Abortion Law Reform

9781447347514-405759-300x400In recent years I have written on the constitutional position as regards abortion in Ireland, where–pursuant to a Supreme Court decision in Attorney General v X as well as numerous referenda–an abortion was constitutionally permissible only where there is a real and substantial risk to the life (as opposed to the health) of the pregnant woman. Many years later, and in a context in which no legislative architecture for exercising this right had been designed, the European Court of Human Rights held in A, B & C v Ireland that the lack of practicability of this right violated the Convention. My scholarship in this regard first argued for improvements to the Protection of Law During Pregnancy Act 2013, giving statutory effect to the right, and operating within the constitutional framework as it then existed. A research briefing on work done in this respect with Laura Graham, a Durham colleague, is available here, and you can read a co-authored article with Máiréad Enright here. I have also written extensively about the implications for law and practice of constitutionalising foetal rights and my article, “Constitutionalizing Fetal Rights: A Salutary Tale from Ireland” was published in the Michigan J. of Gender and the Law in 2016.

Repeal

A significant strand of this work concerned the argument for repeal of the 8th Amendment and what might follow that in terms of a legislative framework. In this respect I was engaged, as part of a group of ten lawyers, by the Irish Labour Party as part of the Labour Women Commission to Repeal the 8th Amendment. Our work within this process resulted in the production of a draft law with an explanatory article attached. The draft law was published open access on feminists@law: it is available here, and the accompanying article is here. This work was influential across the political spectrum in Ireland. The Green Party, which was the first party to publish its reproductive justice policy in advance of the General Election 2016, proposed a scheme that reflects much of ours (I published an analysis here), and the Labour Party proposals (published in November 2015) also mirror many of our proposals (analysis published here).

In 2018 I published Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law with Máiréad Enright. This open access book, published by Policy Press, outlined the arguments for repeal, and also projected forward to the development of constitutional rights in pregnancy as well as to legislative reform after the 8th. In it we proposed a new draft law, reflecting decisions in the Citizens Assembly and the Joint Oireachtas Committee. On 31 January we published a postscript taking into account what had happened since we completed the manuscript on 15 November 2017. We also founded the website http://www.aboutthe8th.com where we provided non-biased Q&A information for voters in the run up to the 2018 referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment, reaching hundreds of thousands of voters through the website, and its associated twitter and Facebook pages.

After Repeal

On 25 May 2018 the Irish people voted by a significant majority to repeal the 8th Amendment and empower the Oireachtas to make provision for the law termination of pregnancy. Following this, I worked with my colleagues in Lawyers for Choice, to influence the legislation. We did this by collaborating with civil society and politicians to write briefings (1, 2, 3) and engage one-on-one with politicians to influence amendments and the parliamentary discourse. The law–the Health (Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018–came into effect on 1 January 2019. As a result, legal abortion is now available to many people in Ireland, although we continue to work for improvements. My most recent work on Irish abortion law will be published in 2020 (Fiona de Londras, “‘A Hope Raised and then Defeated’: The Continuing Harms of Irish Abortion Law” (2020) Feminist Review forthcoming) and demonstrates how, even after repeal, the Irish law fails to recognise pregnant people in Ireland as bearing rights that may entitle them to access abortion with security and dignity in at least some circumstances. A further piece, with Enright, reflects on the limited role of formal lawyering in the referendum campaign and the continuing anti-choice ‘lawfare’ that characterised and impacted on the debates leading to the new law (Fiona de Londras and Máiréad Enright (2020), “‘The Only Lawyer on the Panel’: Anti-Choice Lawfare in the Battle for Abortion Law Reform” in Katherine Browne and Sydney Calkin (eds), Post Repeal: Reflections and Futures (Zed Books) forthcoming).

Beyond Ireland

Continuing my commitment to collaborating with and supporting activists through academic work on the form and shape of abortion law reform, I have recently engaged in particular in work on abortion law reform in Gibraltar. This included writing opinion editorials in the Gibraltar Chronicle, speaking at events organised by No More Shame Gibraltar, making a submission (with Enright) on the proposed new law (more information here), meeting with relevant government ministers to discuss improvements to the proposed law and how it might operate to maximise agency for pregnant people, and working with politicians and advocates in advance of parliamentary debates on the Bill (2019).

Relevant Publications

Fiona de Londras & Mairead Enright (2018), Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law Policy Press (also available open access here | Postscript available here (2018)

Fiona de Londras, “‘A Hope Raised and then Defeated’: The Continuing Harms of Irish Abortion Law” (2020) Feminist Review forthcoming

Máiréad Enright and Fiona de Londras, “‘The Only Lawyer on the Panel’: Anti-Choice Lawfare in the Battle for Abortion Law Reform” in Katherine Browne and Sydney Calkin (eds), Post Repeal: Reflections and Futures (2020, Zed Books) forthcoming

Fiona de Londras (2019), “When the European Court of Human Rights Decides not to Decide: The Cautionary Tale of A, B & C v Ireland and Referendum-Emergent Constitutional Provisions” in Kapotas, P and Tzevelekos, V (eds) Building Consensus on European Consensus: Judicial Interpretation of Human Rights in Europe and Beyond (Cambridge University Press)

Fiona de Londras & Mima Markicevic, “Abortion Law Reform in Ireland: Reflections on the Public Submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly” (2018) 70 Women’s Studies International Forum 89-98

Fiona de Londras, “Introductory Note to Mellett v Ireland” (2017) 56(2) International Legal Materials 217-219

Fiona de Londras, “Fatal Foetal Abnormality, Irish Constitutional Law, and Mellet v Ireland” (2016) 24(4) Medical Law Review 591-607

Fiona de Londras, Submission to the Citizens Assembly on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution and Associated Matters, submitted 16 December 2016

Mairead Enright, Vicky Conway, Fiona de Londras, Mary Donnelly, Ruth Fletcher, Natalie McDonnell, Sheelagh McGuinness, Claire Murray, Sinead Ring, Sorcha ui Chonnachtaigh, “Abortion Law Reform in Ireland: A Model for Change” (2015) 5(1) feminists@law

Mairead Enright, Vicky Conway, Fiona de Londras, Mary Donnelly, Ruth Fletcher, Natalie McDonnell, Sheelagh McGuinness, Claire Murray, Sinead Ring, Sorcha ui Chonnachtaigh, “General Scheme of the Access to Abortion Bill 2015” (2015) 5(1) feminists@law

Máiréad Enright & Fiona de Londras, “‘Empty Without and Empty Within’: The Unworkability of the Eighth Amendment after Savita Halappanavar and Miss Y” (2014) 20(2) Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland 85

Fiona de Londras & Laura Graham, “Impossible Floodgates and Unworkable Analogies in the Irish Abortion Debate“, (2013) 3(3) Irish Journal of Legal Studies 54

Fiona de Londras, “Suicide and Abortion: Analysing the Legislative Options in Ireland” (2013) 19(1) Medico-Legal Journal of Ireland 4

Fiona de Londras & Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou, “Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, A, B and C v Ireland” (2013) 62(1) International and Comparative Law Quarterly 250