A panel debate on the contemporary pressures faced by laws attempting to regulate abortion. Bringing together legal academics from the areas of public and medical law the panel event will explore how the law attempts to deal with a morally difficult topic such as abortion. It will be followed by a Q&A session.
Fifty years ago this year the US Supreme Court identified a constitutional right to abortion in the landmark case of Roe v Wade. One year before its 50th anniversary that same court (in Dobbs v Jackson) overturned that long-standing but much debated judgment.
In 2023, at the Crown Court sitting at Stoke on Trent, Carla Foster pleaded guilty to administering poison with intent to procure her own miscarriage (contrary to section 58 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861) where the termination took place outside of the 24 week timeframe permitted under statute. She was initially sentenced to 28 months' imprisonment but this was reduced to 14 months suspended on appeal.
In 2022 the Northern Ireland Assembly passed The Abortion (Safe Access Zones) (Northern Ireland) Bill. The Bill is primarily designed to protect the right of women to access abortion and associated sexual and reproductive health services. It prohibits anti-abortion protests within 'safe access zones' around abortion clinics and related premises. In a Reference to the UK Supreme Court, The Attorney General for Northern Ireland sought the Court's opinion on whether the Bill, which does not provide any defence of reasonable excuse, disproportionately interferes with anti-abortion protesters' rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. The Court decided that it does not.
These recent legal cases provide examples of the contemporary pressures faced by laws attempting to regulate abortion.
The Panel will explore:
1. The UK's constitutional position.
2. The use of criminal law as a tool for regulation.
3. The place of human rights within regulation.
4. Ideas for future reform.
Nicholas Clapham, Senior Lecturer in Public Law & Law of Evidence at the University of Surrey
Dr Katy Peters, Senior Lecturer and Director of Employability, University of Surrey
Emily Ottley, Lecturer in Law, University of Winchester
Anyone is welcome
The event is aimed at anyone with an interest in how abortion is regulated in the UK and/or an interest in the operation of UK's 'unwritten' constitution.