Irish president signs historic abortion ban repeal

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Dublin (AFP)

Ireland's president on Tuesday signed a constitutional amendment repealing strict abortion laws in the staunchly Catholic country.

More than 66 percent of voters who took part in an historic May referendum on one of Ireland's most divisive issues backed the repeal of a constitutional ban on terminating pregnancies.

That result was unsuccessfully challenged in the courts and it took another five months for President Michael Higgins to sign the repeal into law.

The signing was largely a formality after the legal challenges failed however. It was formally announced by the president's office on Twitter.

Ireland's health minister tweeted moments later that he would introduce draft legislation defining the legal terms of abortion to the cabinet next week.

Health Minister Simon Harris said he expected parliament to debate the new bills next month.

The ban's repeal, and legalisation of same-sex marriages via a May 2015 referendum, has shaken the Roman Catholic Church's authority in Ireland.