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Nationalism, religion, and abortion policy in four Catholic societies

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Nations and Nationalism

Published online on


Over the last decade, a growing number of scholars have tackled the changing relationship between national identity and social policy. In this article, we explore the relationship between abortion policy and the historical and political construction of national identity as it relates to religious norms and symbols. Focusing on two main cases, Ireland and Poland, Catholic societies in which abortion rights are severely restricted, we argue that, in political discourse and institutions, a strong relationship between the Catholic Church and national identity helps opponents of abortion enact and maintain such restrictions in the name of religious norms embedded in strong claims about national identity. After exploring these two main cases, we briefly turn to Spain and Québec, Catholic societies that, in recent decades, have witnessed a secularisation of their national identity correlated to a liberalisation of abortion rights. This suggests that, at least in Catholic societies, the decline of a religious national identity is likely to favour a liberalisation of abortion rights.