The Impact of the medical profession on abortion laws in transitional and post-conflict societies

Harding Building
Thursday 4 April 2019 (09:15-17:30)

An Institute for Global Innovation and Birmingham Law School workshop

The aim of the workshop is to bring together academics, activists, and healthcare professionals from transitional and post-conflict countries where abortion laws has been or currently is in flux to discuss the way in which the medical profession participates and influences these changes. In particular the meeting will look at the role of the medical and human rights organisations in shaping abortion law reforms and their implementation.

The workshop will address the challenges arising with regard to: 

a) the implementation of abortion laws in transitional and post-conflict societies by healthcare professionals;

b) the development and encouragement of liberal interpretations of abortion laws;

c) different patterns of mobilisation of the medical profession around abortion law reforms - whether in terms of developing liberal laws and practices or negotiating conservative/religious approaches to abortion laws.

The workshop aims to create a platform of mutual learning and knowledge-transfer between the countries from the so-called ‘Global North’ and countries from the ‘Global South’, which have recently undergone several transformations, i.e. political or socio-economic transition, and abortion law reforms. The workshop constitutes a rare opportunity for activists from the Global South to discuss the role of the medical profession in the mobilisation around issues of reproductive rights, and share practical strategies concerning the implementation of abortion laws. The project consciously moves away from the tradition conceptualisations of reproductive rights in terms of “abortion wars” and focuses on the dynamics between the healthcare professionals, patients, state institutions, and civil society. The workshop will include participants representing different disciplines and professional backgrounds lawyers, human rights advocates, philosophers, political scientists, anthropologists (social scientists) and representatives of the medical profession from Argentina, Colombia, Ireland, Malawi, Mozambique, Poland, and the UK.

Confirmed speakers: 

  • Ms Cameliza Rosario (Michael Christiansen Institute, Norway)
  • Ms Eulalia Macovela Dauane M.D. (Mozambican Gynecologists and Obstetricians Association (AMOG), Mozamique)
  • Dr Deirdre Duffy (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
  • Ms Liliana Religa (Federation for Women and Family Planning, Poland)
  • Professor Chisale Mhango (Director of the Reproductive Health Services in the Ministry of Health, in Malawi)
  • Professor Joanna Erdman (Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University; Member, Gender and Rights Advisory Panel, World Health Organization)
  • Dr Ana Cristina Gonzalez Velez M.D. (La Mesa por La Vida; Doctors for Choice, Colombia; Fiocruz Foundation, Brasil)
  • Professor Paola Bergallo (Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina)
  • Dr Ruth Fletcher (Queen Mary London, UK)
  • Professor Fiona De Londras (Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Dr Mairead Enright ((Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Dr Atina Krajewska (Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK)
  • Maeve Taylor (Irish Family Planning Association, Ireland)


9.15 – 9.45 Registration: Senior Common Room (Law Building, 2nd Floor)

9.45 – 10.00 Welcome: Mairead Enright & Atina Krajewska

10.00 – 12.00 Session I: Shaping the law through its interpretation

  • Mairead Enright & Deirdre Duffy: ‘Because of the Amendment’: Women’s Autonomy in Obstetric Care After Ireland’s Abortion Referendum.
  • Ana Cristina Gonzalez Velez: Beyond the Courts: the battle for the right to abortion and the role of medical doctors in the interpretation of the law in Colombia.
  • Liliana Religa: On conscientious objection, chilling effect & anti-choice views. Influence of medical professionals on the accessibility of abortion in Poland
  • Eulalia Dauane: Safe Abortion Services after the adoption of Abortion Law in Mozambique 

12.00 – 13:00 – Lunch 

13.00 – 14.30 – Session II: Socio-legal histories of medical mobilisation 

  • Joanna Erdman: The Bounds of Legality and The Bureaucratic Abortion. 
  • Atina Krajewska: The history of the medical profession in Poland and its impact on the development of abortion law.
  • Carmeliza Rosario: We were communists - historical, political and ideological determinants of sexual reproductive rights: reflections on long-term ideological influences on the mobilization for abortion rights in Mozambique. 
  • Meave Taylor (Ireland): TBC 

14.30 – 15.00 – Coffee 

15.00 – 17.30 – Session III: Recent experiences of medical mobilisation

  • Paola Bergallo: TBC 
  • Chisale Mhango: Proposed Abortion Law Reform in Malawi: Role of the Medical Profession. 
  • Ruth Fletcher: Moving translations on the abortion trail: Repeal, replace, remove, repeat? 
  • Fiona de Londras: Medics, Repeal, and the Reform of Irish Abortion Law.

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