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Abstract

Feminist strategising on abortion has been dominated by a “pro-choice” frame. Increasingly, however, pro-choice discourse is being viewed as inadequate to meet contemporary and complex feminist aims and analyses, in particular due to the individualising ontological framework upon which it appears to be based. The work of Judith Butler is one location where such concerns have been explored and an alternative approach based upon a renewed analysis of the concept of “life” has been asserted. Foregrounding the fundamental precariousness of intersubjective life and opening the socio-political conditions sustaining precarious life to democratic public engagement carries significant implications for feminist strategising for Butler, and envisages a reconceptualisation of debate on abortion. In this article Butler’s work on life will be combined with her theoretical tool of the frame to explore space which may exist within pro-choice strategising to potentially work towards such a renewed approach to life in social debate on abortion. This space may be used to rethink feminist strategising on abortion beyond pro-choice discourse, and presents an accessible starting point from which to do so. In carrying out this analysis insights will be drawn from feminist advocacy and activism in the contingent location of Northern Ireland where recent employment of a health frame and a rights frame demonstrate instances of pro-choice strategising which may be reiterated to shift feminist activism towards more radical engagement with life as a precarious social process demanding critical attention.

Note on the Author

Kathryn McNeilly is a Ph.D. Candidate within the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast.

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