Saturday 31 October, 1.30pm until 3.00pm, Lecture Theatre 1
In the 20th century, women’s control over their fertility was revolutionised by the contraceptive pill and the growing availability of legal and safe abortion. In the 21st century, reproductive choice is no longer exclusively about preventing or terminating a pregnancy, but also about overcoming natural barriers to conceiving, and choosing to have children using Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs). While contraception and abortion are accepted as a part of modern life, and everybody knows somebody who has experienced fertility treatment, the clash between choice and regulation are still fraught. Policymakers and commentators fret about there being too many abortions, while the media report on fertility treatment allowing women to have babies in their 60s and 70s, octuplets being born in California, and mothers giving birth to their own grandchildren.
Abortion remains a procedure that cannot be accessed ‘on demand’ – a woman must claim that having a child will damage her mental health, and two doctors must authorise the procedure. Fertility treatment is subject to myriad regulations by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Recent guidance about Single Embryo Transfer, which limits the ability of clinics to implant more than one embryo at a time, so as to reduce the likelihood of complications, has been opposed by some women and doctors, who see this as a restriction on their ability to make personal and clinical judgements.
Should we trust people to make the right reproductive choices – or do we need to protect them against the excesses of what is possible? Are there ‘too many abortions’ – or too many people seeking fertility treatment for the wrong reasons? How far should the decisions of official bodies regulate individuals’ decision-making and clinicians’ practice?
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|Professor Peter Braude|
head of department, Women's Health, King's College London; director, Centre for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, Guy's and St Thomas Hospital
chief executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service; author, The Moral Case for Abortion
|Professor Sally Sheldon|
professor of law, Kent Law School, University of Kent; co-author, Fragmenting Fatherhood: a socio-legal study
associate fellow, Institute of Ideas
It was the last piece of advice Thomas and Amanda Stansel wanted to hear. But their fertility doctor was delivering it, without sugarcoating. Reduce, or you will lose them all, he told them.Stephanie Saul, New York Times, 11 October 2009
While commemorating Dr Tiller's life and work, we should be clear about whether his murder has wider meaning for the politics of abortion.Jennie Bristow, spiked, 3 June 2009
The Government undertook a review of the law primarily in response to technological developments, such as new ways of creating embryos that have arisen since 1990, and changes in society. The Act updates the law to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the 21st century.Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill team, Department of Health, 14 November 2008
Isolated by popular opinion, the anti-choice lobby now uses psuedo-science rather than moral outrage to try to curb access to abortion.Ellie Lee, spiked, 17 October 2008
Even if the dangers to mental health are slight, how can anyone object to women being counselled about them?Melanie McDonagh, The Times, 20 August 2008
Abortion needs to be as safe and accessible as possible. The government should push ahead with plans to offer early abortions at GP surgeriesAnn Furedi, Guardian Comment is Free, 6 December 2007
This is a presentation of the case for challenging complacency and reconsidering the extent to which British law has interpreted abortion and constructed a medical model in such a way as to place the control over access to abortion services with the medical profession.
Sally Sheldon, Pluto Books, 13 June 1997