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Royal College of Nursing looks set to back decriminalisation

2 May 2018


The RCN's abortion policy has been influenced by a bpas trustee. 

The Royal College of Nursing looks set to back the decriminalisation agenda, after three quarters of nurses surveyed voted in favour.

Is it representative?

The RCN said today that the results of a UK-wide poll of RCN members showed 73.7% of respondents had voted in favour of removing criminal sanctions from legislation relating to abortion. Nearly 3,000 people responded to the survey, giving an overall response rate equivalent to 1% of the RCN’s 435,000 total membership.

If the poll is representative of the views of nurses, the results are shocking, said SPUC's Antonia Tully. "What have nurses been told about the real implications of decriminalising abortion?" she asked. "It seems astounding that men and women in a profession dedicated to caring for others, should back a campaign which so endangers mothers and their unborn babies."

BPAS influence

"Our suspicions about what nurses have been told rest on the fact that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been advised on this matter by the abortion industry," Mrs Tully continued. "The RCN is listening to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, Britain's largest abortion provider, who have a vested interest in making abortion ever more accessible, with little regard for the health and safety of women."

In March, it was revealed that a key adviser behind the expected move to back decriminalisation is Mandy Myers, director of operations at BPAS, Britain's largest abortion provider. 

Ms Myers is on the steering committee of the college's Women's Health Forum, which she joined "to get more involved in driving the agenda in women's health at the RCN". In 2016, she initiated a debate at the RCN's annual conference on "the merits of decriminalising abortion", arguing the current law was 'patronising' to women. The matter was subsequently taken up by the college's executive council, which last December highlighted "work on the decriminalisation of abortion" as an 'operational priority' for 2018. 

Falling into line?

At present, the RCN does not have a position on decriminalisation and has said it will consider the evidence, including its survey, so that it can develop a position to contribute towards the debate.

"As the largest nursing organisation in the United Kingdom, we have sought to understand the views of all our members on decriminalisation," said RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies. "We will use the views of all our members to inform the RCN's future work on this issue."

If the RCN does back decriminalisation, it will join the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Medical Association in doing so. The decision for the Royal College of Midwives to join the campaign was taken by its President Prof Cathy Warwick, who was also Chairman of Trustees at BPAS. 

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