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‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain

Sarah Crook Orcid Logo

Medical Humanities, Volume: 46, Issue: 2, Pages: 124 - 134

Swansea University Author: Sarah Crook Orcid Logo

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Abstract

The Second World War lent impetus to the creation of new models and explanatory frameworks of risk, encouraging a closer reading of the relationship between individual psychiatric disorder and social disarray. This article interrogates how conceptions of psychiatric risk were animated in debates aro...

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Published in: Medical Humanities
ISSN: 1468-215X 1473-4265
Published: BMJ 2020
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa50555
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first_indexed 2019-06-05T11:07:48Z
last_indexed 2020-07-22T19:11:52Z
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spelling 2020-07-22T16:37:33.7038594 v2 50555 2019-05-28 ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain b35484cf604604b6d6bc6873677417d1 0000-0002-1288-1488 Sarah Crook Sarah Crook true false 2019-05-28 AHIS The Second World War lent impetus to the creation of new models and explanatory frameworks of risk, encouraging a closer reading of the relationship between individual psychiatric disorder and social disarray. This article interrogates how conceptions of psychiatric risk were animated in debates around abortion reform to forge new connections between social conditions and psychiatric vulnerability in post-war Britain. Drawing upon the arguments that played out between medical practitioners, I suggest that abortion reform, culminating in the 1967 Abortion Act, was both a response to and a stimulus for new ideas about the interaction between social etiologies and medical pathologies; indeed, it became a site in which the medical and social domains were recognized as mutually constitutive. Positioned in a landscape in which medical professionals were seeking to assert their authority and to defend their areas of practice, abortion reform offered new opportunities for medical professionals to intervene in the social sphere under the guise of risk to women’s mental health. The debate in medical journals around the status of issues that were seen to bridge the social and the medical were entangled with increasing anxiety about patient agency and responsibility. These concerns were further underscored as conversations about psychiatric risk extended towards considerations of the potential impact on women’s existing families, bringing domestic conditions and the perceived psychosocial importance of family life into relief within medical journals. This article, then, argues that conceptions of psychiatric risk, as refracted through the creation of new synapses connecting the social and the medical domains, were critical to medical debates over abortion reform in post-war Britain. Journal Article Medical Humanities 46 2 124 134 BMJ 1468-215X 1473-4265 abortion post-war psychiatry legal reform 1 6 2020 2020-06-01 10.1136/medhum-2018-011561 COLLEGE NANME History COLLEGE CODE AHIS Swansea University Wellcome Trust 2020-07-22T16:37:33.7038594 2019-05-28T19:04:30.1515268 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences School of Culture and Communication - History Sarah Crook 0000-0002-1288-1488 1 0050555-05062019104311.pdf 50555.pdf 2019-06-05T10:43:11.5670000 Output 375552 application/pdf Version of Record true Released under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License (CC-BY). true eng https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
title ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
spellingShingle ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
Sarah Crook
title_short ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
title_full ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
title_fullStr ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
title_full_unstemmed ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
title_sort ‘A disastrous blow’: psychiatric risk, social indicators and medical authority in abortion reform in post-war Britain
author_id_str_mv b35484cf604604b6d6bc6873677417d1
author_id_fullname_str_mv b35484cf604604b6d6bc6873677417d1_***_Sarah Crook
author Sarah Crook
author2 Sarah Crook
format Journal article
container_title Medical Humanities
container_volume 46
container_issue 2
container_start_page 124
publishDate 2020
institution Swansea University
issn 1468-215X
1473-4265
doi_str_mv 10.1136/medhum-2018-011561
publisher BMJ
college_str Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
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hierarchy_top_title Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
hierarchy_parent_id facultyofhumanitiesandsocialsciences
hierarchy_parent_title Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
department_str School of Culture and Communication - History{{{_:::_}}}Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences{{{_:::_}}}School of Culture and Communication - History
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description The Second World War lent impetus to the creation of new models and explanatory frameworks of risk, encouraging a closer reading of the relationship between individual psychiatric disorder and social disarray. This article interrogates how conceptions of psychiatric risk were animated in debates around abortion reform to forge new connections between social conditions and psychiatric vulnerability in post-war Britain. Drawing upon the arguments that played out between medical practitioners, I suggest that abortion reform, culminating in the 1967 Abortion Act, was both a response to and a stimulus for new ideas about the interaction between social etiologies and medical pathologies; indeed, it became a site in which the medical and social domains were recognized as mutually constitutive. Positioned in a landscape in which medical professionals were seeking to assert their authority and to defend their areas of practice, abortion reform offered new opportunities for medical professionals to intervene in the social sphere under the guise of risk to women’s mental health. The debate in medical journals around the status of issues that were seen to bridge the social and the medical were entangled with increasing anxiety about patient agency and responsibility. These concerns were further underscored as conversations about psychiatric risk extended towards considerations of the potential impact on women’s existing families, bringing domestic conditions and the perceived psychosocial importance of family life into relief within medical journals. This article, then, argues that conceptions of psychiatric risk, as refracted through the creation of new synapses connecting the social and the medical domains, were critical to medical debates over abortion reform in post-war Britain.
published_date 2020-06-01T03:55:53Z
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