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An exploration of the ethical tensions experienced by midwives as key providers of abortion services yet guardians of normal birth.

Project Description

The 1967 Abortion Act, the first legislation on abortion to cover Scotland, England and Wales, has had a significant impact on social norms and healthcare practice. There was substantial controversy around its introduction, and the ‘abortion debate’ still has the power to be socially-divisive.

One question which continues to generate social, professional, and academic controversy is the scope of the right to ‘conscientious objection’ (‘CO’ ) under section 4 of the Act. We are currently undertaking a study examining the appropriate parameters of CO from a perspective that engages with the purpose of conscience rights: i.e. to shield HCPs from moral responsibility. However, over the last decade the practice of abortion has changed considerably from a mainly surgical procedure to a medical one.

As this involves labour, second and third trimester abortions have become the domain of midwives (WHO, 2019) yet their main remit continues to provide services for women throughout the normal pregnancy continuum (ICM, 2017; WHO, 2019).

We are seeking a PhD student to explore these conflicting issues from the perspectives of midwives and the women they serve. A qualitative approach will be expected to be utilised.

Funding Notes

This studentship is only available to UK & EU citizens.

Funding will consist of:
• Full tuition fees for three years
• A stipend at UK Research Council rates (2018/19 figure - £14,777).
• £1500 per annum towards project costs (bench fees).

Funding will be subject to satisfactory progress.

Students will normally hold, or expect to gain a first class or 2:1 undergraduate degree or MSc degree in a related discipline and ideally be a registered midwife.


Applicants should send a CV (including two references) and covering letter (2-page max) to Prof Valerie Fleming, [email protected]

Please indicate your motivation for applying for the post and detail how your qualifications, skills and experience will contribute to the project.

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