Exploring Irish Women's Experiences of Social Climate Around Abortion After the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment

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Croke-Martin, Orlaith
Abortion , Reproductive Justice , Ireland , Repeal
This study explores abortion activists’ experience of the shift in social climate around abortion in the context of the campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, which previously prohibited abortion in Ireland. Abortion was previously an extremely taboo and stigmatized issue in Ireland, but in the year leading up to the national referendum, there was a highly visible campaign for, and public discussion around, legalized abortion. The purpose of this research was to explore whether the campaign for Repeal, and the ensuing shift in abortion discourses, changed the social climate around abortion in Ireland. I conducted interviews with seven activists involved in a range of organizations, to discuss their experiences of the social climate around abortion before and after the campaign, and of organizing within the campaign for Repeal. Four themes emerged from the data: silence, speaking out, frameworks of abortion in the Repeal campaign, and representation in the Repeal campaign. The interviews revealed a consensus among the participants that there was a clear shift in the social climate around abortion through the campaign, from one of silence and shame, to one of solidarity and compassion. This study demonstrated the crucial role that storytelling played within the campaign, as it rooted the campaign and public discussion of abortion in women’s lived experiences. An unexpected result of this study was the participants’ critique of the mainstream campaign for its failure to situate abortion within a framework that centered the needs of marginalized groups. The participants argued that there was a missed opportunity to root discourses around abortion in intersectional understandings of reproductive justice. This research provides important insight on the successes and failures of the Repeal campaign that can be of use to future reproductive justice activist efforts, both in Ireland and transnationally.
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