Mutiny over late abor­tions

Doc­tors re­volt over planned re­form they fear will al­low ‘ter­mi­na­tions up un­til birth’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By So­phie Bor­land and Si­mon Cald­well

MORE than 600 doc­tors are in re­volt over moves by a top med­i­cal body to back abor­tion on de­mand.

The Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists will to­day hold a se­cret vote on re­lax­ing the laws gov­ern­ing the pro­ce­dure.

But although it rep­re­sents 6,000 spe­cial­ists in child­birth and women’s health, only 33 mem­bers of its coun­cil will take part in the bal­lot.

A group of 650 doc­tors have now writ­ten to RCOG pres­i­dent Pro­fes­sor Les­ley Re­gan, ob­ject­ing to her ‘ex­treme’ views.

If mem­bers vote in favour, the RCOG will for­mally back de­crim­i­nal­is­ing abor­tions and lobby for law changes.

RE­LAX­ING abor­tion laws would open the door to ter­mi­na­tions ‘for any rea­son’ way be­yond the 24-week limit, doc­tors warned yes­ter­day.

One prac­ti­tioner claimed the move could cre­ate a ‘free for all’.

Doc­tors have hit out ahead of a se­cret vote by the Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists (RCOG) to back abor­tion on de­mand. Some 650 pro­fes­sion­als have writ­ten to the body over its de­ci­sion to deny the ma­jor­ity of its 6,000 mem­bers the chance to take part in the bal­lot.

In a protest let­ter, they crit­i­cise the ‘ex­treme’ views of the body’s pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor Les­ley Re­gan – who has said abor­tions could be as straight­for­ward as hav­ing a bunion re­moved.

Dr Ron­ald Jame­son, a mem­ber of the RCOG from Hud­der­s­field, said a new pol­icy on ter­mi­na­tions would ‘al­most cer­tainly bring abor­tion much closer to be­ing a free for all.

‘I firmly be­lieve that the RCOG should be able to vote, and only then will the mem­ber­ship be clear just what the doc­tors’ vote rep­re­sents,’ he added.

Dr John Ether­ton, a GP and RCOG mem­ber from Lewes, East Sus­sex, said the move would ‘open up the gate for easy abor­tion up to birth’.

‘It sounds very be­nign to say let’s de­crim­i­nalise a pro­ce­dure, it sounds ac­cept­able, but the Satur­day’s Daily Mail im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tions are that it opens the gate for in­fan­ti­cide. That’s very clear.’

The RCOG has made it clear that the move would not al­low abor­tions to be car­ried out any later than 24 weeks.

The cur­rent law – the 1967 Abor­tion Act – states abor­tions are il­le­gal with­out con­sent from two doc­tors. Both must agree that con­tin­u­ing the preg­nancy would be harm­ful to her phys­i­cal or men­tal health, or that of the un­born child.

The bal­lot will de­cide whether the Col­lege should for­mally back ‘to­tal de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion’ al­low­ing con­sent from just one pro­fes­sional. A vote in favour would put pres­sure on the Govern­ment to over­haul the law.

The protest let­ter – which will be de­liv­ered to the Royal Col­lege this morn­ing – urges Pro­fes- sor Re­gan to hold a bal­lot of all 6,000 mem­bers. It adds: ‘If th­ese measures were to be im­ple­mented, it would mean the in­tro­duc­tion of abor­tion for any rea­son, to at least 28 weeks and pos­si­bly up to birth.

‘It is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able that all mem­bers of the RCOG have not been given the op­por­tu­nity to vote on this sig­nif­i­cant change in pol­icy and you have re­fused to re­lease the word­ing of the mo­tion un­til af­ter the gen­eral coun­cil have voted on this mo­tion. As doc­tors and med­i­cal stu­dents, we ob­ject to this new ex­treme po­si­tion be­ing forced upon mem­bers of the RCOG.

‘We rep­re­sent a va­ri­ety of po­si­tions on the is­sue of abor­tion, but be­lieve this mo­tion is out of keeping with both our du­ties as re­spon­si­ble pro­fes­sion­als and the ex­pressed wishes of Bri­tish women with re­gards to the le­gal­ity and reg­u­la­tion of abor­tion. This move to in­tro­duce a rad­i­cal abor­tion law is be­ing pro­moted by a small group of cam­paign­ers with ex­treme views on abor­tion. Whilst they are en­ti­tled to hold the con­vic­tions they do we must not let them im­pose their agenda on the RCOG and risk se­verely dam­ag­ing its rep­u­ta­tion as a pro­fes­sional body,’ the let­ter con­tin­ues.

‘We, the un­der­signed, wish to state pub­licly that any pol­icy which seeks to re­move abor­tion from its cur­rent le­gal frame­work does not rep­re­sent us or our views.’ A spokesman for the RCOG said that all 6,000 mem­bers had been con­sulted on to­day’s vote and told to share their views with their coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Lat­est of­fi­cial fig­ures show 12,0603 abor­tions were car­ried out in Scot­land in 2016, a slight fall on the pre­vi­ous year.

But there has been a sig­nif­i­cant rise in re­cent years in abor­tions in women in their 30s, from 2,876 in 2008 to 3,277 in 2016.

Last week Prof Re­gan said it would be ‘per­fectly rea­son­able’

for women to need one doctor’s con­sent to have an abor­tion. she com­pared the pro­ce­dure to re­mov­ing a bunion. ‘If you go and get your bunions sorted … you would go to a con­sul­ta­tion … then you take a de­ci­sion and the doctor who was com­pe­tent to un­der­take the pro­ce­dure would sign the form too, and that would go for­ward,’ she said. Prof re­gan also said there had been a ‘shift’ in opin­ion among med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als about abor­tion, with many be­ing in favour of de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion.

Dr Peter saun­ders of the Chris­tian Med­i­cal fel­low­ship, which rep­re­sents Chris­tian doc­tors, said the rCoG had an in­ter­est in re­mov­ing abor­tion from crim­i­nal law be­cause so many of its mem- bers prac­tised it. ‘How is this dif­fer­ent from bankers ask­ing for fraud to be de­crim­i­nalised, taxi driv­ers seek­ing an end to speed lim­its, or ten­ants aim­ing to abol­ish rental con­tracts?’ he said. ‘

surely it is those who most stand to gain by a change in the law who should have least say over how it is framed.’

The vote is due to take place this af­ter­noon although it may be pushed back to to­mor­row.

The rCoG said it sup­ports the rights of women to ac­cess ‘safe, high-qual­ity abor­tion care ser­vices’. A spokesman said: ‘The vote will not fo­cus on ges­ta­tional lim­its for abor­tion which should re­main in place through the ap­pro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tory and leg­isla­tive process.

‘What­ever the out­come of the vote, the Col­lege will con­tinue to sup­port those doc­tors with strongly held be­liefs who con­sciously ob­ject to per­form­ing ter­mi­na­tions.’

Com­ment – Page 16

‘Im­pos­ing their agenda on us’

Un­der pres­sure: Royal Col­lege pres­i­dent Les­ley Re­gan

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