The Lighthouse



The Abortion act at 50: Still Disputed Ground? 
A one-day event to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act in Scotland
The Lighthouse, Glasgow, 24th August 2017 #AbortionAct50

The Abortion act at 50: Still Disputed Ground? 

A one-day event to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act in Scotland

The Lighthouse, Glasgow, 24th August 2017            








Registration and coffee 


Introduction to the day

Carrie Purcell, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow / Scottish Interdisciplinary Research in Sexual Health (IRESH) Network

10.00 -11.00

PAST: How we got here

Chair: Audrey Brown, Scottish Abortion Care Providers Network 


Understanding abortion in early 20th Century Britain

Rosemary Elliot, University of Glasgow


Campaigning for abortion rights: 1967 to 2017

Ann Henderson, Abortion Rights Scotland


How Scottish was the 1967 Abortion Act?


Gayle Davis, University of Edinburgh

11.00 – 11.40

PRESENT: Abortion stigma

Chair: Kristina Saunders, University of Glasgow


Still stigmatised? Experiences of ‘late’ presentation and ‘repeat’ abortion in Scotland

Lisa McDaid, MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow


Abortion stigma: resistance and rejection 


Lesley Hoggart, Open University 






PRESENT: Perspectives on abortion provision

Chair: Jill Wilson, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde


Abortion Access in Northern Ireland: current status and future directions

Fiona Bloomer, Ulster University


Nursing in contemporary abortion care

Anne Johnstone, NHS Lothian


Scottish abortion care: A doctor's perspective

Audrey Brown, NHS Greater Glasgow / Chair of Scottish Abortion Care Providers’ Network


‘We grieve silently and invisibly’: Women’s experiences of termination for fetal anomaly


Jane Fisher, Antenatal Results and Choices




FUTURE: abortion law and policy  

Chair: Lisa McDaid, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sceinces Unit


Devolution of abortion law to Scottish Parliament

Mary Neal, University of Strathclyde


Simplifying access to abortion: self-management at home, and GPs’ role in abortion referral 

Jeni Harden, University of Edinburgh


The Abortion Act in the 21st Century: the abortion law we need


Ann Furedi, British Pregnancy Advisory Service  


Where next for abortion in Scotland, and how do we get there?

Roundtable discussion led by Emma Ritch, Engender


Concluding comments

Carrie Purcell, MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow / IRESH Network



Fiona Bloomer
Social Policy, Ulster University

Abortion access in Northern Ireland – current status and future direction

This paper will focus on two key themes: firstly it will briefly reflect on the current status of abortion access in Northern Ireland. In particular it will consider the multiple barriers that women who seek abortion encounter: abortion stigma; harassment outside sexual health clinics; travelling to other jurisdictions; and the risk of criminality for those who self-abort at home. In the second part of the paper the future of abortion access in Northern Ireland is discussed, focusing on the impact of current legal cases and international human rights interventions. The paper will consider how activists have played a key role in shaping the debate for improved access, intervening in legal cases and collaborating with legal scholars to develop models for legal reform.


Dr Fiona Bloomer is a lecturer in Social Policy at Ulster University. Her research centres on gender issues, with a particular focus on reproductive health including: abortion policy; abortion stigma; faith and abortion; abortion as a workplace issue and female genital mutilation. Her research findings have been published in international journals including the Culture, Health and Sexuality and Critical Social Policy. She is co-editor of a forthcoming collection of papers exploring access to abortion in Ireland, north and south and Prince Edward Island (Canada) and co-author of a forthcoming book Reimagining Global Abortion Politics. Fiona has secured funding awards from the British Academy, the Open Society Foundation, ACSONI/ ROSA Foundation and UNITE. She is a founding member of the Reproductive Health Law and Policy Advisory Group, and a member of RAARN, the Reproductive Activism and Abortion Rights Network, a global network of academics and activists.


Audrey Brown
NHS Greater Glasgow / SACP Network

Scottish abortion care: A doctor's perspective

Abortion care in Scotland has changed greatly over the past 50 years. Demand has increased from 1500 abortions in the first year of the Abortion Act, to over 12000 abortions last year. The options available to women have evolved over the years, from an early reliance on surgical methods, through inpatient medical abortion, and now home management for many. This presentation will summarise how abortion care has changed over 50 years and look at the doctor’s role in current service provision in Scotland.


Dr Audrey Brown is a Consultant in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Chair of the Scottish Abortion Care Providers’ (SACP) Network. She graduated from Glasgow University 1990, trained in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Glasgow and Edinburgh, returning to Glasgow as a consultant with responsibility for community abortion services in 2004. As a Consultant, Audrey’s activities have focused on improving access to services: developing a priority access service for homeless people; establishing a network of integrated sexual health hubs; and opening abortion clinics to self-referral.


Gayle Davis
History of Medicine, University of Edinburgh

How Scottish was the 1967 Abortion Act?

