12/02/2012 12:42 EST | Updated 02/01/2013 05:12 EST

Ireland poll backs legislation for limited abortion rights

A new poll suggests people in Ireland favour changing the country's abortion laws, after the recent death of a woman who was reportedly refused an abortion.

The survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted last week by the Dublin-based Red C marketing and research firm for the Sunday Business Post.

People were asked if they supported legislation for a case that actually went before the country's Supreme Court some 20 years ago.

Some 85 per cent of those questioned said they supported legislation for what's known as the "X" case by allowing abortion where the mother’s life is threatened, including by suicide.

That case centered on a 14-year-old girl, identified only as "X," who had been raped by a neighbour and became pregnant.

The girl told her mother she had suicidal thoughts over the unwanted pregnancy and because the state had obtained a court injunction prohibiting her from travelling to England for the procedure.

Although the Irish Supreme Court rejected the injunction and established the right to abortion where the mother’s life is threatened, including by suicide, it was never confirmed in legislation at the time, and there have been six successive Irish governments since then that have not tackled the issue.

Death of Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, died Oct. 28, one week after being hospitalized with an imminent miscarriage. Her widower said they asked for three days for an abortion to ease her pain but were refused because the fetus still had a heartbeat.

A coroner found that Halappanavar died from internal infections and organ failure three days after the fetus itself died. Her parents in India have accused Irish authorities of letting their only daughter die to preserve the nation's constitutional ban on abortion.

"Savita Halappanavar's case has once again put the issue under the spotlight," CBC's Dominic Valitis reported from London.

"In terms of the wider issue, the Irish government is now considering introducing new legislation and all new regulations on abortion.

"It seems determined that after years of previous governments avoiding the issue to at last bring some kind of clarity to the situation, and we can expect a decision on that before Christmas.

"Getting any new laws through parliament though will take longer, perhaps as much as a year," Valitis reported.

Pro-choice lobbyists have been holding large demonstrations outside the Irish parliament since Halappanavar's case came to light. Anti-abortion organizers have a rally scheduled in Dublin on Tuesday.

Halappanavar's husband has refused to take part in any internal inquiry into her death and has now instructed his lawyers to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.