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September 2017


BMA votes to decriminalise abortion

At the British Medical Association's annual meeting in Bournemouth in July 2017, around two-thirds of the 500 attendees voted in favour of a motion calling for the decriminalisation of abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks. This will now be the formal stance of the BMA when the association lobbies ministers for a change in the law. As the motion was debated, some stated that abortion is a medical decision, not a criminal one and that a change in policy would support the rights of women while others voiced concerns that decriminalisation would put women in abusive relationships at risk of coercion to terminate their pregnancies, open the door for sex-selective abortions and make it almost impossible to continue imposing current regulations. Dr Coral Jones, who presented the motion, said: “We must respect women and have trust in women to make decisions for themselves and their families.” (As quoted by The Telegraph) The BMA has said that while criminal sanctions for abortions should be removed abortion procedures should continue to be regulated as with other health procedures.

Following the vote, more than 20 doctors announced that they will be leaving the union. Dr Jessica Hudson, who is a neonatal doctor at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, has said that she can not reconcile this new stance with the lifesaving work she carries out: "As a doctor who looks after babies from 23 weeks, I am really happy that the babies we look after have a complete right to life enshrined in law....We wouldn’t dream of withdrawing care from a baby in one of the incubators at our neonatal unit just because parents didn’t want it....Just because a baby is in a womb, rather than an incubator, I still believe that it deserves legal protection over its rights." Dr Matthew Knight, a hospital consultant, who is also leaving the BMA said he has “been concerned for some time that its agenda has been increasingly hijacked by people with more extreme views”. And after being a member of the BMA for 35 years, Dr Richard Loveless, a Somerset GP, has said he was “very disappointed” with the vote and is leaving the union. The CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, Dr Peter Saunders has voiced his dissatisfaction with the BMA’s decision but has decided to remain a member of the BMA saying “I believe it’s best to try and fight these battles from within”. (As quoted by Christian Institute)

Prior to the annual meeting, over 1,500 doctors and medical students signed an open letter urging the BMA to reject the motion, while Christian Concern said the motion showed “shocking disrespect for human life”.

Dr Anthony McCarthy, of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, responded to the decision saying: "The BMA has betrayed all who take seriously healthcare for pregnant woman in favour of an extremist agenda in line with the abortion industry’s laissez faire ‘up to birth’ attitude to ending the lives of unborn children. Against overwhelming public opinion and against those who support women by refusing to trivialize abortion, the BMA has today undermined the consciences of doctors who refuse to follow an ‘autonomy’ agenda that has nothing to do with good medicine and everything to do with ideology.” (As quoted by SPUC)