'The Only Lawyer on the Panel': Anti-Choice Lawfare in the Battle for Abortion Law Reform
Forthcoming, Kath Browne & Sydney Calkin, "After Repeal: The Future of Women's Reproductive Rights" (2019; Zed Books)
19 Pages Posted: 23 May 2019
Date Written: November 30, 2018
Lawyers played a very limited public role in the official civil society campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2018 Irish constitutional referendum on repeal of the 8th Amendment. However, the ‘No’ campaign staked a claim to legal expertise and structured much of its advocacy around detailed, if often flawed, arguments rooted in conservative constitutional and statutory interpretation. In this paper, we frame the ‘No’ side’s reliance on law as part of a much longer practice of anti-abortion lawfare in Ireland, and interrogate the recent debates on the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 to reveal the persistence of anti-abortion lawfare post-repeal. We also point to the ways in which the new law on abortion in Ireland reinforces and re-instantiates the violence of the pre-repeal law, albeit in different and slighter forms, demonstrating the deeply embedded nature of anti-abortion and anti-choice rhetoric within our continuing language, law and political discourse of abortion. In doing so, we demonstrate that while repeal and the subsequent legalisation of abortion in Ireland are important breaks with a past abortion law regime, they do not yet reflect the new, emancipatory discourse of reproductive agency that might have been possible in the wake of repeal of the 8th Amendment.
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