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Women, Pregnancy, and the Criminal Law

Pregnancy and motherhood is often assumed to be a happy time in a woman’s life. However, for some women it can be a time of desperation and crisis. A big question that remains to be answered: what involvement should the criminal justice system have in the lives of these women, and what should the function of the criminal law be?

Research conducted by Dr Emma Milne highlights the impact of criminal justice intervention into the lives of women who experience crisis pregnancies. Her work draws attention to the ramifications of criminalisation on women’s liberties and rights to bodily autonomy. The regulation of women’s conduct while pregnant has key implications in relation to:

  • The legality of abortion and access to abortion services.
  • The criminalisation of women due to conduct while pregnant.
  • Support offered to vulnerable women, rather than punishment through the criminal justice system.

This infographic provides a short summary of the key issues the project is aiming to address.

Take a look at briefings and information about Dr Milne’s work, outlining the impact for policy, the criminal law, and criminal justice responses to vulnerable women.

Research Briefings

Read Dr Milne's research briefings:

Telemedical Abortion and Mitigating "Crisis" Pregnancies

Dr Milne outlines the need for telemedical abortion to continue to be available for women so as to prevent more women experiencing "crisis" pregnancies. 

Briefing: Telemedical Abortion and Mitigating

Neonaticide and Suspicious Perinatal Death: Time for a New Perspective

In this briefing Dr Milne explores the need for a change in our understanding and approach to suspected newborn child killing by mothers.

About the Project

This project is funded by:

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Dr Emma Milne

Assistant Professor in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

Dr Emma Milne is a feminist socio-legal scholar. Her research is interdisciplinary, focusing on criminal law and criminal justice responses to newborn child killing and foetal harm. The wider context of Emma’s work is social controls and regulations of all women, notably in relation to pregnancy, sex, and motherhood. Emma is a member of the Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD) and Centre for Crime and Criminal Justice (CCLCJ) research groups.

Contact Dr Milne


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