Abortion in Ireland: liberalisation, social freedom, anger and shame

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter outlines Ireland’s moral revolution in attitudes to abortion (Appiah 2010), the result of decades of conflict over how individual rights should be realised in the context of pregnancy and family life. The two major legal-political events which caused spikes in liberalising attitudes are outlined, namely the 1992 X Case, and the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012. This chapter explains how the moral status of abortion changed in Ireland, resulting in the 2018 popular vote to repeal the Constitutional ban, in response to public expressions of anger and shame at the operation of that ban. The chapter considers how a specific idea of freedom was articulated through this change. Two alternative conceptions of freedom, libertarian and socially embedded (Honneth 2014), are summarized. The chapter focuses on what the emotional register of public reactions to key events tells us about the form liberalisation took in Ireland’s long struggle over abortion rights. The significance of shame in driving social change, through an affirmation of individual rights conceived through a social account of freedom, is considered.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of global social change
EditorsRajendra Baikady, S. M. Sajid , Varoshini Nadesan, Jaroslaw Przeperski, M. Rezaul Islam, Jianguo Gao
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783030876241
Publication statusEarly online date - 16 Nov 2023


  • Abortion
  • Ireland
  • Liberalisation
  • Social Freedom
  • Anger
  • Shame

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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