Abortion, reform, and rights: tales from a small island

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reflects on how international human rights law was mobilised to try to bring about abortion law reform in the Republic of Ireland and the ways in which the starting political and constitutional context, together with the timidity of at least some international human rights law institutions’ pronouncements on abortion, limited its effectiveness in the campaign for constitutional and legal reform. Irish law underwent a profound change in 2018, and the route to that change was anything but linear. Along the way, international human rights law was certainly relevant, but, as this chapter shows, neither the holding nor the result of the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment can be attributed to international human rights law. Rather, local conditions were the determinative factor: national politics, national scandals, national outrage, parliamentary arithmetic and, ultimately, popular political will.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on International Abortion Law
EditorsMary Ziegler
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
ISBN (Electronic)9781839108150
ISBN (Print)9781839108143
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023

Publication series

NameResearch Handbooks in Law and Society
PublisherEdward Elgar

Bibliographical note

Not yet published as of 21/03/2023.


  • abortion
  • Ireland
  • human rights
  • reproductive rights
  • rights-based activism
  • abortion law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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