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Accepted Paper:

(Re)defining Risk: The Politics of Telemedicine Abortion in Ireland During Covid-19  
Leah Eades (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Republic of Ireland, I analyse how telemedicine abortion and the notion of "risk" emerge as resources for diverse actors to reanimate, reinforce and rework pre-existing power dynamics and tensions within current legislation and services.

Paper long abstract:

On 7th April 2020, the Republic of Ireland became the first country to announce that, in response to the Covid-19 emergency, it would temporarily be introducing telemedicine early medical abortion (EMA). Under the updated guidelines, women seeking EMAs would no longer be required to visit their GP in person and could instead avail of remote consultations. In this paper, I draw on ongoing ethnographic fieldwork to explore the politics of telemedicine EMA in Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic. I analyse how the specific spatialities and temporalities of telemedicine EMA emerge as a resource for diverse actors to reanimate – and potentially reinforce or rework – pre-existing power dynamics and tensions within the existing legislation and service delivery model. I begin by situating the current provision of telemedicine EMA in relation to Ireland’s recent history of illicit self-management under the 8th Amendment, and within ongoing state efforts to govern abortion through legal and biomedical means. I then outline the debates, anxieties and hopes that have emerged in response to telemedicine EMA’s introduction. In particular, I track the notion of “risk” and the different ways it is defined, assigned, and measured throughout these debates, and explore what this can tell us about the roles and responsibilities of the implicated actors and bodies. I conclude by looking to the future of telemedicine EMA in Ireland and elsewhere, and calling for further anthropological research in this rapidly moving area.

Panel P024
Reproductive Hopes, Travels and Self-management of Care: Seeking Reproductive and Sexual Healthcare across Time and Space
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -