Members of the Royal College of Nursing have “signalled support” for removing criminal sanctions from termination of pregnancy legislation, said the body in the wake of a consultation.
It revealed today that the results of a UK-wide poll of RCN members showed 73.7% of respondents had voted in favour of removing criminal sanctions from legislation relating to abortion.
“We will use the views of all our members to inform the RCN’s future work on this issue”
Nearly 3,000 people responded to the survey, giving an overall response rate equivalent to 1% of the RCN’s 435,000 total membership. The survey ran from Friday 16 February to Sunday 18 March 2018.
The move was sparked by the debate taking place across the country, in parliament and in health organisations about removing criminal sanctions from termination of pregnancy legislation.
The subject was also considered at the RCN’s annual congress in 2016 and RCN professional forums associated with women’s health have previously asked the college to be part of the debate.
At present, the RCN highlighted that its position on the termination of pregnancy was currently unchanged. It has both a position statement and guidance on termination of pregnancy, but does not currently have an official position on its decriminalisation.
“The RCN believes that every woman should have the right to choose how to deal with this life event”
RCN position statement
The statement on termination says: “Whether pregnancy is planned or unplanned, the RCN believes that every woman should have the right to choose how to deal with this life event, within current legislation.
“The RCN believes that termination of pregnancy and contraception are necessary and integral to the provision of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care service, and support the current legislation,” it says.
“We equally acknowledge and respect those nurses, midwives and health care assistants who have a conscientious objection within current legislation,” it adds.
Based on the views of its members, the RCN said it would now consider its future work relating to termination of pregnancy legislation.
In addition, it would look at the regulation and quality monitoring processes that must be in place to protect the rights of women to access free, safe and effective services, and support best healthcare practice.
The RCN said it believed that termination of pregnancy should be treated the same as any other clinical practice, remaining subject to the regulations that apply to all such procedures.
The college has also stated that the process of decriminalisation should be based on the best evidence available and in accordance with relevant professional standards.
The RCN membership survey focused solely on the principle of decriminalisation and did not consult on the wider issues relating to termination, including the arguments for or against the procedure.
It noted that it had not called for any change to gestational limits or change to the right to conscientious objection by health care professionals.
Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “As the largest nursing organisation in the United Kingdom, we have sought to understand the views of all our members on decriminalisation.
“I want to thank all those who completed the survey to help us inform our position on this important issue for the profession,” she said.
“We will use the views of all our members to inform the RCN’s future work on this issue,” she added.