Case study : Pro-life and pro-choice groups; Spaces of conflict around a moral issue in the UK and Poland.
This project focuses on conflict between groups -religious and secular- on the topic of abortion policy. Specifically, the tension between pro-life and pro-choice activism in contemporary British society. Debates around abortion may become a significant tension when reform of the abortion law is proposed or debated. However, on an everyday basis it may be a dormant tension that is not acknowledged, but is rather at the fringe of the public imagination. Yet in the last 18 months there has been increased media attention to these debates, including efforts by Conservative MP Nadine Dorries’ to ammend the Health and Social Care Bill, as well as new forms of activism such as “vigils” outside abortion clinics and web-based campaigning using social media. The UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also recently voiced his personal opinion over cutting the current UK abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, resulting in a number of online responses. Often, the debate has centred on the question of when human life begins, and the implications of this for determining whether and when abortions can be allowed.
The project uses both primary and secondary research methods. The primary element includes firstly informal interviews with key informants, for example leaders of NGO’s and charities, community group leaders, and protest and activist groups and campaigners in different sites. Observational and participatory methods are also employed within the context of spaces of conflict involved with this issue; for example, looking at the way in which pro-life and pro-choice groups occupy or take up space, and the tactics involved in such campaigning. The secondary element involves investigating sources such as local media and the internet (as well as connections to national media) to assess the way in which the online sphere has facilitated these public, political and social debates. In connection with this media analysis, the project is also interested in how the conflicting groups are represented in the media (and how they represent themselves through new media such as the internet) to address the spaces within which the tensions are occurring and the flow of information around these debates between specific groups and the general population. Finally, the project also investigates the wider ramifications of these tensions and will investigate how these tensions are being managed or contained and the nature and outcome of any attempts to resolve them. These themes are also being investigated in the context of Poland by Kasia Narkowicz. Finally, the historical context of this conflict is a vital element in understanding the contemporary situation. Therefore, the positioning of each group and their relationships to wider histories (for example in connection with feminist rights activists and movements) and the specific ways that intergroup tensions are represented as historically grounded are important elements in this project.
The analysis of the case study material will generate knowledge and understanding about the causes of group tensions, and will enable the research team to identify strategies for the prevention, management and resolution of such spatial and social tensions.