Interrogating medical tourism: Ireland, abortion, and mobility rights

Signs (Chic). 2011;36(2):275-79. doi: 10.1086/655907.


Medical tourism in Ireland, like in many Western states, is built around assumptions about individual agency, choice, possibility, and mobility. One specific form of medical tourism—the flow of women from Ireland traveling in order to secure an abortion—disrupts and contradicts these assumptions. One legacy of the bitter, contentious political and legal battles surrounding abortion in Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s has been securing the right of mobility for all pregnant Irish citizens to cross international borders to secure an abortion. However, these mobility rights are contingent upon nationality, social class, and race, and they have enabled successive Irish governments to avoid any responsibility for providing safe, legal, and affordable abortion services in Ireland. Nearly twenty years after the X case discussed here, the pregnant female body moving over international borders—entering and leaving the state—is still interpreted as problematic and threatening to the Irish state.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced* / economics
  • Abortion, Induced* / education
  • Abortion, Induced* / history
  • Abortion, Induced* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Abortion, Induced* / psychology
  • History, 20th Century
  • Internationality / history
  • Internationality / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Ireland / ethnology
  • Jurisprudence* / history
  • Medical Tourism* / economics
  • Medical Tourism* / history
  • Medical Tourism* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Tourism* / psychology
  • Social Mobility / economics
  • Social Mobility / history
  • Women's Health / ethnology
  • Women's Health / history
  • Women's Health Services* / economics
  • Women's Health Services* / history
  • Women's Health Services* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Women's Rights* / economics
  • Women's Rights* / education
  • Women's Rights* / history
  • Women's Rights* / legislation & jurisprudence