Midwife Slams Royal College Of Midwives Support For Dropping Legal Time Limit For Abortions

'It is hard to see how there could not be a conflict of interest.'

22/05/2016 12:02 | Updated 22 May 2016

A midwife who was at the centre of a high-profile court case has called on colleagues to "forcefully refuse" to back the "horror" position adopted by their professional body to scrap the time limit for abortions.

Mary Doogan, from Glasgow, took a case to the UK's highest court over whether the right of ''conscientious objection'' to the procedure extended beyond participation in actual medical or surgical termination, The Press Association reported.

She has now criticised the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) after its chief executive Professor Cathy Warwick backed a campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) calling for abortion to be removed from criminal law.

As Prof Warwick also chairs the Bpas board of trustees, Ms Doogan insisted there was a "conflict of interest" at the heart of the "gruesome decision".

David Jones/PA Wire
Mary Doogan says the idea is 'gruesome'.

Under current laws, a woman can be liable to life imprisonment if she terminates her pregnancy beyond 24 weeks without medical legal authorisation.

In February, the professor, in her capacity as head of the RCM, said the Bpas campaign had the union's full support as she called for the legal limit to be ''relegated to history''.

Ms Doogan said: "The professional trade union body, which has the role of representing the vast majority of midwives, has taken the remarkable step of endorsing a campaign which is radically at odds with a positive regard for the babies that midwives work so hard to bring safely into the world.

"The British Pregnancy Advisory Service makes a profit from abortion as a private provider and is calling for abortion to birth to be decriminalised.

"Its chairman is Professor Cathy Warwick, who happens to be the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives and she has reportedly signed midwives up to the gruesome plan of Bpas.

"It is hard to see how there could not be a conflict of interest."

Ms Doogan and colleague Connie Wood took a legal case concerning their rights not to have any involvement in terminations to the UK Supreme Court in London.

While they had no direct role in the procedure, they took the action because they did not wish to book in patients, allocate staff in the ward or supervise and support midwives who care for women undergoing abortions.

They lost their case when Supreme Court justices found participating in treatment meant taking part in a ''hands-on capacity', overturning a previous ruling in their favour by a court in Scotland which declared the right to ''conscientious objection'' under the Abortion Act 1967 extended beyond participation in the medical or surgical procedure.

Ms Doogan said: "I entered the profession to bring life into the world not to end life. This is really unbelievable. An unbelievable decision taken in the name of the majority of midwives.

"I would hope that the horror of this position and what is now being demanded of all midwives would penetrate minds and hearts and make them stand up and forcefully refuse to take part in this and oppose this policy decision."

Prof Warwick has already stated RCM members did not require to be consulted over the organisation's support for the Bpas campaign.

Earlier this week, she said: "Linking up with this campaign to change the way we provide abortion is totally compatible with the RCM's objective to ensure high-quality healthcare and choice for women.

''We haven't consulted the members and under the way the RCM operates, we don't need to consult our members.

''At the moment we have had very, very significant support from our members on this position, as well as of course a few members who say this is not a position they support."

Under UK law, an abortion can usually only be carried out during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy as long as certain criteria are met.

The Abortion Act 1967 covers England, Scotland and Wales, but not Northern Ireland. The law states that abortions must be carried out in a hospital or a specialist licensed clinic and two doctors must agree that an abortion would cause less damage to a woman's physical or mental health than continuing with the pregnancy.

There are special circumstances which would allow abortion after 24 weeks, such as if there is a substantial risk to the woman's life or serious foetal abnormalities.

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