Hundreds of NI medics oppose new abortion regime

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More than 800 health care professionals have written to the secretary of state opposing the imposition of a radical new abortion regime on Northern Ireland.

The letter is addressed to Julian Smith MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and permanent health secretary for Northern Ireland, Richard Pengelley. It has been signed by doctors, nurses and midwives, who say “our consciences demand that we not be silent”.  

Protect the most vulnerable

The medics say that they "wish to make known our opposition to the imminent introduction of abortion in Northern Ireland" and that their "concern throughout is for pregnant mothers and their unborn children".

"The concept of taking a human life at any stage is inimical to us, and the concept of taking a human life in the womb especially so," they wrote.

The group also "appeal to the UK government not to impose this unwanted legislation".

"We appeal to our elected representatives to re-establish a functional Northern Ireland government so that democratic process be restored," they state.

"We appeal to the wider society to consider and reflect on the humanity and value of every life, from conception to death, that the weakest and most vulnerable would be protected and cherished by all."

Fears about conscience rights

Dr Andrew Cupples told the Belfast Telegraph that many medical professionals were concerned that they would not have a right to conscientious objection. "We have a lot of Christians who very strongly feel that the unborn child is a human being with value and worth. On the same side we have a strong compassion and a real desire to care for woman in crisis pregnancies.

"At the moment Northern Ireland has the best and most protected care for women and unborn children. On October 22 it will have the worst in western Europe. The unborn child in the womb will have no legal rights up to 28 weeks."

Dr Cupples said there would be a gap of five months before any potential legislation will be introduced to protect midwives and nurses who choose not to be involved in an abortion.

Midwives for Both Lives has also written to, Mr Pengelly and Mr Smith.  In addition, this pro-life group wrote to the Royal College of Midwives, saying there was "currently no conscientious objection in law in NI for midwives... in contrast to our counterparts in mainland UK who are protected under law and under the NMC code".

The Royal College of Midwives said it was "insisting that… the development of interim guidance and regulation safeguard the right to conscientious objection". However, the RCM is a leading supporter of decriminalising abortion in the UK, a stance it took up under former CEO Cathy Warwick, who was also a trustee of abortion provider BPAS.

She asked for medical opinions...we're giving them

Dr Cupples also slammed the lack of consultation with the people of Northern Ireland. "We don't want this brought in. We haven't been asked,” he said. “Stella Creasy [Labour MP] who tabled this motion said during the debate that she didn't want to ask the people in Northern Ireland, but she wanted the opinion of healthcare professionals. The healthcare professionals are giving her our opinion. I emailed her last night with this letter and I am awaiting a response."

SPUC is running a petition calling on the DUP, as the main pro-life political party, to do all it can to get Stormont up and running again.