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The Royal College of Midwives supports abortion up to birth

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The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has joined a campaign pushing for abortion up to birth without any restrictions.

To the dismay of many, the RCM's membership was not consulted on the new policy, nor is it clearly stated on the organisation's website.

Adopting this position will have serious ramifications on freedom of conscience for Christian midwives and others who do not support abortion.

BPAS' 'We Trust Women'

The RCM's Chief Executive Cathy Warwick is also the Chair of The British Pregnancy Advisory Service's (BPAS') Board of Trustees. In February the RCM registered as a supporter of a new campaign by BPAS, which seeks to completely decriminalise abortion.

The campaign, 'We Trust Women', is also being backed by the British Humanist Association and several women's rights groups.

In response to the RCM's backing of the campaign, midwives wrote an open letter, 'Not In Our Name', which has now been signed by over 200 midwives across the country. In it they asked the Board to revoke the College's support for this agenda, and begin to consult the membership as to their views on the issue of abortion.

Notably, the campaign does not reflect wider public opinion. A ComRes poll in March 2014, commissioned by Christian Concern, found that 84% of women favoured an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion. In 2012, an Angus Reid poll found that only 2% of women wanted the abortion time limit extended beyond 24 weeks, whilst 59% of women favoured a reduction in time limits.

Conscientious objection

Conscientious objection was restricted in 2014 by the UK Supreme Court after the Doogan and Wood case, and the consequences of this restriction can be clearly seen here. The RCM has announced that with regards to abortion, conscientious objection "should only apply to direct involvement in the procedure of terminating pregnancy".

The Supreme Court defined 'participate' as "taking part in a hands-on capacity: actually performing the tasks involved in the course of treatment", after two Sottish midwives, Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan, had previously won the right to refuse to take part in abortions at any point during the procedure.

The two midwives, from Glasgow, had made it clear that they did not wish to be responsible for supervising junior staff involved in termination of pregnancy procedures on the basis of a conscientious objection to abortion.

At the time, Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre said the effect of the Supreme Court judgment will "make it very difficult or impossible for nurses or midwives with conscientious objections to apply for managerial positions in the NHS".

The RCM's new stance will further increase the challenges faced by Christian midwives and others with conscientious objection to abortion.


Christian Concern's Chief Executive Andrea Williams commented that the stance "directly contradicts the core motivation for going into midwifery".

Steve Fouch of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: "It is worrying that an organisation representing professionals most concerned with the safety and wellbeing of both mother and child should be so closely allied with one of the main abortion providers in the UK. Even more so that it is joining with them to actively campaigning for the liberalisation of the few remaining safeguards in current legislation."

"However, leaving that to one side, my big concern is that once again, freedom of conscience is being constricted." 

Related Links: 
Campaigners Lobby for 'Full Decriminalization' of Abortion in the UK (Broadly)
New RCM abortion statement is a further assault on freedom of conscience (Christian Medical Fellowship) 
Royal College of Midwives abortion statement (Royal College of Midwives)
Christian Institute abortion poll (ComRes) 
We Trust Women