In the Shadow of the Eighth

In the Shadow of the Eighth

My Forty Years Working for Women's Health in Ireland


In over forty years in medicine - seven of these as Master of the National Maternity Hospital - obstetrician Peter Boylan was at the births of more than 6,000 babies. He saw women and families at their most vulnerable, their most joyous, and sometimes their most heart-broken.

In the Shadow of the Eighth is the story of how a young doctor without strong views on abortion became convinced that women should be trusted to make the right decisions for their lives - and how he then did everything in his power to bring about a situation where they could.

More than that, it 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.

'A comprehensive, insightful and often shocking social history of the country' Irish Independent

'A hero to many (including me)' @MarianKeyes

'Both personal and political ... a very important history of recent events that have utterly changed Ireland's social and political landscapes' Irish Times

'A fascinating story' Matt Cooper, Today FM

'The book is fabulous' Pat Kenny, Newstalk


  • A hero to many (including me)

About the author

Peter Boylan

Dubliner Peter Boylan is one of Ireland's most distinguished obstetricians. He qualified as a doctor in the mid-1970s and worked in London and Houston Texas before returning to the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street in the late 1980s. In 1991 he commenced a seven-year term as Master of Holles Street. He is also a former chair of Ireland's Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He retired from Holles Street at the end of 2016. In 2018 he played a crucial role in advocating for the repeal of Ireland's constitutional ban on abortion and he continues to be an influential voice on behalf women's healthcare issues in Ireland.
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