What is ‘legal consciousness’? How can a consideration of ‘legal consciousness’ assist in analyzing the relationship between law, society and individuals? Draw on contemporary and historical examples to illustrate your discussion.

Essay by rachioUniversity, Bachelor's February 2012

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Our interactions within the law and society may be described as acts of legal consciousness. The term 'legal consciousness' is used to describe an understanding of the law, society, and ones place within. This awareness is informed by, and informs our societal interaction at both a group and individual level. It is my strong belief, that through critical reflection of our legal consciousness, we are empowered with the ability to influence and analyze the role of law and its effectiveness within society. Legal consciousness is both a form of scrutiny and a device of law. It is the basis for the formation of opinions on some of the more difficult ethical or moral questions posed, such as; abortion and euthanasia.

Abortion in Australia has been a highly contested topic, the law surrounding which differs greatly in each state�. By reflecting upon this issues passage through time, we are given an apt example of a change in legal consciousness, and its ability to bring about reform.

The nature of abortion brings with it extremist views, split into two fairly distinctive perspectives commonly labeled as 'pro-choice' and 'pro-life'. Each of these perspectives are formed by members own sense of legal consciousness. The debate on abortion centers on the moral issue of the sanctity of life and ones ability to remove it, against the liberal right to choose what is best for ones self. The legal, ethical and moral questions surrounding abortion have been prevalent throughout Victorian history.

The first landmark ruling involving abortion occurred in the Victorian Supreme Court in 1969. This was what is referred to as 'the Menhennitt ruling', which established what was meant under the Crimes Act (1958), by interpreting the term 'unlawfully' as providing a basis that some abortions could be considered lawful. It was through this...