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This paper conducts an exploration of abortion legislation in Ireland through a Political Science lens. The existence of extremely harsh abortion laws in Ireland's constitution, with the procedure illegal except

This paper conducts an exploration of abortion legislation in Ireland through a Political Science lens. The existence of extremely harsh abortion laws in Ireland's constitution, with the procedure illegal except when the mother's life is at risk, appears to endure in juxtaposition with the country's status as progressive and highly developed with most other issues. Most notably, Ireland made history in 2015 as the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. This paper therefore aims to understand what factors have caused Ireland's abortion laws to perpetuate, and what the future of this legislation may be. This analysis is conducted by considering the following: Ireland in comparative perspective; the framework of abortion legislation; significant legal cases; the roles of the Catholic Church, interest groups, and public opinion; the referendum process in Ireland; and current and recent developments. The research and evaluation in this paper reveal that Ireland stands distinctly as an outlier among similar highly-developed European countries, even those with strong religious ties. Moreover, the Catholic Church continues to hold sway with abortion issues in the country due to widespread identification of Irish citizens as "culturally Catholic," exacerbated by the Church's majority control of the education system. Nevertheless, public opinion polls show a majority of the population support repealing the Eighth Amendment, the constitutional clause that severely restricts abortion access. However, this growing support for progress has not translated into real legal change because the referendum process must be initiated and majority-approved by Irish Parliament, which has been controlled by conservative parties for the last twenty years. Therefore, as the pro-choice movement continues surging in Ireland, the greatest hope seems to lie in the 2021 general election, during which abortion will likely play a larger role as a policy issue and young citizens witnessing this call to action will be newly eligible to vote.

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  • 2016-12

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