Sanctity of child life?
Official responses to infanticide
in Precarious childhood in post-independence Ireland
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Contemporary cases of infanticide typically are greeted with revulsion and incredulity within an Irish population. The Infanticide Act could be seen as an effort on the part of lawmakers to bring statute into line with what had gradually become standard judicial practice. The reaction of Catholic writers to infanticide represented a mixture of theology and pragmatism that occasionally conflicted with official Catholic teaching. The 1949 Infanticide Act owed less to the influence of the Catholic Church than to a combination of British criminal justice principles, current judicial practice and basic pragmatism. Judges and juries usually approached infanticide cases from the assumption that the ‘typical’ infanticide defendant was a poor, seduced, desperate woman who committed infanticide on the spur of the moment, out of a sense of panic and shame.


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