News Headlines > New abortion rules 'pose threat to role of Catholic midwives'

05 June 2014 | by Christopher Lamb

New abortion rules 'pose threat to role of Catholic midwives'

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Catholics may find it difficult to train as midwives following new government guidelines stating that they can administer abortions, according to a leading Catholic doctor.

Recent Department of Health rules state that “a nurse midwife may administer the drugs used for medical abortions once these have been prescribed by a doctor.”

The 1967 Abortion Act prohibited nurses and midwives from prescribing early abortion drugs but the Royal College of Nursing has lobbied for the law to be updated to allow nurses and midwives to undertake terminations. Previous guidelines had said midwives could take “certain actions” in abortion procedures.

The new guidelines have been criticised by Dr Robert Hardie, president of the Catholic Medical Association, who suggested that “it may well be difficult to train as a midwife” as “Catholic Christians will be unable to provide the service expected of them by society.”

He said the latest move leaves “nurses and midwives who have traditionally administered tender loving care to be the harbingers of death.”

Dr Hardie pointed out that the guidelines do not allow a midwife to be in charge of abortions but will allow for “far more involvement”, something that is already part of a worldwide trend. He highlighted recent reports of doctors pre-signing abortion forms, adding: “We are very near the time when pre-signed forms in their hundreds are handed out to nurse and midwife-led abortion clinics.”

Before a legal termination can be carried out, two doctors must agree that the physical or mental health of the child or the woman is in danger and sign a form that allows the abortion to go ahead. The Abortion Act also allows for conscientious objections for doctors and nurses.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “There has been no change in the role nurses and midwives play in abortion since the 1980s. Recent guidelines only clarified existing law.

“Nurses and midwives can administer abortion drugs but doctors must approve abortions and remain in charge throughout.”

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