Reproducing Irishness: Race, Gender, and Abortion Law
365 - 404
Canadian Journal of Women and the Law
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This article draws on Nira Yuval-Davis's theory of gender and nation and on Etienne Balibar's theory of race and nationalism to develop the argument that race is one significant means by which the legal regime of the nation-state differentiates, values, and organizes women's reproductive contributions. I show how Irishness is a racial as well as a gendered national concept, and I trace the ways in which race has been legally mobilized to stigmatize and regulate certain kinds of abortion decisions in the Republic of Ireland. In doing so, I draw in particular on the cases of C (1997) and "Baby" O (2002), and on three interviews with crisis pregnancy counsellors and their discussion of the state's treatment of abortion-seeking migrant women. Although race is now being signified increasingly in terms of skin colour and used to exclude certain migrants from Irishness, race has also been mobilized as a supplement to nationalism in the abortion politics of the 1980s and 1990s. Irishness has been gendered and racialized in different ways through abortion law as it has shifted from an opposition with post-colonial Britishness, through internal hierarchies that celebrate the reproduction of some Irish women over others, to an emerging opposition with migrant Blackness. These shifts reveal that post-1983 Irish abortion law has always been racialized but that the concept of race has changed as the nation-state moves to value the reproduction of some women over others.
- Department of Law