Advocating Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland: Local and Global Tensions

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It is frequently claimed that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is more significant for the cultural, rather than legal, work that it does in re-framing locally contested gender issues as the subject of international human rights. While this argument is well-developed in respect of violence against women, CEDAW’s cultural traction is less clear in respect of women’s right to access safe and legal abortion. This article examines the request made jointly by Alliance for Choice, the Family Planning Association Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform to the CEDAW Committee to request an inquiry under the CEDAW Optional Protocol into access to abortion in the jurisdiction. The study found that the CEDAW framework was useful in underpinning alliances between diverse pro-choice organisations, but less effective in securing the support of ‘mainstream’ human rights organisations in the jurisdiction. The article argues that the local cultural possibilities of CEDAW must be understood as embedded within both the broader structural gendered limitations of international human rights law and persistent regressive gendered sub-themes within mainstream human rights advocacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)716-740
JournalSocial and Legal Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2016


  • Abortion
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Northern Ireland

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