Midwives in Britain are in revolt after their union backed a radical campaign to abolish all legal limits on abortion without consulting members.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which represents some 30,000 health workers in the UK, is calling for women to be allowed to terminate their pregnancies for any reason and at any stage up to childbirth.
Currently, women in Britain are allowed to seek an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds that continuing the pregnancy would damage their physical or mental health. After 24 weeks, mothers can still have an abortion, but only for “medical” reasons – for example if their life is endangered or the child is severely disabled.
The campaign to remove legal restrictions was launched by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which is the UK’s largest abortion provider, after a 24-year-old woman was jailed after inducing a miscarriage when she was eight months pregnant.
However, critics have raised concerns that such a change could lead to healthy babies being aborted simply because they are the “wrong” sex or because they are an inconvenience.
The RCM’s position has sparked a rebellion among members, with around 200 midwives signing a letter condemning the move as “utterly unacceptable”, and accuse the union’s leadership of failing to consult members.
The letter states: “For the organisation that represents us to support the radical position that all protections for unborn children should be removed right through to birth, and without any consultation of us members, we find utterly unacceptable.
“We, the undersigned, therefore wish to state that the RCM does not speak in our name.”
Over 11,000 members of the public have also signed a petition calling for the RCM to review its position. In a message directed at the RCM leadership, the petition states: “It is extremely saddening that a profession which is directed towards helping mothers to give birth to their children is now actively promoting the destruction of those children at any stage of pregnancy.
“Not only that, but in doing so, you are also attempting to restrict the conscientious rights of members of your college – whom you did not even consult – in their involvement in abortion.”
The Mail on Sunday also reports that Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCM, has been a trustee of BPAS for five years and in 2014 because its chair. This work is not mentioned in her RCM biography.
The BPAS campaign, titled “We Trust Women”, is supported by feminist group The Fawcett Society, the Southall Black Sisters and the National Union of Students’ Women’s Campaign.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said: “To propose abortion up to birth for any reason at all is, I believe, completely out of step both with the society and many of society’s representatives in Parliament. We need to stand against this.”