Anti-abortion Myths in Political Discourse

Claire Pierson, Fiona K. Bloomer

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MANY POLITICIANS IN NORTHERN IRELAND continue to oppose any modernisation of the law surrounding abortion on morally conservative or religious grounds. During political debate the citation of false and dubious claims about the possible after effects of abortion and the lack of demand for abortion in Northern Ireland results in the creation of an “abortion mythology. This chapter considers two debates on abortion in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2000 and 2013. Whilst the earlier debate was characterised by myths tending to focus on the mental and physical efects of abortion on women and the false assumption that criminalising abortion decreases demand, evidence from the more recent debate is littered with claims that women who wish to access abortion are “vulnerable” or in need of protection, therefore indicating that all women who wish to access abortion are in some way “at risk”. Tis chapter presents initial fndings from a study funded by the British Academy on the political discourse of abortion in Northern Ireland. Te purpose of this research project is to consider, specifcally: the language used in political debate to describe women, the fetus and the act of abortion; and from this to examine the underlying gendered assumptions and stereotypes which exist towards women and their agency in Northern Ireland. Tis chapter explores and provides evidence to dispel the common myths associated with abortion in Northern Irish political discourse and analyses the evolution of the mythology surrounding abortion which continues to position access to abortion as a wholly negative experience / consequence for women. Discourse shapes understanding and perception of societal issues, this chapter aims to highlight that much of the political discourse on abortion in Northern Ireland is premised on myths about abortion and socially conservative understandings of gender. Accordingly, it challenges both local and global abortion mythology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrossing Troubled Waters: Abortion in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Prince Edward Island
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 10 Oct 2018


  • abortion
  • abortion myths


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