No Space for a Debate? A Critical Assessment of Contemporary Fora for Discussing Abortion in Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


A number of recent events such as the opening of the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast have raised the profile of abortion as a political issue in Northern Ireland.  The subject has also risen up the agenda in the Republic of Ireland since the death of  Savita Halappanavar in 2012 after she was refused a termination in a Galway hospital.  Opinion polls suggest that there is support for further reform of abortion legislation in both jurisdictions. However, political party politics has been dominated by resistance to change, a position that in Northern Ireland unites a number of politicians and cuts across sectarian cleavages and constitutional preference. A similar resistance is presented by dominant religious bodies within civil society.
This paper will explore the debate, and obstruction of it, on the issue of abortion across a range of media. The paper will focus on the ways in which prochoice activists make use of social and blogging media in particular in order to create pressure for change. Social media have the potential to provide a space for less institutionalised and restrictive debate and to offer a forum for marginalised voices. However, we argue that many of the same obstacles (such as unequal funding and means of mobilisation) operate within this sphere also and that the dominant discourses around reproductive choice in Ireland remain embedded within patriarchal, traditional and conservative narratives.
The paper will trace discourses around reproductive rights in Ireland on social and blogging media, particularly around key recent events that have drawn renewed attention to this issue.
Period21 Mar 2015
Event titleUnheard Voices: Telling Stories of Empowerment
Event typeConference
LocationParis, FranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational