Making the Moral Case for Abortion

Audio recording hereIn a lecture last night, Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of bpas, set out the ethical arguments for a woman’s right to choose to launch her new book: The Moral Case for Abortion. Drawing on sociological thought and moral philosophy, Furedi argued that there is a strong moral case for recognising autonomy in personal reproductive decisions, and that supporting a woman’s right to abortion has ethical foundations and integrity.

Furedi was introduced by Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at bpas. She highlighted the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act – an opportune moment to consider how far we have come, celebrate the doctors, nurses and midwives who made it all possible, and look to the future of abortion care.Furedi began with discussion of the dedication in her book: Dr Wilbur Larch, the obstetrician in Irving’s The Cider House Rules. As a character, he considers delivering babies and performing abortions to be equally moral; after all, both deliver women. This recognises the goodness of abortion care. Yet those who work in the field are so often unable to talk about it with pride. Furedi argued that abortion should not be such a ‘dirty little secret’. Abortion doctors are some of the most moral she has ever met.

She went on to deliver a summary of the argument in her book. So often, the anti-choice movement gets to monopolise morality. And while there are myriad pragmatic arguments in favour of abortion, Furedi questioned whether this is enough. Instead, she presented the moral case in favour of abortion, arguing that an embryo is not yet ‘one of us’. Ending life means something different to humans, compared to a being that does not know it’s alive. We have aspirations; we have autonomy to use our minds. That is the real difference.

Furedi recognised that women will have different views on this matter. But what is not debatable is that women themselves have lives, and the value of those lives does not lessen when they become pregnant. A woman’s value is in her biography, not her biology. A woman’s decisions are her own, and it is women who live with the outcomes of reproductive choices, not the politicians who seek to regulate them.

A panel responded to Furedi’s lecture, made up of Prof. Bobbi Farsides, Professor of Clinical and Biomedical Ethics and Law at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Dr. Sheelagh McGuinness, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol Law School, and Jon O’Brien, President of Catholics for Choice. They praised the book for tackling complex issues head-on, and opening up the idea that abortion care workers often see their work as moral.

A lively audience Q&A followed. Furedi argued that there has never been a better time to campaign on these issues. In Ireland, there is a clear sense that the Eighth Amendment should be repealed; the question now is what abortion law there should look like. In the rest of the UK, the decriminalisation campaign is gradually persuading hearts and minds that women can be trusted. With politics in turmoil, a window of opportunity has emerged for us to make the clear and simple argument that these are the services that women need. The #WeTrustWomen campaign has received enormous support in its mission to remove abortion from criminal law and have it regulated like other medical procedures. The royalties from the first year of sales of The Moral Case for Abortion will go towards this campaign, and you can get your copy here.

Find out more about the #WeTrustWomen campaign at

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