Moral disagreement and radicalisation
: the case of abortion

  • Anna Szabelska

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The studies reported in the thesis investigated the extent to which there are moral disagreement and radicalisation amongst people with strong opinions in favour or against abortion in the context of the UK and Poland. Moreover, the relationship between moral disagreement and radicalisation was investigated.

To probe whether the disagreement is moral (i.e., involves a moral conviction), the studies measured whether participants take their opinion on abortion to be objective, universal, authority independent and/or sacred. To check for radicalisation, several probes were used, measuring (i) whether participants practice activism in any form, (ii) whether they think that violence is justified to defend the cause of abortion, (iii) whether they are willing to make various types of sacrifices, including the pursuit of violence, or any non- violent/legal action for the cause of abortion and (iv) whether they think that punishment (and which type of punishment) is justified in the context of abortion. Moreover, identity fusion with respective organisations was measured to probe for ties with a group.

Concerning moral conviction, the great majority of respondents hold their views as authority independent and sacred, but there is more variation in terms of objectivism and universalism. Concerning radicalisation, most respondents are not willing to take any violent action, nor do they think that violence is justified. They are ready, however, for peaceful protesting and various forms of activism (some participants in all samples are already should be punished. The range of proposed penalties was assessed through an open question. These punishments vary greatly from compulsory educational classes up to the death sentence. Concerning the relationship between moral conviction and radicalisation, a series of regressions was run and revealed that moralising the issue statistically significantly predicted readiness (or lack thereof) for various types of non-violent and violent behaviour (i.e. the participants are ready for peaceful protesting but not to hurt the opponent). The results also indicate that moralising the issue could statistically significantly predict participants’ willingness to potentially undertake various forms of activism. Moreover, moralising the issue predicted the willingness to punish for either denying an abortion or for having an abortion depending on whether one is pro-choice or anti-abortion.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPaulo Sousa (Supervisor) & Jonathan Lanman (Supervisor)

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