Faith voices resisting anti-abortion norms: Deconstructing and re-configuring transgression in Northern Ireland faith spaces

Fiona Bloomer, Nóirín MacNamara, Stephen Bloomer

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Little is known about how, in conservative societies, people of faith who support access to abortion, transgress spaces that assume anti-abortion values and norms. This qualitative study, set in Northern Ireland, seeks to identify how prochoice persons of faith transgress dominant religious positions, through the application of a Foucauldian feminist framework. Regulation of abortion in Northern Ireland vis-à-vis the UK is, and always has been, transgressive. The Abortion Act 1967, which allows for abortion in Great Britain, was never extended to Northern Ireland. Then in 2019, when abortion law in Northern Ireland was finally reformed, these reforms went above and beyond the GB framework becoming the first part of the UK to achieve decriminalisation. This legal change, introduced by Westminster, has been opposed by some policymakers in Northern Ireland who wish for anti-abortion norms to dominate. Within this context we explore how the power/knowledge nexus, and self-regulation are experienced by people of faith who are prochoice; how reverse discourse seeks to subvert hegemonic discourses; and identify lessons to be learned. Transgression results in a ‘belonging-paradox’, within which prochoice individuals feel simultaneously ‘half in, half out’ of their faith community as a result of its anti-abortion stance. Participants experienced cultural intimidation and felt silenced in faith spaces. We conclude safe that spaces for those who feel isolated due to their transgressive prochoice views, and for those unsure of their position, are essential.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102785
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Early online date20 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 20 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This work was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Charitable Trust under Grant 59.19.x and British Academy under Grant SRF21\210006 .

Funding Information:
The authors thank the study participants, and the expert panel and peer group for commenting on initial findings. This research was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the British Academy. We are thankful to the special issue editors and the peer two reviewers for Women's Studies International Forum for their encouragement of this work and insightful comments which enabled refinement of the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)


  • abortion
  • abortion faith
  • abortion religion
  • Churches
  • asynchronous focus group
  • online focus groups
  • Foucauldian feminist
  • Asynchronous focus groups
  • Church
  • Religion
  • Abortion


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