The woman is the active agent: General practitioners and the agentive displacement of abortion in Ireland


After the legalization of abortion in 2018, Ireland needed clinicians to become abortion providers and make this political win a medical reality. Yet Irish doctors had next‐to‐no training in abortion care, and barriers ranging from stigma to economic pressures in the healthcare system impacted doctors’ desire to volunteer. How did hundreds of Irish doctors make the shift from family doctor to abortion provider? Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2017 and 2020, this article explores the process by which Irish general practitioners became abortion providers, attending to the material impact of medical technologies on that journey. Drawing from medical anthropologists who have examined similar themes of agency, pharmaceuticals, and medico‐legal frameworks within the topic of assisted dying, I build on Anita Hannig’s idea of “agentive displacement” to frame the productive impact of abortion pills on this transition.