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Further liberalisation of abortion under Coalition government

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New Government guidelines allow nurses and midwives to play central role in abortion provision

The first document published by the Department of Health states that, "Certain actions may ... be undertaken by registered nurses or midwives provided they are fully trained, and where the provider has agreed protocols in place. For example a nurse or midwife may  administer the drugs used for medical abortions once these have been prescribed by a doctor."

A second document suggests that while "it is good practice" that at least one of the doctors certifying an abortion has seen the pregnant woman before reaching a decision, there is "no legal requirement" to do so. It also suggests that in reaching their decision a doctor may "rely on information obtained by members of a [multi-disciplinary team]" that could include nurses, counsellors and midwives.  

'Without ever actually seeing a doctor'

Andrea Williams observed, "These guidelines mean that a woman may have an abortion without ever actually seeing a doctor. All the steps involved from consultation to administration of abortion drugs could be carried out by others such as nurses and even midwives. This robs the woman and the unborn child of the strict protections that were supposed to be built into the Abortion Act and puts nurses and midwives in an appalling position.

"Abortion is not just a simple, routine medical procedure. It has huge consequences. It was the intention of the Act that two doctors would be actively involved not that they might be entirely absent and 'directing the abortion' in theory but not in practice. It is staggering that a Conservative-led government is allowing further degradation in the valuing of human life."

'Clear liberalisation'

Conservative MP, Fiona Bruce, also condemned the move, saying: "This is a clear liberalisation of abortion law which people do not want. Moreover, I do not believe it is what Parliament intended."

Labour MP Jim Dobbin responded by saying, "We simply cannot trust the Department of Health on abortion. They take every opportunity to make life easier for the abortion industry, even on legally contentious grounds. The Abortion Act is crystal clear that a qualified doctor is the only person able to perform an abortion. 

"Not satisfied with this, the department is now making nurses and midwives accomplices to the tragic taking of innocent human life. We are looking at a judicial review to challenge the legality of this appalling decision."

You can contact the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, using this form >

Watch Abort 67's Ruth Rawlins respond to news that midwives may be involved in providing abortion