October marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Abortion Act 1967, a law which has had an enormous impact on the lives of women in Britain and beyond, offering a direct inspiration for reform in a number of other countries. Working with colleagues from the University of Bristol and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Professor Sally Sheldon organised a two-day conference to mark the event. The conference was sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and held at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which generously offered free use of its facilities (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/law/abortion-act-conference/).
The conference heard from many of those who campaigned for the introduction of the Abortion Act as well as from those who have fought to protect it over the years, including the Act’s sponsor, Lord David Steel. Other speakers included members of the Lane Committee, which offered a significant and authoritative review of the operation of the Abortion Act in the early 1970s, senior health care professionals, a range of academic speakers, and past and current politicians who have been active in abortion law reform.
Professor Sheldon is currently conducting a major two year, AHRC-funded study of the Abortion Act. She also spoke at a second event to commemorate the 50th anniversary, Beyond the Backstreet, organised by Abortion Rights (https://www.abortionrights.org.uk/beyond-the-backstreet/); and gave a well-attended public lecture on her research at Keele University in a series designed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Law School, where she previously taught (https://www.keele.ac.uk/law/lawschool50thanniversary/50thanniversary-newsandevents/lectureseries.html).
Image: ‘George Rawlinson Collection, reproduced with kind permission of the GCU archives’.