DUBLIN (AP) Ireland's justice minister says his predominantly Catholic country must end what he calls its "great cruelty" to pregnant women by legalizing abortion for cases involving rape and fatal fetal abnormalities.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter spoke Wednesday as Ireland's first bill on abortion was delivered to President Michael D. Higgins. The bill would permit abortion only when doctors deem a woman's life at risk from continued pregnancy.

Shatter said Irish law was wrong to require women to bear children who are the products of sexual assault or doomed to die soon after birth. Ireland is one of only two European Union members, alongside Malta, that outlaws abortion except in life-threatening cases.

Higgins has one week to sign the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill or refer it to the Supreme Court.