Abortion politics in the UK: feminism, medicine and the state

Amery, Fran (2014). Abortion politics in the UK: feminism, medicine and the state. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Abortion rights are often used as a litmus test for how well women’s interests are represented by the state. However, feminist accounts of British abortion legislation have been conflicting, either presenting the law as fundamentally anti-feminist, or noting that feminist actors have played an active role in its construction and defence. This thesis makes sense of this tension through coding and a chronological discourse analysis of Parliamentary debates on abortion legislation from the 1967 Abortion Act onwards, supplemented by analysis of interview data and commentary.
The thesis finds that the gendered assumptions encoded in the Act have constrained the debate. Due to a desire to protect access to abortion, feminists have been forced to defend a law which constructs women as vulnerable and irrational. While feminists have used the discursive resources available to them in creative ways, they have also perpetuated problematic ideas about gender. Difficulties have also been present for anti-abortion politicians, who oppose an Act widely regarded as protecting the vulnerable. These actors have attempted to borrow elements of a liberal, ‘pro-woman’ discourse on abortion, appropriating feminist language. Nonetheless, alongside this rhetoric are elements of a conservative backlash politics which identifies feminism as the cause of women’s problems.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Political Science and International Studies
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/4950


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