am now being branded by personnel around the country as being a murderer, and that I am going to have on my soul the death of 20 million babies."

Mr Kenny said he was a Catholic but he was proud to be a Taoiseach, or prime minister, for all the Irish people.

"I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach. I am a Taoiseach for all of the people - that is my job," he said.

ms Halappanavar died of blood poisoning in a hospital in Galway on Ireland's west coast.

Her husband claimed she had repeatedly asked medics for a termination, but the request was refused "because Ireland is a Catholic country".

An inquest into her death heard in April that she was refused a termination because there was still a foetal heartbeat. It ruled that her death was "medical misadventure".

The expert report to be published on Thursday, led by a London-based professor, is expected to criticise doctors and nurses who treated ms Halappanavar for failing to spot the rising septicaemia in her blood.

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