• Lindsey Earner-Byrne
  • Diane Urquhart
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


This book traces the histories of both of the states on the island of Ireland highlighting similarities, differences and the ways in which they have played off each other in relation to women’s reproductive health and sexuality. The conclusion summarises the insights this all-island historical assessment of the Irish abortion journey has yielded. It argues that both states were conservative and shot through with fundamentalism across the religious spectrum until the 1960s. They were both only able to maintain their moral intransigence because Britain provided an abortion escape route. Ironically, both states held deep misconceptions about each other, but also used ideas of the other to play domestic politics often at the expense of women on the island. There are also significant differences in their responses to abortion, which lie in their differing relationship to Britain and their varying political structures, in particular the Republic’s penchant for referendums, which created a vital civic space for transformative debate. In both states the role of women, both as abortion seekers and agents of social change, has been of central importance to the history of abortion and its reform.


Conservative states Fundamentalism Reform Peace process Mandate Reform process 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Earner-Byrne
    • 1
  • Diane Urquhart
    • 2
  1. 1.School of HistoryUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Institute of Irish StudiesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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