Intended for healthcare professionals


A tale of two countries: women’s reproductive rights in Ireland and the US

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 07 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2471
  1. Dorothy Shaw, clinical professor1,
  2. Wendy V Norman, associate professor1
  1. 1Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  1. Correspondence to: W Norman wendy.norman{at}

Ireland steps forward while the US turns back

In recent weeks, polar opposite approaches have been taken to determine how to implement health policy that directly affects only women. On one hand, the Trump administration in the US has introduced a proposal to cut off access to federal funds for more than 4000 family planning facilities if they provide, discuss, or refer for abortion.1 On the other hand, Ireland held a referendum which decisively overturned its highly restrictive abortion law.2 Yet despite these opposing pendulum swings on reproductive health policy, both countries could be considered to be politically dominated by a religious or conservative agenda.

Abortion is a highly emotive topic in any country, yet it is often misunderstood and misrepresented in public discourse. The Irish people were able to listen to the evidence not only from world literature but their own country showing that restricting access to abortions does not decrease the number of abortions but does result in women dying.3 The inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar, the dentist who died from sepsis at 17 weeks of pregnancy because she was denied a pregnancy termination …

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