Irish Feminists Still Fighting Church’s Political Influence

What you see in our Second Wave feminists is a focus against the Church, and the Church’s control of women’s bodies and minds,” she said. “That meant specifically targeting reproductive justice issues. … [But] the unmarried mother was the main social problem, the battleground in the culture war. Feminists were arguing for support so that women could keep their children. And we won.”

On msmagazine:

When I walked into Dr. Katherine O’Donnell’s Dublin flat, the first thing I saw was a weighty-looking tome resting in the middle of her dining table: Impure Thoughts: Sexuality, Catholicism and Literature in Twentieth-Century Ireland. It’s exactly the kind of book you’d expect to find in the home of a women’s studies professor, and it was a fitting third party to our conversation that afternoon. I’d come to talk to O’Donnell about her country’s women’s movement, and in any discussion of Irish feminism the Church looms large.

The Church also figured prominently in the death of Savita Halappanavar last year, which sparked outrage and focused the world’s attention on women’s rights in Ireland. Halappanavar was admitted to a Galway hospital on October 21st, miscarrying at 17 weeks. She was repeatedly denied the abortion that might have saved her, being told she couldn’t have the procedure because Ireland is a “Catholic country.” The international outcry following her death forced the Irish government to at least appear to reassess its abortion restrictions: In May it announced a bill that seemed to clarify when doctors can perform abortions to save a woman’s life. Lawmakers probably hoped this small concession would deflect political scrutiny, but by then it was too late. The global feminist community had already begun to question what exactly was going on in Ireland. [Rest.]

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