What is the Moral Case for Abortion?

For our 2017 Battle of Ideas* satellite event, fifty years on from the 1967 Abortion Act, BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi sets out The Moral Case for Abortion.

Since 2016, the issue of abortion has returned to the political agenda: most notably with large demonstrations in Dublin, to repeal Ireland’s anti-abortion legislation, and in Poland, in defence existing abortion rights. While in the US, concern over abortion provision following Donald Trump’s election has coincided with a UK campaign to decriminalise abortion altogether.

However, faced with the moral arguments of ‘pro-life’ campaigners in defence of the right-to-life of the foetus, many on the ‘pro-choice’ side have preferred to build a pragmatic case around the public-health benefits of abortion. But in her timely new book, The Moral Case for Abortion, Ann Furedi, sets out the ethical case for women’s right to choose. Furedi, maintains that there is a strong moral case for recognising autonomy and conscience in personal decision-making about reproductive intentions. For Furedi, it is essential to distinguish between the life of the foetus and that of the women carrying it, and to insist on the superior moral status of the women. She argues that while the foetus is worthy of respect, only women possess personhood and, as such, to prevent a woman from making her own choice to continue or end her pregnancy is to undermine the essence of her humanity.

So does a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy have moral foundations? If so, where does this leave the status of the foetus? And do arguments over health and well-being help or hinder the fight for, or defence of abortion rights?

Ann will introduce her book followed by questions and comments from our critical panel before discussion is opened-up to the audience.


Thursday 19 October 2017


7pm to 8:30pm




useful reading:

A Moral Case for Abortion, Michael Fitzpatrick, Spiked Review, September 2016

BBC Ethics Guide – AbortionBBC

The Case For the  Morality of Legal Abortion and  Against Biblical CondemnationLife and Liberty for Women

A Secular Case Against Abortion, Kristine Kruszelnicki, Pro-Life Humanists, May 2013

The Abortion Battlefield, Marcia Angell, The New York Review of Books, 22 June 2017

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Battle of Ideas is two days of high-level, thought-provoking, public debate organised by the Academy of Ideas, held on Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th October at the Barbican, London. The Festival comprises over 100 debates and satellite discussions confronting society’s big issues and unresolved questions.