This paper will argue that Scotland appears to have influenced the terms of the 1967 Abortion Act, and the values that it embodied, in several key respects. It will examine two of the most significant figures in the Act's pre-history: the Scottish politician David Steel, architect of the legislation, and the Scottish gynaecologist Dugald Baird, whose clinical practice and active political interests distinguished him from most doctors in 1960s Britain. Related to this, the paper will consider why Scotland was almost excluded from the legislation, and why ultimately this was overturned.


Dr Gayle Davis is Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She has published extensively on the social history of medicine, sexuality and reproductive health since c. 1880, including ‘The Cruel Madness of Love’: Sex, Syphilis and Psychiatry in Scotland, 1880–1930 (Rodopi, 2008), The Sexual State: Sexuality and Scottish Governance, 1950–80 (with Roger Davidson, Edinburgh University Press, 2012), and The Palgrave Handbook of Infertility in History: Approaches, Contexts and Perspectives (co-edited with Tracey Loughran, Palgrave, 2017).


Rosemary Elliot
Economic & Social History, University of Glasgow

Understanding abortion in early twentieth century Britain

This paper explores medical and political discourses on abortion in the early-mid twentieth century to show that early pregnancy loss, whether spontaneous or induced, became central to debates on the health of the population and a matter of national interest. Women were not regarded as fully autonomous, rational citizens, but their bodies were nonetheless intensely governed and scrutinised as a public good. In the absence of a clear legal framework for induced abortion, and the considerable secrecy surrounding the practice, medical and legal debate centred on whether and to what extent pregnancy loss was natural or induced when women presented with relevant clinical symptoms.

Clinical difficulties in diagnosing miscarriage were compounded by the opaque nature of pregnancy prior to the widespread use of ultrasound; medical textbooks and journals, experience and ‘impression’ guided practitioners in recognising the signs of illegal abortion. Further, medical opinions were shaped by class prejudices, distrust of female patients, and the wider context of fertility decline and concerns about infant mortality. Many medical men believed that miscarriage was rarely ‘nature’s way’ but procured in a high number of cases. These views shaped the ways in which medical and public health professionals sought to quantify and address the linked issues of spontaneous and intentional pregnancy loss.


Dr Rosemary Elliot is a Senior Lecturer in Economic & Social History, University of Glasgow.


Jane Fisher
Antenatal Results & Choices

'We grieve silently and invisibly' Women's experience of termination for fetal anomaly

This talk will explore termination for fetal anomaly from women’s perspectives, with a focus on the Scottish context.


Jane Fisher is Director of Antenatal Results & Choices (ARC). ARC is a UK-wide charity with a remit to provide non-directive information and support to parents throughout antenatal testing and when fetal anomaly is diagnosed. Help is offered for as long as is needed whatever decision is made about the future of the pregnancy. ARC also runs a well-established training programme for health professionals working in the field.

Jane joined ARC in 2001 as Support Co-ordinator and became Director in 2004. As well as managing the charity, Jane is also involved in directly supporting parents, training health professionals, research, policy and media work. She represents service users on the UK National Screening Committee, Fetal Maternal and Child Health Group of the UK NSC and is a member of the NHS Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme Advisory group.


Ann Furedi
British Pregnancy Advisory Service

The Abortion Act in the 21st Century: the abortion law we need

Looking to the future, Ann Furedi addresses what kind of abortion law would be best for women and their doctors, why we need a campaign ‎for the decriminalisation of abortion, and why 21st Century society should view abortion as it views contraception; as a responsible method of birth control.


Ann Furedi is Chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) and author of The Moral Case for Abortion (2016), Palgrave Macmillan‎. Bpas provides abortions to about 65,000 women a year in England & Wales. Most of these are provided free to women and paid for by NHS. Women travelling from Ireland need to self-fund, but bpas has a policy of never turning any woman away that it can safely and legally treat. Bpas was established as a charity in 1968 to provide both clinic services and public education. Today, it is known internationally for promoting women’s reproductive choice and the decriminalisation of abortion (

Ann has been Chief Executive Officer of bpas since 2003 and describes it as, “the best job in the world”. She is an unusual CEO, emerging from a background in journalism and advocacy rather than having followed the usual path of business management or accounting. She sometimes describes herself as “gamekeeper turned poacher” since her immediate past appointment was as Director of Policy, Press and Governance for the UK Government’s regulator of embryo research and infertility treatment.

She regards her greatest public achievements as the publication of new book “the Moral Case for Abortion”, and building an organisation that respects women’s right to reproductive choice, and is run by people prepared to stand up for its clients.


Jeni Harden
Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh

Simplifying access to abortion: self-management at home, and GPs’ role in abortion referral

Drawing on research from two recent projects – which explored women's experiences of home self-management of abortion and GPs' role in abortion referral - this presentation addresses choice in, experiences of, and access to abortion. 


Dr Jeni Harden is a Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, in the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, The University of Edinburgh. Jeni researchers in the areas of reproductive and sexual health; and child and family health.


