'Big White Chief', 'Pontius Pilate', and the 'Plumber': The impact of the 1967 Abortion Act on the Scottish Medical Community, c. 1967 - 80

Gayle Davis, Roger Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The social history of abortion law reform and its aftermath have, in recent years, attracted increasing attention from historians, sociologists, and political scientists. However, previous research has tended to focus primarily on the English experience, and on the social politics surrounding abortion legislation rather than its impact upon the medical community. Using a range of legal, medical, and governmental files, supplemented by oral testimony, this article seeks to address these limitations by exploring the medical experience of the 1967 Abortion Act in Scotland. First, it outlines the medical problems which were perceived to have been created by the Act, as articulated by Scottish witnesses to the Lane Committee; in particular, concerns surrounding the pressure on existing gynaecological services and staff, geographical variations in the interpretation of the Act, the statutory time limit for termination, and the appropriateness of medical involvement in terminations of pregnancy where social criteria were involved. Secondly, the article explores how the medical community responded to those concerns and to the challenge of new responsibilities, and reviews the range of strategies employed by those medical practitioners wishing to minimize or devolve their role in the decision-making process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283 - 306
Number of pages24
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

Keywords

  • abortion
  • 1967 Abortion Act
  • Lane Committee
  • Scottish medical community
  • gynaecology
  • general practice
  • psychiatry
  • nursing

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