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Philippa Taylor

Midwives are meant to save unborn lives, not destroy them

Philippa Taylor is Head of Public Policy at CMF. She has an MA in Bioethics from St Mary’s University College and a background in policy work on bioethics and family issues.


The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

baby1According to the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which is meant to represent all midwives, the role and duty of midwives must now also include assisting in ending the lives of unborn babies. And, the RCM makes clear in a new statement, if you refuse you have limited right of appeal.

It has recently come to light that for many years the RCM has been inextricably linked with the leading provider of abortions in the UK, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). So much so that Cathy Warwick, the RCM’s CEO is also the Chair of BPAS. If that is not ‘being in bed together’, I’m not sure what is.

So it is hardly surprising that the RCM is very pro-active in a campaign  to drive a change to the laws on abortion throughout the UK, along with BPAS and a host of other pro-abortion organisations. The RCM (and friends) are pushing for the removal of all criminal sanctions regarding abortion across the UK (including Northern Ireland). If these aims were ever implemented, it would mean abortion would be freely available up to birth, for any reason.

Last week, a new RCM statement was quietly posted on their website (in an unobvious place), a statement that will be of concern to any midwife who has a strong objection to being involved in termination of pregnancy.  The position statement was made with no consultation whatsoever of RCM membership.

It states that midwives should be involved in all care of a woman undergoing an abortion. They only have the right to opt out on the basis of conscience from clinical procedures directly involved in the abortion.  This further hardens clause 4.4 of the NMC Code that likewise allows for conscientious objection in very limited circumstances.  It is not built on any Parliamentary ruling but on the Glasgow Midwives case which centred on what constituted actually being involved in an abortion procedure. The Supreme Court ruled that two senior midwives had no right to opt out of supervision, delegation or support of junior staff involved in abortions, as the right to conscientious objection only applied to those involved in direct, clinical procedures.  The Court ruling was a drastic restriction of the right to conscience, especially for midwives and nurses in managerial positions in the NHS.

Moreover, the RCM claims in its new statement that it is obligatory to refer to another competent practitioner. They justify this with reference to the General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines. They claim that GMC guidelines say a doctor who objects must refer.

Yet the GMC guidance says no such thing.  Its guidance actually says ‘Make sure that the patient has enough information to arrange to see another doctor who does not hold the same objection as you.‘ No referral is required, just provision of information to allow the patient to make that choice (unless it is impracticable for the patient to do so).  This is an important mis-representation of the GMC guidance.

Referral is a real issue of conscience for anyone with a moral objection to abortion, many of whom would view delegation, supervision and/or support as effective participation in abortion.

Imagine, for example, if they had been working in another country and been asked to ‘supervise’ activities that were legal there but that most people in Britain would regard as highly unethical – such as euthanasia of people with dementia or depression, or amputation for stealing, or female circumcision or the torture of political prisoners. I hope most of us would back their right to refuse.

And to ‘participate’ does not just involve direct action. If I do not physically take part in a robbery but knowingly provide the thieves with information or equipment to perform the robbery, or provide a get away car or help conceal or dispose of the loot, I should be guilty under the law as if I had been on the premises myself.

Midwives are trained to save unborn lives, not to destroy them, or be involved in that process. Yet the RCM, the body that is meant to represent midwives to assist bringing lives into the world, is expecting them to assist in doing the opposite!

How can we be in a situation where it is deemed acceptable that an organisation representing professionals most concerned with the safety and wellbeing of unborn babies should be so closely allied with one of the leading abortion providers in the UK?  How can a ‘neutral’ so-called ‘representative’ body join with abortion providers in actively campaigning for the liberalisation of the few remaining safeguards in current legislation on abortion? And how can a Royal College that is meant to represent all its members utterly ignore them on such a controversial issue?

(an edited version of this blog was previously posted on The Conservative Woman website)

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