Peter Boylan

In the Shadow of the Eighth

In the Shadow of the Eighth

My Forty Years Working for Women's Health in Ireland


By the time he retired in 2016 obstetrician Peter Boylan had delivered over 6,000 babies. And he had also made an invaluable contribution to women's rights in Ireland.

In the Shadow of the Eighth is the story of Peter Boylan's life in medicine. Having realised as a young doctor that Irish women's reproductive lives were shaped by church and state, particularly by the eighth amendment that enshrined the Irish constitutional ban on abortion, Boylan vowed to do what he could to change things.

From introducing sterilisation to the National Maternity Hospital in the early 1990s, to his focus on the unintended and tragic consequences of the eighth amendment (and tireless work for its repeal in 2018), to his highlighting of the dangers of the National Maternity Hospital coming under church control, Boylan has been calm, measured and steadfast.

In the Shadow of the Eighth is an engaging account of working in one of medicine's most satisfying specialities, a revealing behind-the-scenes insight into what it's like trying to make change happen, and a fascinating portrait of a society in transition. Lively, gripping, sometimes enraging but always compassionate, Peter Boylan's story is vital and encouraging reading for these turbulent times.