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Transnational abortion pill flows and the political geography of abortion in Ireland

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The growing availability of abortion pills has transformed the safety and accessibility of abortion worldwide, especially in countries with very restrictive abortion laws. The public health implications of this abortion technology have been widely recognized, but its political and geographical impacts require closer attention. This paper examines the geography of illegal abortion pills in the Republic of Ireland, where abortion pills became widely accessible through transnational activist networks, despite a constitutional abortion ban. It contributes to political geography and international relations conversations about materiality and sovereignty by mapping the flows of abortion pills into Ireland and discussing the varied ways that the institutions of the state conceptualized and responded to these flows. It argues that the state’s response to the influx of illegal abortion pills was predominantly shaped by its understanding of their territorial significance: the state sought to intercept pills at the border and discourage their use at home while advocating abortion travel abroad, eventually legislating for abortion reform that would offer tightly controlled access authorized by doctors. The paper advances the research agendas in reproductive and abortion geographies by bringing them into conversation with broader debates on territory and politics.




Calkin, S. (2021). Transnational abortion pill flows and the political geography of abortion in Ireland. Territory, Politics, Governance, 9(2), 163–179.

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