Despite almost every politician being willing to wave flags and post hashtags in support for women’s rights on International Women’s Day, access to abortion services remain a thorny issue. In the last few years, attacks on abortion rights in the US have escalated. Heartbeat bills and punitive restrictions on abortion clinics have been emboldened by the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling, which could undermine the 50-year-old legislative protection of abortion services since Roe vs Wade. In Europe, national bans on abortion rights have been challenged by huge protests. In the UK, anti-abortion sentiment has taken subtler forms, with the government refusing to extend telemedical provision of abortion pills, and bills reaching parliament seeking to restrict abortion on the grounds of disability rights.
Since the twentieth-century campaigns for women’s bodily autonomy, which resulted in legislative victories like the 1967 Abortion Act, activists have often avoided the tricky moral questions surrounding abortion. In 2016, Ann Furedi wrote The Moral Case For Abortion, arguing that the fight for unconditional access to abortion could only be won by making the moral case for women’s bodily autonomy on the basis of conscience and choice. ‘The freedom to make moral choices is the most important freedom we have; the freedom to act on our moral choices is the most important privilege we claim’, she writes.
Six years later, Furedi has retired from her position as chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, and has published a number of articles intervening in the discussion about women’s rights in the context of the gender wars. Reflecting the changing landscape of abortion campaigning, which is often plagued by questions of diversity and a nervousness about free speech in the context of abortion debates, Furedi has responded to arguments from her opponents, and added two new chapters in a second edition of The Moral Case For Abortion.
What are the greatest threats to women’s bodily autonomy today? Do they come from the traditionally conservative values held by Church or state? Or has contemporary feminist discourse, which often argues that women are in need of protection and intervention from the authorities, weakened the idea of a woman being able to exercise her free will? How has the fraught discussion about ‘pregnant people’ or gender-neutral language affected the debate between abortion activists about how best to build support for abortion rights? And why should the idea of ‘life’, and a celebration of its potential, be embraced instead of shunned by those of us who believe a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy on her own terms?
Join Ann Furedi and Ella Whelan online to discuss the second edition of The Moral Case For Abortion. Zoom details will be sent out via email.
Buy your copy of The Moral Case For Abortion.