Anti-Abortion Clinic Activism, Civil Inattention, and the Problem of Gendered Harassment


In the UK, there is evidence of a recent increase in anti-abortion activism outside clinics. In response, abortion service providers have called for the introduction of ‘buffer’ zones to protect women from ‘harassment’ while accessing abortion services. Drawing on two datasets – extensive ethnographic fieldwork, and a content analysis of clinic client comment forms – we deploy Goffman’s concept of ‘civil inattention’ to further our understanding of the material practice of anti-abortion clinic activism. We find that although anti-abortion activists understand their own actions to be supportive, practices of religious observance outside clinics inescapably draw attention to the site and to the act of accessing healthcare, inherently challenging normative expectations of privacy and confidentiality. Our analysis suggests that anti-abortion activism outside clinics consequently violates social rules governing encounters with strangers in specific places and reinforces gendered hierarchies. As such, they are often experienced as acts of gendered harassment.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Policy
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College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Centre for Critical Inquiry into Society and Culture (CCISC)
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2018. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Uncontrolled Keywords: anti-abortion activism,civil inattention,gendered street harassment,public witness,Sociology and Political Science
Publication ISSN: 1469-8684
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://journals ... 038038518762075 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2019-04-01
Published Online Date: 2018-03-23
Accepted Date: 2018-01-19
Authors: Lowe, Pam (ORCID Profile 0000-0001-5933-453X)
Hayes, Graeme A (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-1871-1188)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial

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