The right to life and abortion legislation in England and Wales: a proposal for change
Languages of publication
In England and Wales, there is significant controversy on the law related to abortion. Recent discussions have focussed predominantly on the health professional's right to conscientious objection. This article argues for a comprehensive overhaul of the law from the perspective of an author who adopts the view that all unborn human beings should be granted the prima facie right to life. It is argued that, should the law be modified in accordance with this stance, it need not imply that health professionals should enjoy an unqualified right to object to participating in the provision of abortion. Indeed, it is proposed that – in some situations – women should be granted a positive right to abortion. While the focus of this article is on changing the law in England and Wales, it is hoped that the position developed here will also inspire legal debate and reform elsewhere.
- Abortion Act 1967.
- Barr  – Barr v Matthews, 52 B.M.L.R. 217.
- Bolam  – Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee, 1957 1 WLR 582.
- Brazier, Cave  – M. Brazier and E. Cave, Medicine, Patients, and the Law, 4th edition, Penguin, London 2007.
- Card  – R. Card, Conscientious Objection and Emergency Contraception, "American Journal of Bioethics" (7/6) 2007: 8-14.
- Curlin, Lawrence, Chin et al.  – F. Curlin, R. Lawrence, M. Chin, et al., Religion, Conscience, and Controversial Clinical Practices, "The New England Journal of Medicine" (356/6) 2007: 593-600.
- Deckers  – J. Deckers, Why Current UK Legislation on Embryo Research is Immoral. How the Argument from Lack of Qualities and the Argument from Potentiality Have Been Ap- plied and Why They Should Be Rejected, "Bioethics" (19/3) 2005: 251-271.
- Deckers  – J. Deckers, Why Two Arguments from Probability Fail and One Argument from Thomson's Analogy of the Violinist Succeeds in Justifying Embryo Destruction in Some Situations, "Journal of Medical Ethics" (33/3) 2007: 160-164.
- Department of Health  – Department of Health, Statistical Bulletin. Abortion Statistics, England and Wales: 2009, Department of Health, London 2010.
- Donoghue  – Donoghue (or McAlister) v. Stevenson, AC 562, 1932 S.C. (H.L.) 31, All ER Rep 1. European Convention on Human Rights.
- Foster  – C. Foster, Conscientious Objection to Abortion. Ethics, Polemics, and Law, "Triple Helix" (7) Autumn 2005.
- Fox  – M. Fox, Abortion Decision-Making. Taking Men's Needs Seriously, [in:] Abortion Law and Politics Today, ed. E. Lee, Macmillan, London 1998: 198-215.
- Furedi  – A. Furedi, Wrong But the Right Thing to Do: Public Opinion and Abortion, [in:] Abortion Law and Politics Today, ed. E. Lee, Macmillan, London 1998: 159-171.
- General Medical Council  – General Medical Council, Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice, General Medical Council, London 2008.
- Gurnham  – D. Gurnham, Losing the Wood for the Trees: Burke and the Court of Appeal, "Medical Law Review" (14) 2006: 253-263.
- Hill  – D. Hill, Abortion and conscientious objection, "Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice" (16) 2010: 344-350.
- House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee  – House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee, Scientific Developments Relating to the Abortion Act 1967. Twelfth Report of Session 2006-07, Vol I, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 2007.
- House of Lords' Select Committee  – House of Lords' Select Committee (Appointed to Consider and Report on the Issues Connected with Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning Arising from the New Regulations), Stem Cell Research. Report From the Select Committee, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London 2002.
- Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Human Rights Act 1998.
- Janaway  – Janaway v Salford Area Health Authority, 3 All ER 1079.
- Kennedy, Grubb  – I. Kennedy and A. Grubb, Medical Law, 3rd ed., Butterworths, London 2000.
- Keown  – I. J. Keown, 'Miscarriage': A Medico-legal Analysis, "Criminal Law Review" (604) 1984.
- Keown  – I. J. Keown, 'Morning after' Pills, 'Miscarriage' and Muddle, "Legal Studies" (25) 2005: 296-319.
- Lee  – E. Lee, Editor's Introduction, [in:] Abortion Law and Politics Today, ed. E. Lee, Macmillan, London 1998: xi-xviii.
- Lee, Clements, Ingham, et al.  - E. Lee, S. Clements, R. Ingham, et al., A Matter of Choice? Explaining National Variations in Teenage Abortion and Motherhood, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York 2004.
- LJN  - LJN: AR 5213, Hoge Raad, C03/206HR, 18 March 2005.
- Mason, Laurie  – J. Mason and G. Laurie, Mason and McCall-Smith's Law and Medical Ethics, 7th ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006.
- Mason  – J. Mason, The Troubled Pregnancy. Legal Wrongs and Rights in Reproduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2007.
- McKay  – McKay v Essex Area Health Authority, QB1166 2 All ER 771, CA.
- McLean  - S. McLean, Reproductive Medicine, [in:] Doctors, Patients and the Law, ed. C. Dyer, Blackwell, Oxford 1992: 89-105.
- Medical Act 1858.
- Medical Act 1983.
- Nuffield Council on Bioethics  – Nuffield Council on Bioethics, Critical Care Decisions in Fetal and Neonatal Medicine: Ethical Issues, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, London 2006.
- Offences against the Person Act 1861.
- Paton  – Paton v Trustees of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, 1979 QB 276.
- Pellegrino  – E. Pellegrino, The Physician's Conscience, Conscience Clauses, and Religious Belief: A Catholic Perspective, "Fordham Urban Law Journal" (30/1) 2002: 221-244.
- R  – R v Dhingra, “Daily Telegraph” 25 January 1991.
- R  – R (on the Application of Oliver Leslie Burke) v The General Medical Council, E.W.C.A Civ 1003.
- Raz  – J. Raz, The Morality of Freedom, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1986.
- Salih  – Salih v Enfield Health Authority, 1 Med LR 333, 3 All ER 400, 7 BLMR 1.
- Savulescu  – J. Savulescu, Conscientious Objection in Medicine, "British Medical Journal" (332) 2006: 294-297.
- Scott  – R. Scott, Interpreting the Disability Ground of the Abortion Act, "Cambridge Law Journal" (64) 2005: 388-412.
- Sheldon  – T. Sheldon, Dutch Supreme Court Backs Damages for Child for Having Been Born, "British Medical Journal" (330) 2005: 747.
- Simms  – M. Simms, Abortion Law Reform in Britain in the 1960s – What Were the Issues Then?, [in:] Abortion Law and Politics Today, ed. E. Lee, Macmillan, London 1998: 5-11.
- Smith  – F. Smith (ed.), Taylor's Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence, Volume II, 6th ed., 1910.
- Spence  - D. Spence, A Time of Change in Abortion, "British Medical Journal" (335) 2007: 1266.
- The Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) Regulations 2004.
- The Queen  – The Queen on the Application of Smeaton on Behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children v Secretary of State for Health (Schering Health Care Ltd and Family Planning Association as Interested Parties, EWHC 610 (Admin),  2 FLR 146.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Wicclair  – M. Wicclair, Conscientious Objection in Medicine, "Bioethics" (14/3) 2000: 205-227.
Publication order reference