Calls for Papers: Abortion in the British Isles, France and North America since 1800

International Conference organised by the University of Paris-Sorbonne (France), 6-8 November 2018.

Conveners: Claire Charlot, Adrien Lherm (Paris-Sorbonne, HDEA EA 4086), and Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq (University François Rabelais, Tours, ICD EA 6297).

Around the world, 2018 will mark the anniversary of a series of events relating to the decriminalisation of abortion: the enforcement of the UK Abortion Act 1967 (50 years), the US Supreme Court ruling of Roe vs. Wade (45 years), and the Canada Supreme Court ruling of R. v. Morgentaler (25 years). The Republic of Ireland is also planning a referendum on the possible repeal of Article 8 of its Constitution which, if approved, would lead to the decriminalisation of abortion there too. In addition, shortly after the British General Election of 2017, Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced that women from Northern Ireland (currently excluded from the British Abortion Act) would be allowed to travel to mainland Britain to secure an abortion on the National Health Service.

Over the years, some countries have authorised abortion on therapeutic grounds (when the physical and mental health of the mother or health of the foetus is at risk), and sometimes extended terminations to other grounds such as birth control or the right of women to take control over their bodies. In this instance, the context provided by the 1960s and the 1970s would prove decisive in the liberalisation of legislation; a move described by some as ‘permissive’ and by others as ‘progressive’. A reform of the laws on contraception often pre-dated the legalisation of abortion, helping to shape a context in which women sought greater freedom from child-bearing.

However, despite changes in attitudes and legal frameworks, the abortion debate goes on and many attempts have been and are still being made to turn the clock back. This can take various forms: street protests, physical violence (including assault and shootings), legal challenges, and demands for amendment or repeal of existing legislation from anti-abortion lobbies and political movements or parties created for the sole purpose of going back to a world without legally-available abortion.

The aim of this conference will be to consider all these developments in France and in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States, and to seek to explain how debate, the Law, as well as the situation on the ground, have changed over the last two centuries in the different countries concerned. Among the possible topics of interest for the conference are: a) quantifying abortions and relating the phenomenon to that of statistical knowledge; b) charting the evolution of the legislation or rulings which led to the criminalisation and then the decriminalisation of abortion; c) examining the social status of women affected by those changes in the countries concerned; d) describing and explaining changes in attitudes among the various actors involved: public opinion, the medical profession, politicians, members of the different churches, journalists, the activists of the different movements or political parties and of course women themselves; e) exploring the sociological profiles of women who seek abortions.

Such topics raise a number of key questions. Is abortion used today as a method of birth control? Can we speak of abortion on demand? Can we speak of a backlash against abortion? Such questions, it is hoped, will contribute to an interdisciplinary discussion among conference participants concerning the issues raised by abortion.

Proposals for papers on one of these topics – or others – are invited either in French or English, and may address only one aspect of the abortion question at a national level, or adopt a comparative approach. We hope to attract specialists from a wide variety of fields: bioethics, demography, law, religious studies, economics, history, medical studies, philosophy, sociology, political science, and so on.

Please send a proposal (a 500-word abstract and a short CV) to each of the three organisers: Claire Charlot (, Adrien Lherm ( and Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq ( The deadline is 23rd December 2017. Those submitting a proposal will be informed before the New Year whether their paper has been accepted. Some papers will be published. A registration fee will be asked of participants.

Scientific committee: Nathalie Bajos (INSERM, France), Françoise Barret-Ducrocq (Paris-Diderot, France), Claire Charlot (Paris-Sorbonne, France), Ann Furedi (Bpas, United Kingdom), Hélène Harter (Rennes 2, France), Françoise Le Jeune (Nantes, France), Adrien Lherm (Paris-Sorbonne, France), Janine Mossuz-Lavau (CNRS, CEVIPOF), Fabienne Portier-Le Cocq (Tours, France), Joshua C. Wilson (Denver, USA).

Posted in Calls for Papers.