Alongside many other great successes and moves forward in the 1960s, three landmark pieces of legislation came into force in 1967. The National Health Service (Family Planning) Act 1967 made the contraceptive pill available on the NHS to women for the first time. The Abortion Act 1967 legalised the termination of pregnancies by registered practioniers, and made the procedure avaialble on the NHS. And the Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalised sex between two men, starting the country on its first small steps towards LGBT rights.
On the week of the fiftieth anniversay of the Abortion Act, we take a look back to 1967 to see what lessons we can learn from the radical spirit of that time, and how we can better win victories when in ethical debates today, whether that be ongoing campaigns around abortion, moves to legalise assisted dying, or the need for compulsory sex and relationships education in schools.
Join us for an evening with three pioneers; those who have helped throughout their lives to bring about radical change, and who are continuing to do so now.
Dr Michael Irwin
Michael Irwin is a retired GP, who was a Medical Director of the United Nations, in New York (1982–1989). He has campaigned for legalised assisted dying since 1994 – having being Chairman of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (1996–1999 and 2001–2003) and President of the World Federation of the Right-to-Die Societies (2002–2004). He founded the Secular Medical Forum and also the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, which is now renamed as My Death My Decision; this organisation campaigns for all competent adults, suffering unbearably from severe medical conditions to have the option of a doctor-assisted death. Since 2005, Michael has accompanied five determined, suffering individuals to Switzerland to witness their doctor-assisted suicides.
Diane Munday was a key member of the Abortion Law Reform Association when the Abortion Act was passed in Britain in 1967. Diane has continued to apply her humanist and rationalist principles to the area of medical ethics, and today takes a particular interest in assisted dying. On three occasions (totalling some 20 years) she been a 'carer' of people who wished to die, including Diane Pretty, who in 2002 took a landmark case to the European Court of Human Rights for her husband Brian to be able assist her to die without fear of prosecution.
Professor Wendy Savage
Wendy Savage is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, is a former president of the Medical Women's Federation, and coordinated Doctors for a Woman's Choice on Abortion. A keen advocate of women's rights in matters of childbirth, fertility, and abortion, she was the first woman consultant to be appointed in obstetrics and gynaecology at the London Hospital. Described as 'an inspirational leader in women's health', she was shortlisted for the BMJ Group Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Nowadays she sits on the steering group of Voice for Choice, and is serving as an expert medical witness in Humanists UK's intervention into one of the ongoing abortion legal cases in Northern Ireland.
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