This project explores the moral, religious, and political debates around abortion in the United States and the Republic of Ireland. Existing literature on the topic of women’s access to abortion in the U.S. and Ireland focuses primarily on the political positions of the State. However, a detailed exploration of abortion’s history in these two contexts suggests that the State’s influence on women’s bodies—as it connects with moral and religious doctrine—goes much deeper than the simplified dichotomy of pro-life and pro-choice that has historically shaped contemporary abortion discourse. In the Republic of Ireland, laws center around Roman Catholicism, outlawing women’s access to abortion from 1867-2017. In the U.S., the professionalization of medicine in the early 20th century and Protestantism’s strong influence both shaped abortion’s political landscape. After the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, women’s access to abortion services has eroded and become increasingly stratified. In the wake of legal access to abortion in both contexts, a change in activism has brought new interest in this topic. Yet politicians often ignore the history of women’s access to abortion and other reproductive and sexual health resources even in the midst of continued polarizing debates over women’s autonomy, “fetal personhood,” and the Church’s authority. It is important to revisit this history due to the particular rise in conservatism in contemporary politics and to gain better understanding of women’s rights and agency for the future.


Craven, Christa


Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Gender and Sexuality | Sociology of Religion

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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