The Abortion Act (1967): a Biography

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Hanging lights in a library
Picture by Janko Ferlic








We are indebted to the following people who agreed to share their recollections with us.

David Baird is an Honorary Consultant Gynaecologist, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, and Emeritus Professor of the Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health. While Professor and Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh, Baird’s team pioneered the development of a medical ‘Abortion Pill’.

Marge Berer has worked in the UK and internationally since 1976 as an advocate for sexual and reproductive health rights.  She worked with the National Abortion Campaign, before chairing the Voice for Choice coalition of Pro-Choice organisations from 2007 to 2010, and co-founding and chairing the International Consortium for Medical Abortion from 2002-2011.  She has been the Coordinator of the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion since 2015.

Eileen Cook has been consistently involved in Pro-Choice campaigning since the first meeting of the National Abortion Campaign (NAC) in London in 1975, and as part of its Trades Union Liaison Committee. After moving to Scotland in 1983, Cook continued her involvement in Dundee NAC, the Scottish Abortion Campaign and Abortion Rights.

Dilys Cossey is a long-term campaigner for abortion and contraceptive rights, having been Secretary of the Abortion Law Reform Association during the passing of the Abortion Act. She went on to work with the Birth Control Campaign, the Family Planning Association (which she chaired from 1987-1993) and Brook (which she chaired from 1995-2001), campaigning for free contraception on the NHS and in defence of the Abortion Act.

John Deighan has been the CEO of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child Scotland since 2015, having been involved in Pro-Life campaigning since the 1990s.  Deighan chaired the East

Kilbride SPUC group and the Paisley Pro-Life Group, and stood as a ProLife Alliance parliamentary candidate in two Westminster elections.  He was Parliamentary Officer with the Scottish Bishops’ Conference from 1999-2015.

Ann Furedi has been the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service since 2003.  BPAS is a charity which provides non-profit abortion and sexual health services and also advocates to protect and extend access to these services. With a background in journalism, which introduced her to the issue of abortion provision, Furedi previously worked with the Family Planning Association and the Birth Control Trust.

Anna Glasier is an Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Glasier trained in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, practicing and researching in reproductive health, particularly contraception and abortion. She was Director of Family Planning and Well Woman Services for Lothian until 2010, and chaired the Guideline Development Group for both the RCOG and WHO Guidance on induced abortion.

Joyce Gould was a Labour Party official and, since 1993, has been a Labour peer.  She has a long-standing interest in sexual health and involvement in campaigns to defend the Abortion Act. She was an executive member of the Women’s National Commission (1970-75) and Chief Women’s Officer of the Labour Party (1975-1985). Gould chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health for over twenty years, and was President of the Family Planning Association from 2000.

Ann Henderson is a longstanding campaigner in the labour movement and for women’s rights.  Henderson was involved in the Scottish Abortion Campaign and is a member of the Abortion Rights Executive Committee and the Abortion Rights Committee Scotland. She is a former Scottish Trades Union Congress assistant secretary, and Scotland Commissioner to the Women’s National Commission.

Goretti Horgan has been involved in Pro-Choice campaigning in the UK and Ireland since 1979. Having been national organiser of the 1983 Campaign against the 8th Amendment, Horgan moved to Northern Ireland and set up a Women’s Right to Choose Group in

Derry, before becoming a founder-member of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland in 1997. She has conducted extensive social policy research including into the effects of criminalising abortion.

Diane Munday was a key member of the Abortion Law Reform Association from 1962, acting as Vice-Chair and main spokesperson, and then General Secretary from 1968. She moved to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in 1974 and remained there for 16 years as its parliamentary, public and press relations officer, remaining active in campaigns to defend the Abortion Act and pursuing a number of libel actions regarding claims made about the work of BPAS.

Josephine Quintavalle is a longstanding campaigner in the Pro-Life movement.  Quintavalle was a crisis pregnancy counsellor for Life for 20 years after moving to London in the 1970s. She founded Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) in 1994, a Pro-Life public interest group focused on issues surrounding human reproduction, and stood as an election candidate for the ProLife Alliance.

Bill Rolston worked with the Northern Ireland Abortion Law Reform Association (NIALRA) in the 1980s, aiming to encourage debate of abortion law reform and to achieve the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. He has been involved in an advisory capacity with both the Family Planning Association and Marie Stopes in Northern Ireland.

Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon who has been involved in the Pro-Life movement internationally and domestically since moving to the UK in 1989. He was Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship until December 2018, participating in advocacy work with a focus on the medical evidence associated with abortion.

Jack Scarisbrick has been a key figure in the Pro-Life movement over several decades. Scarisbrick founded Life in 1970 with his wife Nuala, as a charity that was absolutely opposed to abortion.  Life was primarily focused on providing pregnancy testing, counselling and facilitating alternatives to abortion. He was its National Chairman for 47 years, stepping down in 2017.

Audrey Simpson joined the Family Planning Association as Northern Ireland Director in 1988, acting as Chief Executive of the FPA UK 2012 – 15. She introduced a non-advisory counselling service for women facing unplanned pregnancy, and increased the visibility of the FPA’s advocacy work concerning abortion rights in Northern Ireland.  During this time, the FPANI won an important judicial review action requiring the publication of official guidance regarding Northern Ireland’s abortion law; and was also one of the organisations that requested a CEDAW inquiry into abortion in the region.

David Steel was a Liberal MP (1965-1997), leader of the party (1976-88) and was made a life peer, as Baron Steel of Aikwood, in 1997.  Steel introduced the Private Members’ Bill which was to become the Abortion Act 1967. He continued to play a major role in the defence of the Abortion Act in Parliament over the following decades.  In recent years, he has argued for further liberalisation of the law.

Caroline Woodroffe is an epidemiologist, public health specialist and contraception campaigner.  She was Director of the Brook Advisory Centres between 1970 and 1986, when Brook began incorporating pregnancy testing and abortion referral into their services. She was called as a witness before the Lane Committee into the Working of the Abortion Act (1971-4).  She is a former Chair of the Birth Control Trust.