Chapter 21: Abortion, reform, and rights: tales from a small island
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This chapter reflects on how international human rights law was mobilized 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.

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