learn > news

Latest News

NWC mark 50 Years since May McGee won Landmark Contraception Case

Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2023

50 years on from the overturning of the ban on contraception, the National Women’s Council commends May McGee’s bravery and perseverance in taking her case to the Supreme Court

Today marks 50 years since May McGee and her husband Seamus won their case against the Attorney General and effectively overturned a 1935 ban on the sale of contraceptives in Ireland. This case transformed the Irish political landscape and paved the way for vastly improved reproductive choice for women.

NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:

“I want to commend the unfathomable bravery and fortitude of May McGee in taking this case, in an Ireland that was rife with misogyny, and very much still under the thumb of the Catholic Church. While it was deeply unjust that the McGees had to have their private lives subjected to such public scrutiny, their personal fight for rights has undoubtedly improved the lives of every woman living in Ireland since, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. As is often the case in this country, the personal was forced to become the political in order to effect meaningful change.”

NWC Women’s Health Coordinator Doireann Crosson said:

“In the 50 years since this landmark case, Ireland has made significant advances in reproductive healthcare. We now have access to abortion, publicly funded IVF treatment and free contraception for women up to the age of 31. That said, we have a long way to go in achieving true reproductive choice and care for all. NWC will continue to campaign for universal free contraception, equitable and timely abortion access, integrated relationships and sexuality education in all schools, improved perinatal mental health care and the expansion of the new free IVF scheme. Through these campaigns, we aim to further May’s legacy of a more caring, more just and more equal Ireland for women.”

This year also marks 50 years since the foundation of the National Women’s Council. The Ireland of today is unrecognisable from the country it was in 1973, and that is in large part thanks to ordinary women like May McGee making extraordinary choices. Throughout these 50 years, NWC has brought women together and amplified their calls to the State. Because of our broad membership base, we have reflected the values of the country and demanded the changes needed for women to achieve freedom and equality.


For comment: Orla O’Connor

For any other queries, please contact Catherine Hearn, NWC Communications Officer, 087 1965300 or catherineh@nwci.ie

About the Case

Having suffered four traumatic births in the space of three years, May McGee faced the risk of a stroke, or worse, from a further pregnancy. In a bid to sidestep Ireland’s archaic laws, May’s local GP, Dr Jim Loughran, ordered contraceptives from England, but they were confiscated at customs, and the couple were threatened with prosecution. Following consultation with Dr. Loughran, the McGees then decided to take legal action. After losing their high court case, they were ultimately successful in the Supreme Court, with the final verdict delivered on 19 December 1973.


About NWC

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie