In Depth

Midwives 'mutiny' after union signs up to abortion campaign

Royal College of Midwives chief Cathy Warwick under fire for not consulting her members

Midwives are said to be "mutinying" after their union publically backed a campaign to decriminalise abortion entirely in the UK, no matter at what stage of the pregnancy.

Professor Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), has been accused of failing to consult members before signing the union up to a campaign launched by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS ) to scrap the 24-week legal cut-off for terminations.

Under the 1967 Abortion Act, women can only terminate their pregnancies up until 24 weeks' gestation, unless there are specific medical grounds for doing so later on.

"Unsurprisingly there was an immediate response from dissenting midwives, insisting that the RCM did not speak in their name," says the Daily Telegraph.

Warwick, who is also chairman of the BPAS, is also facing calls to quit over what critics say is a blatant conflict of interest, reports the Daily Mail. "Horrified midwives" are now "mutinying", claims the paper.

Judith Smyth, a midwife from Northern Ireland, told the Mail: "Anyone advocating allowing abortion up to birth, I think is so sad and tragic, but to have my own representative body coming out in support of this extreme view is very disappointing.

"I know she's our chief, but there is clearly a conflict of interest. On something as big as this, she should have consulted us."

Another midwife, Michelle Viney, said it was "shocking" that the RCM thought it could do this without asking any of its members, while Labour MP Robert Flello said it was "unacceptable" that the RCM was led by someone "so closely aligned to the biggest provider of abortions".

As part of its We Trust Women campaign, BPAS argues that the law on abortion "sits at odds with other well established legal principles that a person's body is their own". It means a woman who uses abortion medication at home, now widely available online, can be sent to prison for life.

"Life-saving organs cannot be taken from the dead body of someone who made clear they did not wish to donate, yet a living woman can be compelled to sustain a foetus against her will from the moment a fertilised egg implants in her womb," it says.

A spokesman for RCM said: "If we are to be advocates for women then we must advocate for choice on all aspects of their care.

"The RCM is not for or against abortion. It is for women, and respecting their choices about their bodies. NHS policy is explicit that high-quality maternity services include respecting women's right to make reproductive choices. The RCM's stance on decriminalisation of abortion is compatible with this."

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