Two Bodies or One? Conceptualisations of Women in English Pro-Life Discourse, 1967-92

Two Bodies or One? Conceptualisations of Women in English Pro-Life Discourse, 1967-92
Date
17 Nov 2017, 17:15 to 17 Nov 2017, 19:15
Type
Seminar
Venue
IHR Pollard Seminar Room, N301, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Description

Livi De, Royal Holloway

This paper focuses on conceptualisations of embodiment within the English Pro-Life movement 1967-1992 – a period which saw the greatest concentration of Pro-Life activity during the 20th Century, marked by divisive debate. Drawing on original oral history interviews and archival research, this paper reveals the ways in which understandings of embodiment – both of the pregnant woman and the foetus – were variously imagined, articulated and contested among Pro-Life advocates, establishing a ‘spectrum’ of representation. In the literature of more extreme Pro-Life groups, feminist Pro-Choice women were painted as monsters who abandoned traditional femininity. Among less radical groups, women were portrayed as victims of patriarchy or their own hormonal bodies; these groups constructed their rhetoric and purpose around helping these women by supplying alternatives to abortion. Linking these approaches was a discourse articulating the presence of two bodies not one, which meant abortion was the application of harm, to the mother’s psychological or physical well-being and the foetus itself, considered a separate person worthy of legal protection. Overall, in exploring the issues of abortion, this paper contributes to understandings of a neglected theme of 20th century British history, and engages with a range of historiographical debates central to understandings of the body.


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