Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


David Cole


Until recently, Ireland outlawed abortion altogether, subject only to the defense of strict necessity. However, Ireland may now be bringing its abortion policies into line with the more liberal policies of the majority of other European nations, most of which permit abortion. This Article explores the recent changes in Ireland's attitude toward abortion. In particular, this Article examines the interplay of European and domestic Irish forces in the struggle for reproductive rights in Ireland from 1983, the year Ireland adopted a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn, to the present. The author proposes that the impetus for the liberalization of Irish abortion laws has come not from Ireland's domestic courts, but from European institutions, international public pressure and international law. The availability of lawful abortion in neighboring European Community states has exerted enormous pressure on Ireland's legal culture, ultimately forcing Ireland to liberalize its own abortion laws. That Ireland has not been able to insulate its abortion policy from the pressures of Europe's liberalizing influence, the author suggests, demonstrates the impossibility of moral isolationalism in the European Community.