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.
Together with my colleagues Máiréad Enright (Birmingham), Ruth Fletcher (QMUL), and Vicky Conway (DCU) I have written and published a Position Paper on the Updated General Scheme of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018. In the paper, which we have published on the Lawyers for Choice website, we make a number of recommendations for (i) improvements to the General Scheme (ii) designing clinical guidance to avoid unintended ‘chilling effects’ which inhibit meaningful access to abortion care (iii) policy and resource commitments (iv) regulation of the medical profession. The overall thrust of the paper is that
The General Scheme is designed for a post-repeal Constitution in which women’s full rights must be taken into account. Abortion legislation must be drafted and interpreted to give effect, not only to pregnant people’s right to life, but to their rights to privacy, bodily integrity, freedom of conscience, liberty, equality, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment. However, the General Scheme does not make a sufficient break from the legal regime shaped and dominated by the 8th Amendment, which insisted on legal equivalence between a pregnant person and a foetus.
Continue reading Position Paper on the Updated General Scheme of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018
In February Mairead Enright and I published Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law with Policy Press. The book was finished on 15 November 2017 and, since then, there have been significant developments in the progress towards a referendum on the 8th Amendment including the publication of the JOC report, the Cabinet announcement that a referendum would be held, the publication of a Department of Health policy paper on the shape and form of future post-repeal legislation for access to abortion, a Supreme Court decision on the extent of foetal rights under the current constitutional arrangement, and the publication of the 36th Referendum on the Constitution Bill 2018. Happily, we have had an opportunity to update the book taking all of these developments into account with a new postscript as it went to its second printing run. The new, expanded version is now available to purchase online through Policy Press, in bookshops, and (free) on Open Access download here.
Cross-posted from the University Times
Last week, William Binchy – a long-time anti-choice campaigner in Ireland – affirmed his view that the eighth amendment had “done its job”, so to speak. And it has. It was introduced into the constitution in 1983 to make sure that abortion could never be legalised in Ireland. As a result, pregnant persons in Ireland cannot access a lawful abortion unless they are likely to die without one. This makes ours one of the most restrictive abortion law regimes in the world. Continue reading This is why repeal matters