Communicating vaccinations, cancer screening and reproductive rights: A snapshot in time during rapid political change in Ireland

Author: Padraig Murphy – Dublin City University. Ireland

Between the years 2015-2018, Ireland went through a time of significant social transformation that brought about the legalising of same-sex marriage, the removal of the Eighth Amendment in the Irish constitution banning abortion, and also uncovering of many historical institutional abuses of women and children, for which the Irish state was complicit. Any health policy intervention requires renewed public trust.

These changes are subpolitical with risk subjectivities occurring from outside traditional science and politics (Beck, 1992; Slovic, 1987). It is also the biopolitics of Foucault, as recent STS scholars such as Rosa Braidotti or Nik Rose have explored. When applied to healthcare, there are questions of women’s rights and the rhetorical use of scientific and other evidence. Wynne and Irwin, in the early days of PEST, applied risk perception theories to communicating science. However, intersectional theoretical areas of politics, educational argumentation, risk and feminist STS rarely meet in science communication discourse.

What globally can be learned from an engaged healthcare policy in this time of change in a country moving towards perceived liberalisation? What methods communicating science accurately yet inclusively apply to other countries?

This paper draws from a study of policy documents, news coverage and social media in three areas that have become major Irish political issues: the raising of awareness of HPV vaccination, the CervicalCheck scandal and access to information to abortion and other reproductive services post- 8th Amendment.

The study found the enduring power of deficit-model rhetoric. Government and advocates used conflicting communication mechanisms that demonstrate ‘patient care’, ‘patient as bio-object’, ‘paternalism/misogyny’ and ‘state control over individual’ where: 1) the state enacted biopolitical action for the health of a population; and 2) the state was accused of enacting biopolitical action against individuals or groups. Using STS approaches, the solution offers propositions of humility, bridging Wynne/Slovic, argumentation and feminist biopolitics.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation