9am-9.30am Registration

9.30am-11am Keynote Lecture – Reproductive Justice Across the Pregnancy Spectrum: Lessons from the USA

  • Farah Diaz-Tello, National Advocates for Pregnant Women
    Feminist scholar and activist Andrea Smith has argued that what separates “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in the public discourse on abortion is not the commitment to the protection of life, but the commitment to criminalization as a means of control. In recent weeks, the issue of criminalization of women who have abortions has been drawn to the fore, with both camps strongly decrying the possibility of arrests of women who have abortions. Yet across the United States, just within the past decade, hundreds, if not thousands, of women have been arrested, detained, or otherwise deprived of their fundamental liberty for the outcomes of their pregnancies. What’s more, these have not only been women who have attempted to terminate a pregnancy, but have included women who gave birth to healthy babies, women who lost wanted pregnancies, and women who disagreed with their physician’s recommendations at birth. These violations of rights — with clear implications for the UK given recent high-profile legal cases — demonstrate that policies and rhetoric underpinning the current moves to restrict abortion, in particular those that rely on conferring rights on fetuses, affect all pregnant women.
    Participants will come away with an understanding of the impacts of policies permitting state intervention in pregnancy, the connections between the movement for abortion rights and respectful care at birth, and the need for a strong, unified movement in support of the rights and dignity of all pregnant women, at every stage of pregnancy and birth.



  • Dr Ellie Lee, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies
  • Rebecca Schiller, director, Birthrights
  • Ann Furedi, chief executive, bpas



11am-11.20am Coffee

11.20am – 13.00pm ‘No drinking’ policy and advocacy: perspectives from Europe

  • Dr Anna Leppo, University of Helsinki: The rise of the precautionary principle: advice on alcohol intake to pregnant women in the Nordic countries
    This paper explores the construction of risk in government guidelines on alcohol intake during and before pregnancy in four Nordic countries, given that there is no sound evidence linking a low level of alcohol intake during pregnancy to foetal harm. The paper draws on two sources of data to examine the rationale behind the advice given to pregnant women: health education materials and other government documents, such as guidelines for professionals. In all the four countries the government guidelines advised pregnant women to completely abstain from alcohol consumption while there was some variation between the countries in the advice for non-pregnant women. The guidance in the four countries also differed in the extent to which they discussed the lack of evidence behind the abstinence advice and the precautionary approach on which the advice was based. The paper argues that this shift from ‘estimation of risk’ to the ‘precautionary principle’ is a part of a wider socio-cultural push towards broader employment of the precautionary principle as a strategy to manage uncertainty, and in the context of pregnancy, it is a part of the symbolic struggle to protect the purity of the foetus and construct the ‘perfect mother’.

  • Professor Robbie Sutton, Professor of Social Psychology, University of Kent: Communicating risk consciousness: a study from the UK
    Previous research has shown that intermediaries between scientists and the public, including journalists and lobby groups, can distort communication about risk and encourage risk-conscious and precautionary advice and policy (of the sort that now prevails in the UK). This presentation discusses research which suggests the problem goes further, by demonstrating a powerful “confirmation bias” influencing scientists and the public. We discuss two related projects which examined how research about the effects of low to moderate drinking for child development have been communicated and interpreted. We suggest that the assumption that any drinking is harmful dominates perceptions even where this is not indicated by evidence. One conclusion we suggest, is that the presently dominant ways of thinking about and communicating risk may reduce the possibilities for innovative research, close down questioning and limit the ability for scientific inquiry to test and challenge preconceptions.

  • Dr Raphael P Hammer, Haute Ecole de Sante Vaud, Institute of Health Research Lausanne, Switzerland: Autonomy, risk discourse, and pregnant women’s perception of the abstinence principle
    The abstinence principle is at the core of contemporary health policies regarding alcohol use during pregnancy. Drawing on a qualitative interviews, this presentation will explore how pregnant women understand and respond to the recommendation of abstaining from alcohol. Whereas most of the interviewees reported stopping drinking, some questioned the need for total abstinence. I will focus on the perception of occasional drinking as a safe behaviour and show that such claims are not perceived as conflicting with acting as a responsible mother. More broadly, two factors seem to play a crucial role in shaping women’s responses to risk discourses: the context of scientific and social uncertainty regarding moderate alcohol consumption, and the cultural status of alcohol in everyday life.


  • Dr Jan Macvarish, University of Kent

1pm -1.45pm – Lunch

1.45-3pm Policing obesity in pregnancy: roundtable discussion

  • Dr Rachel Jarvie, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Plymouth
  • Dr Pam Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
  • Dr Rachel M. Calogero, Reader in Psychology, University of Kent
  • Dr Julia Keenan, Faculty of Health, University of East Anglia
  • Simon Mehigan, Consultant Midwife

3pm-3.30pm – Coffee

3.30pm-4.30pm Policing Birth

  • Rebecca Schiller and Elizabeth Prochaska, Birthrights


  • Kirstie Coxon, Senior Lecturer in Nursing and Midwifery, Kings College London
  • Jennie Bristow, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Canterbury Christ Church University


  • Clare Murphy, director of external affairs, bpas

4.30pm-4.45pm Closing remarks

  • Clare Murphy, director of external affairs, bpas

If you have any questions or queries about this event, please contact