Abortion Law in Ireland

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 is constitutionally permissible 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 operated within the current constitutional position. 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. A further strand of this work concerns 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 has been 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, has 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, outlines the arguments for repeal, and also projects forward to the development of constitutional rights in pregnancy as well as to legislative reform after the 8th. In it we propose a new draft law, reflecting decisions in the Citizens Assembly and the Join Oireachtas Committee. On 31 January we published a postscript taking into account what had happened since we completed the manuscript on 15 November 2017.