Abortion is still a crime in Britain: changing the law for women and girls

Many people assume that the right to an abortion is enshrined in law in most of the UK. But that's not the case. On 16 November the Intellectual Forum was joined by Charlotte Proudman and Lakshmi Sundaram to explore how we can change the law for women and girls. 

Two women are currently awaiting criminal trial in England for abortion related offences, both facing charges that carry a maximum sentence of life.

As reproductive rights for people with wombs are being challenged around the world, Charlotte Proudman and Lakshmi Sundaram discussed the current legal situation in the UK, and how the law and other tools can be used to create change.

Charlotte and Lakshmi drew on their experience of fighting for - and achieving - progress in the UK and globally around other aspects of girls' and women's rights. 

A recording of the talk is available on the College YouTube channel.

About the speakers:

Charlotte Proudman

The BBC described Dr Charlotte Proudman as 'the feminist barrister'. Charlotte is an award-winning barrister, Cambridge academic and campaigner 'fighting for women's rights in and out of court' (inews). Legal Cheek named her '#MeToo pioneer' and the Telegraph said she is 'clever, confident and impressively well-versed on women’s rights'.

Charlotte represents survivors of rape, domestic abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour in court whilst also challenging misconceptions across the sector. She uses her knowledge and experience of the justice system to advocate for legal change to ensure protection and support for victims and survivors.

Combining the law and academia, Charlotte is a Fellow at Queens' College, Cambridge where she researches and lectures on gender inequality under the law. Charlotte was awarded a doctorate in FGM law and policy from King's College, Cambridge. She has since written a book, 'FGM: When Culture and Law Clash', which was published by Oxford University Press. As an expert in FGM, Charlotte was instrumental in the introduction of FGM Protection Orders and she continues to represent victims of FGM in court.

Lakshmi Sundaram

Lakshmi is a strategic leader who nurtures global movements and builds partnerships between individuals, organisations and sectors coming from very different perspectives. Her work has led to tangible, sustainable and systemic changes in the fields of global health and gender equality.

Lakshmi currently supports leaders and boards of a range of social purpose organisations to develop strategies, build partnerships and strengthen their learning. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of Co-Impact's new global Gender Fund. She was most recently the interim Executive Director of openDemocracy, a non-profit media platform. Lakshmi was previously the first Executive Director of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage, which she grew from a small project to a thriving global movement bringing together 1200 civil society organisations working in over 100 countries. Prior to Girls Not Brides, Lakshmi has had varied roles, including partnering with the Ministry of Health in Rwanda on technology initiatives for AIDS programmes, running the World Economic Forum’s global health portfolio, and supporting the development of diagnostics for various diseases at FIND, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics.

Lakshmi has a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, as well as Master of Public Health and Master of International Affairs degrees from Columbia University.