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Irish president signs law legalizing abortion

Irish President Michael Higgins signed a law Thursday making abortion legal for the first time in the country's history.

Ireland's legislature crafted the bill earlier this month after a referendum in May saw more than 66 percent of Irish voters support loosening the country's restrictive abortion law.

Under the new law, which requires approval on a number of measures by Minister of Health Simon Harris, women can seek an abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Women having an abortion are subject to a cooling-off period and a medical exam.

Abortions after the 12th week will be permitted in some circumstances.

Amnesty International welcomed the law, which goes into effect January 2019.

"Ireland's abortion law was one of the most restrictive in the world, and today that is finally ending," said Sorcha Tunney, Campaign Coordinator of It's Time campaign for Amnesty International Ireland.

"Today is also a day to reflect on where we have come from. For over 35 years, women and girls have been denied access to safe and legal abortion beyond when their life was at risk. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls were forced to travel, forced into secrecy and shame. They were gravely denied their human rights.

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