Publications on abortion coming off banned books list

Update of register to reflect legal position following repeal of Eighth Amendment

Several publications providing information about abortion are to be removed from the banned list following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment last year.

Most of the books were placed on the Register of Prohibited Publications under the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946 which forbids any publication providing information “on the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or the use of any method, treatment or appliance for the purpose of such procurement”.

References to abortion were removed from the Censorship Act last year by amendment as part of a suite of laws introduced to enact the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment and provide for legal terminations of pregnancy.

However, publications about abortion remained on the banned books list as they were placed there before the legislation change.


"It is intended that the register be updated to reflect the current legal position regarding the sale and distribution of publications that advocate abortion," a spokesman for the Department of Justice said in response to queries this week. He stressed, however, that the list is maintained by the Censorship of Publications Board, an independent body for which the department has oversight responsibility.

The change to the Register of Prohibited Publications is likely to be purely symbolic as all the books concerned are decades out of date.

The move will affect three books: Abortion Internationally (banned in 1983); Abortion: Our Struggle for Control (1983); and Abortion: Right or Wrong (1942).

It will also affect an unknown number of magazines and periodicals, most of which are defunct.

It is not known if the committee intend to take other books off the list which were banned on the basis they were “indecent or obscene”.

These include How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed (banned in 1985) and The Complete Guide to Sex (1990).


The last book to be banned by the committee was a title called The Raped Little Runaway. It was added to the Register of Prohibited Publications in 2016 on the basis that it depicted scenes of child sexual abuse which constituted child pornography under the law.

Last week, a 42-year-old man was convicted at Ennis Circuit Criminal Court of possessing the book in 2014, two years before it was banned. He was convicted under child pornography legislation rather than for possession of a banned book and was fined €500. He was also registered as a sex offender.

In total, there are nine books and almost 300 banned magazines on the banned books register. In some cases the reason for their prohibition is overtly sexual, for example Girls Illustrated (banned in 1975) and Sexology (1966).

In others, such as Psychology (1953) and Motion Picture (1959) the reason is less clear.

The list also features mainstream titles, including the now-shuttered UK News of the World, which was banned in 1930 because it carried advertisements for contraceptives, and the US-based National Enquirer (1964).

It also features a large number of true crime titles such as Master Detective (1958) and True Confessions (1952) which were banned because of their lurid content.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times