Lack of Guidance or Unclear Law? A Study of Abortion in a Policy Process Context in Northern Ireland
Abstract: In 2004, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland (the DHSSPS) was ordered by the Court of Appeal to produce guidelines for healthcare professionals on the legal framework surrounding abortion in the region. The process, which came to last eleven long years, has been one characterised by intense struggle over meaning and been the main political battleground where the polarised opinions on abortion have been articulated. This thesis examines the process relating to the creation of the guidelines through Carol Bacchi’s “What is the Problem Represented to be?” approach, focusing on the function of problem representations within policy processes. A wide overview is given of abortion in a policy context in Northern Ireland. The analysis shows that while the policy of guidelines implied the constructed problem to be lack of guidance, the process has in fact undermined its own problem representation and effectively encouraged a problem representation instead focused on the lack of clarity within the law itself.
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