Ethox Seminar - The Social Epistemology of Abortion

This talk explores the ethics and epistemology of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. I argue that the long-standing abortion debate relies upon an understanding of pregnancy and abortion that wrongs the pregnant person as a knower and as a moral agent.

First, drawing on the work of other scholars, I show that pregnancy is a form of labour and that the denial of abortion amounts to forced labour. I argue that the failure of the standard discourse to characterise pregnancy in this way produces a kind of epistemic injustice which affects those who become pregnant.

Second, according to UK law, an abortion is lawful only if two doctors deem the pregnancy to be a risk to the person’s mental or physical health. Abortion is therefore granted according to the views of doctors and a risk metric determined by law. I argue that doctors and legislators should defer to the moral judgement of the pregnant person in relation to abortion, especially given my contention that pregnancy is a form of labour.

This will be a hybrid seminar, in-person in the Lower Ground Seminar Room 0, Big Data Institute, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford OX3 7LF, or on Zoom. If you will join online, please register at