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RCM finds itself at centre of row over abortion laws


The Royal College of Midwives has been forced to clarify its position on termination after it found itself the focus of fierce criticism in the national press.

Several newspapers, including the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph, ran stories attacking the RCM for signing up to a campaign to scrap the time limit on abortions without formally consulting its members.

“No midwife can be compelled to take part in carrying out an abortion”

RCM statement

The Mail, which ran the story on its front page today, claimed that midwives were “in open revolt” with their college over the issue.

The We Trust Women campaign calls for termination to be decriminalised, highlighting that under current legislation women who end their pregnancy without the permission of doctors can be sentenced to life in prison.

As a consequence of such a change, the 24-week termination time limit would also be removed from criminal law.

The college is among the organisations that have signed up to the campaign, which was started in February by abortion provider the British Pregnancy Advice Service in February, of which RCM chief executive Professor Cathy Warwick is also chair.

The move to add its name to the campaign and to separately back its aims in an updated position statement has met with heavy criticism from pro-life groups, religious groups and several MPs.

A website, named Not in our name, has also been set up calling on midwives and the general public to sign a letter requesting that the RCM reverse its decision and that its board consult its membership on the issue.

In response, the college issued a series of statements today attempting to clarify its position on termination and its right to support the We Trust Women campaign without a consultation.

A spokesman for the RCM said it was a “longstanding supporter of the right of women to have choice over their fertility and over all aspects of their maternity care”, including the “right to choose whether or not to have a baby”.

“Our recent statement on abortion set out our belief that abortion should be removed from the scope of the criminal law,” he said. “We do not believe that it is right that it is still the case that women who choose to have an abortion can be criminalised and face prison.

“To be clear, midwifery practice must at all times comply absolutely with the legal framework relevant to the provision of services for the termination of pregnancy,” the spokesman said.

Professor Cathy Warwick

Professor Cathy Warwick

Cathy Warwick

The also said that any midwife had the right to conscientiously object to termination. “No midwife can be compelled to take part in carrying out an abortion, that is absolutely right and should remain the case,” he said.

He added that the college’s new position statement was adopted with the “full knowledge and support” of its board, which it highlighted was an elected body made up of registered UK midwives.

“This position has triggered a response from a campaign website based in Spain, which is encouraging people to email the RCM,” he said. “From what we can tell so far this has led to a large number of emails to be sent to us from overseas.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • It's not about trusting women, it's about not trusting their husbands and partners.
    If this becomes law then many women will be forced by men to have abortions that they don't want.
    The RCM are being extremely naive.

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  • Does the baby get a choice?

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  • I must admit, I feel a little uncomfortable with our CEO also holding the position of chairperson of BPAS. It must have been quite a coup for the BPAS. To sign the RCM up to this campaign is wrong without members having at least some knowledge of the stance being taken. We are usually well informed on current issues by the RCM so why not on this ? Could that be because there would not be the level of support for this campaign - and it then makes you think - Are we as well informed as we think?

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