Irish Abortion Literature

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day.

Anyone paying attention to news coverage of Irish politics will know that the parliament recently voted against the fatal foetal abnormality bill introduced from the opposition benches by Independent TD/MP Clare Daly. Or perhaps you saw BBC 3’s recent documentary, Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret? Our latest post is courtesy of Alan Kinsella who has made documents relating to the Irish abortion debate in his election literature archive available to us.

Ireland has had five different Abortion referenda, the first of which was in 1983. In my own material the first time I see abortion mentioned is at the 1981 Fine Gael Ard Fheis (Annual Conference) with the motion ‘That this Ard Fheis calls on the Fine Gael Party to reject abortion’. We also have a commitment on an Abortion Referendum from a 1981 Fianna Fail canvassers’ guide.

Under pressure from lobby groups such as SPUC (The Society for The Protection of the Unborn Child), Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail all carried promises in their February 1982 and November 1982 manifestos to hold a referendum on abortion. There was some unease though about the proposed wording; this is reflected in a motion at the 1983 Young Fine Gael Conference: ‘That this conference believes that no useful purpose can be served by proceeding with the proposed Constitutional Referendum on Abortion’.

1983 Referendum

The following slide shows some of the literature from the yes and no vote from the 1983 referendum. The campaign was notable for the dearth of leaflets produced by Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

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1992 Referendum

The 1992 abortion referendum had 3 separate ballots. The first regarded abortion itself, which was defeated. Some people felt it went too far, and others felt it didn’t go far enough. The second was to do with the right to travel. It was passed. The third was to do with the right to information. It was also passed.

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2002 Referendum

In March 2002 the Irish public were asked to vote on a constitutional amendment. The proposed legislation provided for the termination of pregnancy by a doctor at an approved centre where, in the reasonable opinion of the doctor, it was necessary to prevent a real and substantial risk to the loss of the woman’s life. The risk of suicide did not qualify as a ground for an abortion.

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Election Lit
Alan Kinsella is a collector of Irish Political Ephemera who runs the Irish Election Literature site. With Dr Ciaran Swan he curated the ‘What You Maybe Meant To Keep…’ exhibition of Irish political ephemera, which ran from March to July 2014 at the National Print Museum of Ireland and at the 2014 Kennedy Summer School.

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