Contesting citizenship: an intersectional feminist approach to abortion in international human rights law, with a focus on El Salvador and Ireland
In October 2012, the death of Savita Halappanavar reignited the abortion debate in the Republic of Ireland. In March 2013, ‘el caso Beatriz’ drew international attention to the complete criminalisation of abortion in El Salvador. Making sense of the parallels between these two tragedies was the starting point for this thesis: how did the social, political, and legal context resulting in these harms come to be, and how could it be transformed? To explore these questions, this thesis undertakes an intersectional feminist analysis of citizenship and international human rights law (IHRL) in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHRs), specifically abortion. Focusing on El Salvador and Ireland, and undertaking a critical reading of abortion jurisprudence by the UN, European, and interAmerican human rights systems, this thesis argues that feminist campaigns for the decriminalisation of abortion at the national level and the advancement of SRHRs within IHRL at the regional and international levels are best understood as interconnected, and as part of a broader, longstanding, and ongoing struggle for feminists to realise women’s full citizenship and human rights. This struggle takes place through feminist engagement with the language and mechanisms of IHRL at the interconnected national, regional, international, and transnational levels of the human rights system, and as such it represents a multilevel feminist citizenship project: the contestation of women’s exclusion from and oppression by traditional understandings of citizenship that deny them the right to have rights and determine the scope of those rights.