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Abortion Rights along the Irish-English Border and the Liminality of Women’s Experiences


My research in European abortion laws and restrictions focuses on the migration of thousands of Irish women who travel to England each year to access safe and legal abortion services. This article is an investigation of the Irish-English border as a symbol for reproductive freedom and the new value systems in which Irish women participate when they cross its boundary. I provide a brief history of abortion law in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and emphasize a specific case in which border crossing was severely restricted for a young rape victim desiring an abortion. Additionally, my research examines women’s experiences of liminality as they cross the Irish-English border and the complex, conflicting emotions that they may feel as they travel abroad. In particular, I address a recent pro-choice initiative by a Dutch organization called Women on Waves, which sent a ship converted into a reproductive clinic to Dublin to provide services to Irish women. The ship, which has since sailed to Poland and Portugal to offer further assistance to women in countries with bans on abortion, complicates the notion of crossing concrete national lines as it moves throughout international waters.

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Correspondence to Alyssa Best.

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Best, A. Abortion Rights along the Irish-English Border and the Liminality of Women’s Experiences. Dialect Anthropol 29, 423–437 (2005).

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  • abortion
  • border
  • emotion
  • England
  • Ireland
  • liminality
  • migration
  • reproductive services
  • Women on Waves