Hospital provision, institutional power, and the mechanics of abortion regulation

14 September 2023, 2.00 PM - 14 September 2023, 4.00 PM

Hybrid event: In-person in Room 2.13, Wills Memorial Building, and online via Zoom.

The Centre for Health, Law, and Society is hosting a seminar by Dr Erica Millar, a DECRA senior research fellow at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Open to Law school staff and PGR students, and open externally via Eventbrite registration.

The paper Dr Millar will present draws on interviews with providers of abortion in Australian public hospitals to provide an overview and conceptual framework in which to understand the power relations at play in the stoppages and blockages to abortion provision within hospital settings.

In Australia, most surgical abortions are performed in private clinics at significant out-of-pocket costs to the pregnant person. Very few hospitals offer abortion services at all, let alone comprehensively. Expanded hospital provision is often promoted as a solution to increased public access, and would be an important means of opening up training opportunities for the future workforce.

With notable exceptions, people who work within hospitals providing abortions, or who have attempted, but failed, to set up a viable abortion service, face various obstacles, including explicit directives not to perform abortion, instances of ‘strategic inefficiency’ (Ahmed 2022), where promises to expand provision do not transform into action, and an over-reliance on a few committed practitioners without any real institutional commitment to providing services.

The seminar will provide an overview of common themes in providers’ accounts of hospital provision and start thinking about how the stoppages and blockages they identify can be conceptualised through the frameworks of institutional stigma, institutional power, and obstetric violence - and in doing so aims to think through some of the mechanics of regulating abortion in post-decriminalised contexts. 


Dr Erica Millar is a DECRA senior research fellow at La Trobe University, Melbourne, where she is examining the topic of institutional abortion stigma. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with training in history and gender studies and has taught across gender studies, history, sociology, criminology, and socio-legal degrees. Her primary topic of research is abortion, and she has published on the cultural politics and history of abortion, socio-legal dimensions of abortion, and abortion law and provision. She published Happy Abortions: Our Bodies in the Era of Choice in 2017 with Zed Books.


External audiences welcome! Please register via Eventbrite.

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