Abortion Law Reform in Ireland: A Model for Change

2015 Feminists@Law 5(1)

17 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2015

See all articles by Máiréad Enright

Máiréad Enright

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School

Vicky Conway

University of Kent - Canterbury Campus

Fiona de Londras

Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK

Mary Donnelly

University College Cork (UCC) - Law Faculty

Ruth Fletcher

Queen Mary, University of London

Natalie McDonnell

Trinity College (Dublin)

Sheelagh McGuinness

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School

Claire Murray

University College Cork

Sinead Ring

University of Kent - Canterbury Campus

Sorcha Ui Chonnachtaigh

Keele University

Date Written: June 29, 2015

Abstract

Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Abortion has been criminalised since 1861, and the passage of the 8th Amendment in 1983 introduced ‘the right to life of the unborn’ into the Constitution. The effects of the 8th Amendment are felt on a daily basis by women leaving Ireland for abortion, by pregnant women receiving maternal care, by doctors caring for pregnant women, and by lawyers working for the health service. As predicted by the then-Attorney General Peter Sutherland at the time of the referendum, the 8th Amendment has introduced an uncertain and practically unusable position to Irish law. It has, simply put, become 'unliveable.' In late 2014 Labour Women, a branch of the Irish Labour Party, established a Commission for Repeal of the 8th Amendment. That Commission comprised three groups: a political group, a medical group, and a group of legal experts. The authors of this paper are those legal experts. In this paper, we first outline the legal status quo as regards abortion in Ireland before making a case for constitutional reform. Having established the desirability of, and need for, constitutional reform we then outline the working principles that informed our drafting of the accompanying Access to Abortion Bill 2015, bearing in mind our intention to craft a model for reform that would be workable from the perspective of women’s lives, medical practice, and politics. Although drafted as part of the Labour Women Commission, and with some (limited) input from the other Commission groups, the proposed draft is that of the authors of this paper (working within the confines of our remit as 'legal experts' to the Commission) and not of the Labour Party or of Labour Women. It is made available here for discussion, debate and development by all interested parties.

Keywords: abortion, legal reform, legislation, legislative drafting, feminism, reproductive justice

Suggested Citation

Enright, Mairead and Conway, Vicky and de Londras, Fiona and Donnelly, Mary and Fletcher, Ruth and McDonnell, Natalie and McGuinness, Sheelagh and Murray, Claire and Ring, Sinead and Ui Chonnachtaigh, Sorcha, Abortion Law Reform in Ireland: A Model for Change (June 29, 2015). 2015 Feminists@Law 5(1) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2631293

Mairead Enright (Contact Author)

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School ( email )

Edgbaston
Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/law/staff/profile.aspx?ReferenceId=119022

Vicky Conway

University of Kent - Canterbury Campus ( email )

Keynes College
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP
United Kingdom

Fiona De Londras

Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK ( email )

Edgbaston
Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/law/staff/profile.aspx?ReferenceId=99740

Mary Donnelly

University College Cork (UCC) - Law Faculty ( email )

Aras na Laoi
Western Road
Cork
Ireland

Ruth Fletcher

Queen Mary, University of London ( email )

Mile End Rd.
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Natalie McDonnell

Trinity College (Dublin) ( email )

2-3 College Green
Dublin, Leinster
Ireland

Sheelagh McGuinness

University of Birmingham - Birmingham Law School ( email )

Edgbaston
Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Claire Murray

University College Cork ( email )

Aras na Laoi
UCC
Cork
Ireland

Sinead Ring

University of Kent - Canterbury Campus ( email )

Keynes College
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP
United Kingdom

Sorcha Ui Chonnachtaigh

Keele University ( email )

Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
United Kingdom

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