ABORTION services have been legalised in Ireland for the first time in the history of the State after being signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.
The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 passed through all stages of the Oireachtas this month, seven months after the country voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment in May's referendum.
The Bill allows for terminations of pregnancies up to 12 weeks, and also in cases where there is a risk to the life or a serious risk to the health of the mother.
Additionally, women who have been given a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormalities will now be able to legally avail of early termination of pregnancy in the hospital they are being treated in.
A statement released by Áras an Uachtaráin on Thursday evening said: "Having considered the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, the President has signed the Bill and it has accordingly become law."
Having considered the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018, the President has signed the Bill and it has accordingly become law.
— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) 20 December 2018
Thanking campaigners who had "fought for 35 years to change a nation, to change hearts and minds", Health Minister Simon Harris branded the passing of the Bill through the Dáil and the Seanad a "genuinely historic moment".
Mr Harris added: "I want to thank the minority who fought the battle in here when it was convenient for the majority to ignore.
"But today, I think mostly of the thousands of women who were forced to make the journey to access care that should have been available in their own country."
At least 170,000 women and girls have travelled abroad from Ireland for an abortion since 1980, with the vast majority going to Britain.
Over 3,000 women travelled to England and Wales for terminations last year alone, while many others bought abortion pills online.
Abortion services will officially become available in the Republic from January 1
However, some doctors and hospitals have said they are unlikely to be ready to provide terminations as soon as next month.