Legality and Irish Abortion, 1920s–1960s

  • Lindsey Earner-Byrne
  • Diane Urquhart
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Since the foundation of both states on the island of Ireland women have had to face the risks inherent in pregnancy and navigate moral, legal and social controls. The issue of fertility control was driven underground in Ireland until the 1960s which resulted in the illegal importation of contraceptives in independent Ireland and backstreet abortions and prosecutions against those who broke the law in both jurisdictions. This chapter explores circumstances under which legal and illegal abortions were carried out on the island of Ireland prior to 1967. It also examines the consequences of the restrictive abortion regime for Irish women.


Abortionists Underground Therapeutic abortion Criminal abortion Maternal health Fertility 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Earner-Byrne
    • 1
  • Diane Urquhart
    • 2
  1. 1.School of HistoryUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Institute of Irish StudiesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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