Ann Henderson

Campaigning for abortion rights: 1967 to 2017


Ann Henderson is secretary of Abortion Rights Committee Scotland.


Lesley Hoggart
The Open University

Abortion Stigma: resistance and rejection

This presentation will introduce a short abortion film that has been developed in order to challenge abortion stigma. Stigma is context-sensitive and, in the case of abortion, is influenced by gendered norms. Women who have an abortion can be stigmatised because they are transgressing gendered ideals of women’s sexuality and motherhood, and can thus be labelled as ‘deviant’. Abortion stigma can help explain a range of negative aspects of women’s abortion experiences, such as why women experiencing an unintended pregnancy may find it difficult to decide to have an abortion and why women who have an abortion may wish to conceal this. Abortion stigma, though, can be resisted and rejected. The film is based on research findings and data from an English study on Young Women’s Experiences of Abortion, and is intended for use as part of public engagement activities designed to normalise abortion. The proposition is that activity that challenges secrecy and silence and highlights the ordinariness of abortion can – in and of itself – contribute towards abortion normalisation and thus de-stigmatisation.


Dr Lesley Hoggart is Associate Head of School (Research) in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University, UK. Her research is focused on reproductive health, abortion policy and politics, teenage pregnancy, and sexual health. She has published widely on women’s abortion experiences, abortion policy and practice, and reproductive control. Her work has been published in Contraception, Health, Risk and Society, and Sociology Compass. Lesley is also a member of the UK’s Voice for Choice coalition.


Anne Johnstone
NHS Lothian

Nursing in contemporary abortion care


Anne Johnstone is a Clinical Research Nurse at the University of Edinburgh who has over 16 years’ experience of research within reproductive health. Over the past eight years has been actively involved with health services research in abortion care. In particular she has been instrumental in developing early medical abortion (EMA) at home and simplified follow up after EMA. She works alongside Professor Sharon Cameron in NHS Lothian and runs her research programmes in abortion care and contraception including post-partum contraception.


Lisa McDaid
MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

Still stigmatised? Experiences of ‘late’ presentation and ‘repeat’ abortion in Scotland

‘Repeat’ and ‘late’ abortion are often framed as problematic, and there is continuing concern from a policy and provision perspective about the proportion of women presenting for ‘late’ and ‘repeat’ abortions. This presentation draws on findings from two studies of women in Scotland to demonstrate how and why such framings should be challenged.


Professor Lisa McDaid leads the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit’s programme of research on Social Relationships and Health Improvement. Her research aims to explore the influence of social relationships and networks on health and behaviours across the life course, and to translate these understandings into interventions to improve population health. Lisa is a Social Scientist and obtained her PhD in Medical Sociology from the University of Glasgow in 2007. She has expertise in sexual health/HIV, research with LGBT communities and led the MRC Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey from 2005-2014. Her recent research has explored sexual health inequalities among various communities vulnerable to ill health including gay and bisexual men, African communities in the UK, men and women living in deprived areas, and women who have experienced multiple and second trimester abortions.


Mary Neal
Law, University of Strathclyde

Abortion law in Scotland: the 1967 Act and the future

Although the 1967 Act creates a good deal of overlap between Scotland's abortion law and that in England and Wales, the similarity is skin-deep. This presentation will outline the distinctive legal position in Scotland and consider the different issues raised by decriminalisation in the Scottish legal context as compared with the rest of the UK.


Dr Mary Neal is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, where she teaches and researches in the fields of Healthcare Law and Bioethics, Property Law Theory, and Jurisprudence. She holds degrees from the Universities of Glasgow (LLB Honours, LLM) and Cardiff (PhD). Her research focuses on beginning and end-of-life issues, and in particular, on meta-disciplinary concepts such as dignity, vulnerability, and love. Her most recent publications have addressed rights of conscience in the healthcare context. Her current projects include articles on assisted dying; conscience rights; and the role of dignity in human rights discourse. In 2015 she was Adviser to the Committee of the Scottish Parliament that scrutinised the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. She is currently writing a monograph on pregnancy, property, and personhood.


Carrie Purcell
MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow


Dr Carrie Purcell is a Research Associate at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. With a background in Sociology, Carrie’s research interests span sexual and reproductive health, abortion, young people, embodiment, stigma, experiences of health professionals, and access to healthcare. She has conducted a number of research studies relating to experiences of and attitudes towards abortion in the UK, and her most recent research addresses women's experiences of undergoing more than one abortion.


Emma Ritch


Emma is Executive Director of Engender, a feminist policy and advocacy organisation working on women’s social, economic, and political equality in Scotland. Her particular areas of interest are women and the economy, men’s violence against women, and women’s human rights. Other boards and committees she is a member of include: EHRC Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Close the Gap, Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, Scottish Women’s Budget Group, Scottish Human Rights Consortium, and the Women 50:50 campaign.