HEAL UoS

Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

HEAL Seminar Series: 4-5pm Wednesday 25 November 2015, with Jack Clayton Thompson speaking on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want: A Gewirthian Model Of Rational Autonomy In Abortion’.

In 2015, Meetings on November 16, 2015 at 9:00 am

On Wednesday 25 November 2015 we have the fourth session in the 2015/16 HEAL seminar series, with Jack Clayton Thompson, a lecturer in Law at the University of Westminster, speaking on ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want: A Gewirthian Model Of Rational Autonomy In Abortion’. The seminar will run from 4-5pm in room 2007/4 (Law). All welcome.

Abstract

The law regulating the availability of abortion is problematic both legally and morally. It is dogmatic in its requirements of women and doctors and ignorant of would-be fathers. Practically, its usage is liberal – with s1(1)(a) Abortion Act 1967 treated as a ‘catch all’ ground – it allows abortion on demand. Yet this is not reflected in the ‘law’. Against this outdated legislation I propose a model of autonomy which seeks to tether our moral concerns with a new legal approach to abortion. I do so by maintaining that a legal conception of autonomy is derivable from the categorical imperative resulting from Gewirth’s argument to the Principle of Generic Consistency: Act in accordance with the generic rights of your recipients as well as of yourself. This model of Gewirthian Rational Autonomy, I suggest, provides a guide for both public and private notions of autonomy and how our autonomous interests can be balanced across social structures in order to legitimately empower choice. I claim, ultimately, that relevant rights in the context of abortion are derivable from this model.

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Three reasons against ‘gender’ abortion

In 2015, Abortion, Reproduction on February 11, 2015 at 8:28 am

Late last month several academics and medical professionals – including our own Prof. Roger Ingham – wrote an open letter published in The Telegraph opposing an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill 2014-15 that would result in the criminalisation of abortion on the basis of sex-selection, i.e., as a specific criminal offence. This amendment was tabled by Fiona Bruce MP, following her earlier Private Members’ Bill, the Abortion (Sex-Selection) Bill 2014-15 (which has since been withdrawn). Three key reasons were given against ‘gender abortion’, as outlined in the full text of the letter:

SIR – A proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill would make abortion on grounds of sex selection a specific criminal offence (“Gender abortion: it’s time for urgent action”).

Those pushing for this amendment claim abortions are being performed on women coerced into having the procedure, but any doctor in Britain performing an abortion on a woman against her will would already be committing a crime.

We have three main concerns about the proposed amendment. First, it would undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service, as it suggests that they need to be stopped from doing something that constitutes a form of violence and abuse and thus need to be prevented from harming women. This is a serious claim.

Secondly, it risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling that would, for example, require service providers to question Asian women specifically regarding their reasons for requesting abortion.

Thirdly, it seeks to construe abortion as an offence against “the unborn child”, specifically “the girl”. This is an attempt to secure a legal definition of a pregnancy that recognises the “rights of the unborn” – independent of the pregnant woman – and thus erodes women’s reproductive rights. MPs should seriously consider if they want to take that step.

Subsequent letters (in opposition) have been published in The Telegraph. Whilst, on the face of it, the ‘criminalisation’ of abortion on the basis of gender may appear attractive, it is already subject to the relevant legislative and regulatory frameworks in this area, and it is therefore difficult to see why further criminalisation (as it were) – through the creation of a specific offence – is either a necessary or useful addition to the statute book. The next step for the Bill is the HC Report stage on 23 February 2015.

‘All right thinking people?’: Hidden law making and faith

In 2012, Reproduction, Testing project on October 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

Sarah Catt’s case has attracted huge media interest, following her eight-year imprisonment for taking Misoprostol to bring about a miscarriage a week before full-term. She will be in cusody for four years and on licence for a further four years. See, for example, coverage in The Telegraph, the Guardian –  and again – and the latest related story was in the Sunday Times with pharmacists allegedly selling Misoprostol over the counter. There are numerous blog posts, eg Barbara Hewson’s Spiked post in which she argues against any conviction, and Karen Gardiner’s post on the importance of women’s access to services; and – in the interests of balance – also coverage in the Catholic Herald, where there was a call for the judge’s sentiments to be extended to all foetuses and not only ‘healthy’ ones (c/f s.1(1)(d) Abortion Act 1967).

What does this have to do with hidden law-making?

In his sentencing remarks Mr Justice Cooke commented:

[15]. There is no mitigation available by reference to the Abortion Act, whatever view one takes of its provisions which are, wrongly, liberally construed in practice so as to make abortion available essentially on demand prior to 24 weeks with the approval of registered medical practitioners. What you have done is to rob an apparently healthy child en ventre sa mere, vulnerable and defenceless, of the life which he was about to commence. You are not charged with murder and I would be wrong to treat it as such as matter of law. …

[16]. In English Law, none of those offences could be committed in respect of an unborn child, but the gravamen of this offence is that, at whatever stage life can be said to begin, the child in the womb here was so near to birth that in my judgement all right thinking people would consider this offence more serious than manslaughter or any offence on the calendar other than murder.

The tenor of his comments raised a few eyebrows, and media reporters quickly uncovered Justice Cooke’s strong links with the Lawyers Christian Fellowship – a group which has previously campaigned to change abortion law (at the time of writing none of their public policy material was available on their website, www.lawcf.org). Writing for the Guardian, Amanda Bancroft posited the question thus: ‘When one reads the remarks of the judge knowing his belief system, one can only ask: did the judge view this case only on the context of the crime she actually committed, or also in the context of a crime against a god which may not be hers?’  Interesting to note some of the ‘behind the scenes’ influences in the administration of justice.