DailyMail: Midwives have been given the green light to take the main role in performing abortions.
New Department of Health rules say for the first time that midwives and nurses may “participate in the termination”. The controversial guidelines were last night condemned by MPs and anti-abortion campaigners.
Crossbench peer Lord Alton said: “It is particularly perverse that midwives, who do the beautiful work of helping babies into the world will now be called upon to end the lives of children they might otherwise work to save.”
Tory MP Fiona Bruce said the new rules would ‘allow abortions to be administered by nurses or midwives instead of doctors’. She added: ‘This is a clear liberalisation of abortion law which people do not want. Moreover, I do not believe that it is what Parliament intended.’
Under previous guidelines, midwives and nurses could undertake “certain actions” in help to terminate unwanted pregnancies. But the new rules go much further and state clearly that a “nurse or midwife may administer the drugs used for medical abortions”.
The new guidance, which also rules out abortions carried out on the grounds of sex alone, comes at a time of controversy over abortion law, which allows nearly 200,000 terminations to be performed in England and Wales each year. About a fifth of pregnancies end in abortion.
The 1967 law which governs abortion says that two doctors must approve the termination and the procedure must be conducted by a doctor.
In 1981, the courts gave approval for nurses to be involved, and Whitehall guidance restated the principle in 1999.
But the new rules for the first time say that a doctor needs only to approve and begin a termination. The bulk of the procedure can be carried out by nurses.
The move follows pressure from the Royal College of Nursing and abortion providers, who believe the law should be changed to allow nurses full control of abortion induced by drugs or some other techniques.
Labour MP Jim Dobbin, the co-chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Pro-life Group, said: “We simply cannot trust the Department of Health on abortion.
“They take every opportunity to make life easier for the abortion industry, even on legally contentious grounds. The Abortion Act is crystal clear that a qualified doctor is the only person able to perform an abortion.”
“Not satisfied with this, the department is now making nurses and midwives accomplices to the tragic taking of innocent human life. We are looking at a judicial review to challenge the legality of this appalling decision.”
Pro-choice organisations say that over the past 20 years nurses have taken over many of the clinical functions once reserved for doctors and so the law should be liberalized to allow them to take over the lead role in abortion.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the biggest abortion provider, BPAS, said: “We think nurses are the best people to deliver early abortions. Abortions should be carried out by people who are clinically qualified to do it, including nurses.”
The Department of Health said the new guidelines made no difference to the law and merely clarified the existing rules.
Dr. Michael Scott, a consultant psychologist and critic of abortion law, believes the new guidance is designed to free up funds in the NHS. “Nurses would be cheaper than doctors,” he said. “One can see that from a purely economic point of view, the government is moving in that direction.”
Dr. Tony Cole, chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, added: “Midwifery is one of the most life-enhancing fields in the whole of medicine and to ask midwives to carry out these death sentences is obscene. It is a betrayal of what midwives are for.”