Abortion and Reproduction in Ireland: Shame, Nation-building and the Affective Politics of Place

Feminist Review 122 (2):32-48 (2019)
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In 2018, Irish citizens voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution to allow for the introduction of a more liberal abortion law. In this article, I develop a retrospective reading of the stubborn persistence of the denial of reproductive rights to women in Ireland over the decades. I argue that the ban’s severity and longevity is rooted in deep-seated, affective attachments that formed part of processes of postcolonial nation-building and relied on shame and the construction of the Irish nation as a particular, gendered place. The article develops the notion of ‘gendered displacement’ to conceptualise abortion travel in the context of the history of women’s coercive confinement, and provides an affective, feminist reading of the interlinkages between place and nationhood. It also draws on three cases—the X, Y and Z cases—to illustrate the centrality of place and women’s occupation of space to the analysis of Ireland’s abortion ban, which should be read in the wider context of the legacy of what I term the ‘affective politics of place’.



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