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Law and childbirth in Ireland after the 8th Amendment: notes on women's legal consciousness

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Law and Society
Issue number4
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)753-777
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/12/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Drawing on a survey of women's experiences of obstetric care in Ireland between 2000 and 2017, this article examines women's legal consciousness of the 8th Amendment; a fetal rights provision that formed part of the Irish Constitution until 2018. Though it was widely agreed that the Amendment had some influence on pregnancy and childbirth, even where the woman had not sought an abortion, the scope of that influence was poorly understood. The courts produced few published judgments, and state‐issued guidance was limited. This article shows that the Amendment's meanings were not confined to those validated by the courts. A significant minority of our survey respondents felt that the Amendment had influenced some very ordinary decisions in pregnancy, and that it was bound up with a range of non‐legal norms. Most of these women saw the Amendment to be at work even though the medical professionals treating them had not invoked it. The Amendment was a felt part of a coercive legal atmosphere around childbirth and pregnancy in Ireland.