Ethical arguments for access to abortion services in the Republic of Ireland: recent developments in the public discourse

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Abstract

The Republic of Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in the world which grants to the ‘unborn’ an equal right to life to that of the pregnant woman. This article outlines recent developments in the public discourse on abortion in Ireland and explains the particular cultural and religious context that informs the ethical case for access to abortion services. Our perspective rests on respect for two very familiar moral principles – autonomy and justice – which are at the centre of social and democratic societies around the world. This article explains the context for the deployment of these concepts in order to support the claim that the current legislation and its operationalisation in clinical practice poses serious risks to the health, lives and well-being of pregnant women, tramples on their autonomy rights and requires of them a self-sacrifice that is unreasonable and unjust.

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