My latest paper, written with Mima Markicevic, has just been published in the Women’s Studies International Forum. The paper, entitled “Reforming abortion law in Ireland: Reflections on the public submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly“, builds on a hand coding of a sample of over 1,000 submissions to the Assembly on the 8th Amendment and considers the arguments made out therein, placing them against the backdrop of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the eventual referendum campaign. Access is free through this link for the first 50 days of publication, and this extract from the introduction gives a good sense of the overall argument:
Following a detailed, hand-coded analysis of over 1000 of the submissions received we found that they attend primarily to ‘broad’ or ‘first principles’ arguments about abortion per se, and are only minimally concerned with technical (and technocratic) arguments about the future shape and nature of the legal regulation of abortion. Within the submissions themselves there is limited evidence that key arguments about harm, the impact of criminalization, and the requirements of international human rights law that were advanced by pro-repeal advocates achieved significant purchase, while the pro-retain submissions revealed a significant dependence on emerging arguments about disability and disability rights in anti-abortion activism. In contrast, arguments of constitutional design, of international human rights law, of legal certainty, of medical practice etc. dominated the official narrative that followed the Assembly, in particular the Joint Oireachtas Committee that was established especially to receive and consider the report of the Assembly and make recommendations to the parliament as a whole (Houses of the Oireachtas, 2017). In this paper we focus on the primary arguments made the submissions from the general public to the Citizens’ Assembly. We go on to consider the extent to which these arguments subsequently arose in the referendum campaign of 2018. Relying on a detailed exit poll from the referendum vote (RTE & Behaviour and Attitudes, 2018), we argue that the arguments made in these submissions continued to motivate voters on the day of the referendum itself, even where the elite and official discourses of the referendum campaign itself diverged somewhat from these. This analysis raises questions about the purpose of the Citizens’ Assembly per se and particularly about whether its primary impact was on official political narratives of abortion law reform in Ireland rather than on the everyday voter as she engaged with the issues.