University of Cambridge > > ReproSoc > "Foreign Girls Come to London": Residency, Travel and Abortion Access, 1960-1975

"Foreign Girls Come to London": Residency, Travel and Abortion Access, 1960-1975

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Travel is one of the central barriers to abortion access; the further a woman has to travel for an abortion, the less likely she is to obtain one and the more likely she is to be young and underprivileged. Yet, this kind of travel persists. Often conducted over long range and across domestic and international borders, “abortion tourism” remains a commonplace transnational phenomenon. Today, the case of Irish women who travel to the UK to access legal abortion services is familiar to many. However, travel for abortion services has a much longer history. This presentation is based on Christabelle Sethna’s research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which tracks women’s domestic and international travel for abortion services. It focuses on the complex transnational geopolitical and biopolitical issues raised once women began to travel to Britian for abortion services after the passage of the 1967 Abortion Act, a piece of legislation that did not include residency qualifications. The presentation explores the reasons why non-national women travelled to Britain, and to London in particular, for legal abortions in the 1960s and 1970s and discusses the transgressive relationships that exist between the crossing of sexual, legal and geographical borders. The presentation also opens up for timely consideration the fraught meanings of residency and travel across borders in the UK.

Dr. Christabelle Sethna is Professor in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa. She is a historian who researches the history of sex education, contraception and abortion as well as animal representations. Her latest book, co-authored with Steve Hewitt, is Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press 2018).

This talk is part of the ReproSoc series.

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