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Title: Legalizing Abortion in Ireland: Success and Failure in the First Years of Reform
Authors: Bennett, Aoife
Advisors: Armstrong, Elizabeth M
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Certificate Program: Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies
Class Year: 2020
Abstract: On May 25, 2018, the people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Irish Constitution. The Eighth Amendment was a total ban on abortion, and was added to the Constitution in 1983, though its origins date back legislatively to 1861 and culturally to the beginning of the influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Between 1983 and 2012, multiple conflicts with the Amendment arose that either called for the removal of it in its entirety or the marginal liberalization of the restrictive law. While activists were able to win marginal liberalization on few occasions, influence from the Catholic Church and the Irish pro-life community was too strong to expand further. However, in the years between 2012 and 2018, the political landscape of Ireland changed due to many factors, with the most prominent change being the fall of the Catholic Church and its influence. Because of this political change, activists from many societal spheres were able to coalesce under a movement to repeal the Eighth, and in 2018 they succeeded. There was global news coverage about the shock of a Catholic country like Ireland voting to remove an abortion ban. But what was not covered by the news was what would take the place of the ban – regulation in the form of legislation. What would that legislation look like? How liberalizing should it be? How should the legislation balance between the pro-choice majority and the outspoken and powerful pro-life minority? These were all essential questions for the government to answer, because without regulation in place, Irish women could not receive abortions in-country despite them being legal. Those questions were answered by the legislation that the government put into effect on January 1, 2019, the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018, but the choices that the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) made in that legislation have not yet received enough scrutiny or analysis. Through qualitative analysis of interviews from prominent figures involved in the creation of this Act and substantive readings of state- published documents, news articles that tracked the referendum and legislative efforts, and research articles published by various non-profit groups on what legislation should and could look like, this thesis finds that the regulations codified by the Oireachtas did not parallel the liberalization the public had voted for in the referendum. Political influences from the pro-life opposition played an outsized role in the writing of the legislation, which in turn led to gaps in access and unnecessary and detrimental restrictions that placed an undue burden on women trying to legally receive abortions in their home country. During the referendum, many pro-choice politicians promised that this new legislation would mean an end to the disregard of Irish women and the exportation of Irish problems, but in reality, the legislation only served to provide more marginal change instead of revolutionary change that would have reflected the revolutionary referendum. This thesis ultimately attempts to provide feasible recommendations for the further liberalization of Irish abortion legislation, with the hope that eventually the legislative change will reflect the social and political change that took place in 2018.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2020

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