Reforming Abortion Law in Ireland: An Analysis of Submissions to the Citizens Assembly
31 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2018
Date Written: October 10, 2017
For decades, the questions of whether, how, and when pregnant people living in Ireland can access abortion have been a matter of contention. The Constitution recognised "the right to life of the unborn" and the first step to meaningful law reform is unavoidably a referendum to remove this provision (the 8th Amendment). That referendum will take place in 2018. This paper analyses a sample of submissions from the public made to a 'Citizens Assembly' established to consider constitutional reform, in order to identify the kinds of arguments that inform the submissions in favour of, and against, repeal. This analysis shows that, rather than the technical and technocratic arguments that now dominate elite discourses about abortion law reform in Ireland, first principles arguments about fetal personhood and rights, on the one hand, and women's autonomy on the other dominate these submissions. If this is reflective of popular discourse on reform, it may be taken to indicate the shape of the debates that will dominate the 2018 referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment.
Keywords: abortion, Ireland, constitutional law
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