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Abortion in Modern Ireland

In Ireland abortion has been a criminal offence since the Offences against the Person Act 1861. In 1983 the Eight Amendment to the Constitution was adopted to give explicit constitutional recognition to the right to life of the unborn while also affirming the equal right to life of the mother. While further amendments to the Constitution in 1992 have seen thousands of women in Ireland travel to the UK each year to have access to abortion services, the position still remains that termination of pregnancy is only permitted in Ireland where there is a real and substantial risk to the mother's life.

In the wake of International Women’s Day and as debates around the Eighth Amendment continue, join our distinguished panel for a discussion of how this highly emotive and deeply personal, legal, moral and ethical issue finds its roots in historical and religious approaches to unborn life and women’s bodies in modern Ireland, the contemporary legal cases pertaining to abortion and the prevalence and impact of crisis pregnancies in Ireland.

  • Dr Georgina Laragy (School of Histories and Humanities) will look at how the criminalisation of abortion has been shaped through various historical factors, including medicine, religion and class.

    Dr Laragy is the Glasnevin Trust Assistant Professor in Public History and Cultural Heritage at Trinity College Dublin and an Irish historian focused largely on social history, in particular the history of suicide, death and poverty in nineteenth and twentieth century Ireland. She is also interested in the history of institutions, including workhouses, psychiatric hospitals, prisons and Magdalen asylums.

  • Dr Catherine Conlon (School of Social Work and Social Policy) will look at the emergence of crisis pregnancy as a policy construct, focusing particularly on how women’s abortion narratives both gave shape to and have been shaped by this construct.

    Dr Conlon is Assistant Professor in Social Policy at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin.  Her research interests are: gender, sexuality and reproductive health; intergenerational family relations; sexual socialization and; critical qualitative methodologies.  She has a strong track record of applied policy research including for the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme/Crisis Pregnancy Agency, the Equality Authority and the Combat Poverty Agency. She co-authored, with Evelyn Mahon and Lucy Dillon Women and Crisis Pregnancy published by Government Publications in 1998.

  • Professor Ivana Bacik (School of Law) will examine the 1983 Amendment and post 1983 cases and provide a snapshot of the current political and legal context.

    Professor Bacik is the Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology (1996) at Trinity College Dublin. She is a barrister, and teaches courses in Criminal law; Criminology; and Penology at Trinity. She is also a Senator for Dublin University. Her research interests include criminal law and criminology, constitutional law, feminist theories and law, human rights and equality issues in law.

  • Professor William Binchy (School of Law) will seek to identify the values that underlie the Eighth Amendment and to assess how they compare with those underlying the case for repeal. 

    Professor Binchy is Adjunct Professor in Law at Trinity College Dublin and a practising Barrister. Previously, he was Regius Professor of Laws, an Irish Human Rights Commissioner, Visiting Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and at the Institute of European and Comparative Law, Oxford, special legal adviser on family law reform to the Department of Justice and Research Counsellor to the Law Reform Commission. 

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