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Objecting to Conscience: Reconsidering section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967

Date: 26 March 2014 Time: 4.00pm - 5.00pm

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 22

In a recent paper Professor Michael Thomson explored the role of the medical profession's boundary-work in shaping English abortion law. Mapping nineteenth- and twentieth-century medical campaigns to change the law regulating abortion, he argued that such campaigns were motivated - in part - by the desire for occupational closure and advancement. As elsewhere, this 'professionalisation project' relied upon claims to special knowledge and ethicality that were not necessarily evidenced in practice. In this paper, and in response to Doogan and Wood v Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board [2013] CSIH 36, he revisits this framework to analyse the Abortion Act 1967 and particularly section 4, the conscientious objection provision relied upon in the case.

Addressing the Act as a whole, he argues that it was significantly shaped by a successful campaign designed to save the profession from encroachment on its professional jurisdiction by both patients and the legislature. More specifically, in responding to Doogan and Wood, he argues that we should be mindful of the fact that Section 4 provided a key means whereby the profession avoided routinization, maintained and promoted the notion of its ethical practice, and helped to extend the medical profession's (politically useful) narrative of abortion as morally ambiguous.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Bioethics and Medical Law, Law


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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