Week 6 – Thinking Through Abortion


N: Talks of abortion, reproductive technology, disability rights

So I left York before I could teach this seminar but thought it was worth reflection on anyway because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

I thought long and hard about finding an appropriate approach to teaching the abortion topic because it is so emotive. Additionally, it is not appropriate to ‘teach’ the students what to think in the conventional way so I needed to reflect on how I wanted them to approach this subject, and what questions I wanted them to ask themselves.

I decided that I would begin this class like last week with a slide detailing the learning outcomes and lesson plan before moving on to briefly re-visit the safe space approach that the class agreed on in the first week. The idea being to gently remind the group of how to behave but also make sure that they are aware that their participation is required, especially when working through such an emotive subject.

Following this, I was going to split them into two groups ans ask them to draw up list of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons to have an abortion. My hope was that I would be able to challenge some of their assumptions about ‘bad’ reasons.

Next, I indented to hand out an abortion quiz that I had drawn up and get them to complete this on their own or in pairs before running through the correct answers. I wanted to use the quiz to introduce them to some of the key facts around abortion relating to numbers and legal requirements for abortion in a way that was dynamic and engaging.

After the quiz, I was going to show them a video case study about the complete ban on abortions in Chile. The video contains some shocking scenes at the beginning of a woman deliberately walking into oncoming traffic in a bid to induce an ‘accidental’ miscarriage (the only kind legally permitted in chile.) Due to the distressing nature of these scenes I added a content note to the slide and would have broached this with the students beforehand. I also asked the module leader to review the video and gain her approval to use it. My hope was that the video would bring home the stark realities and implications of debates around abortion. I also intended to draw their attention to the abortion laws in Northern Ireland as a means of illustrating that this issue is not just a problem in far away cultures.

Following the video I intended to ask about what barriers exist to getting a safe, legal abortion and would have written these on the board as the students called them out. I would then bring up a slide with a list I had made to see if we had missed any out.

Having looked at abortion in a general way, the second half of the seminar would be spent looking at ways in which the abortion debate is complicated by the issue of disability rights. We would have has a class discussion on the tensions between pro-choice and disability advocates and discussed how/if these tensions could ever be resolved. We would explore these issues further by watching an interview with the film maker who produced a documentary for the BBC ‘A World without Downs’ which I had asked them to watch as homework.

Following this discussion, we would move on to look at some of the technological advances in reproductive technologies and their consequences for feminists and society at large. We would also look at access to, and success rates of IVF treatment.

Lastly I intended to give the students some time to reflect quietly on their own on the issues we had been discussing and to think about the following questions

Imagine that you are expecting a baby and find out that there is a high chance that it will be severely disabled?
-How would you feel?
-Do you think you would chose to abort/ want your partner to?
-What factors would you consider in making this choice?

Think about at what point you think a fetus becomes a human life with rights?

Students would then have been invited to share their reflections with the group if they had wanted too. This would have been interesting to see how much they were comfortable with sharing about what they had learned/ found thought provoking. I note here, that I would not have asked students to share anything they were uncomfortable with and would have made sure that they knew that before inviting them to participate.

Week 6 – Thinking Through Abortion Presentation

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