K.V. Turley is the Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.
The United Kingdom’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is poised to back a controversial campaign calling for all time limits on abortion to be scrapped.
The RCN is considering this new policy after consulting its 435,000 members on “decriminalizing” all abortions – sparking complaint from pro-life nurses.
The RCN is a membership organization and trade union with over 432,000 members in the United Kingdom, most of whom are registered nurses. It was founded in 1916, with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as its patron.
If, as is expected, the RCN does back the removal of all time limits, it will join the Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and British Medical Association in doing so. All these organizations have united with the radical “We Trust Women” campaign – organized by Britain's biggest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). This campaign is calling for all laws protecting the unborn child to be removed. This would, effectively, abolish existing English legislation that outlaws abortions after 24 weeks.
Now, however, in response to the RCN’s expected decision, more than 370 RCN members have begun a counter campaign called: “Not in Our Name.” These pro-life nurses have adopted the motto used previously by pro-life midwives fighting on the same issue.
Last month, in an online survey, the RCN asked its members whether or not they approved of decriminalization. While many pro-life nurses believe the RCN survey is little more than a token consultation, they have written to Janet Davies, the Chief Executive of RCN protesting: “This move is being promoted by a small group of campaigners with extreme views on abortion. Whilst they are entitled to hold the convictions they do, we must not let them impose their agenda on the RCN and risk severely damaging its reputation.”
On March 25, 2018, The Mail on Sunday revealed a key RCN adviser behind the College's expected move is also a senior executive at BPAS. The newspaper reported that Mandy Myers, who has helped formulate RCN abortion policy for over a decade, is Director of Operations at BPAS. In effect, according to The Mail on Sunday report, Myers is part of an organization responsible for providing more than 73,000 abortions per year - earning BPAS approximately £30 million ($42.5 million) in taxpayers' money.
The Mail on Sunday reporters also discovered that, in 2016, it was Myers who initiated a debate at the RCN's annual conference on “the merits of decriminalizing abortion.” She argued the current law was “patronizing” to women. Later, this call led to the decriminalization of abortion being highlighted by the RCN's Executive Council as an “operational priority” for this year.
Perhaps not surprisingly, last month’s RCN online survey of its members on whether or not they approved of abortion decriminalization was greeted by Myers, who tweeted: “Great news – the Royal College of Nursing asks all members to vote on the decriminalization of abortion.”
There is draft legislation presently going through the House of Lords, sponsored by Baroness O’Loan, seeking to clarify the extent to which health workers can object to participating in abortion on grounds of conscience. Myers has publicly described this piece of proposed legislation as: “the obnoxious Conscientious Objection Bill.” And in January 2018, she described the appointment of the MP Maria Caulfield as the Conservative Party’s Vice Chair for Women as “absolutely inappropriate” because Caulfield “opposes decriminalization of abortion.”
This is not, however, the first time an individual who has filled a leadership position with a nursing organization has, at the same time, held a public role with an abortion provider. In May 2016, the decision of the Royal College of Midwives to join the campaign for the decriminalization of abortion was taken by its then Chief Executive Cathy Warwick, who was then also Chairman of Trustees at BPAS.
Established as a charity in 1968, BPAS is one of the main providers of abortion for the National Health Service in the UK. According to the BPAS website, 96 percent of its abortions are funded through the taxpayer. In January 2017, the independent regulator of health and social care in England, the Care Quality Commission, singled out a BPAS facility in Liverpool for criticism. The Commission’s report included the following observations with regard to standards at the facility:
- “There was no robust system in place to ensure that resuscitation equipment was regularly checked to keep patients safe. It was not clear whether several pieces of equipment used in theatre had been subject to the appropriate maintenance tests.”
- “The service had reported 11 serious injury notifications to the CQC from January 2013 to March 2016 (eight of which were reported between January 2015 and March 2016). All of these incidents resulted in patients being transferred to the local NHS trust for emergency care. Investigation reports completed following each serious incident did not identify and consider all relevant information and contributory factors.”
- “Infection control procedures were not always followed in theatre and we were not assured that medication was regularly reviewed and replaced as required.”
The RCN insists it has not yet drawn up a new position on abortion. On March 25, 2018, a spokesman for the organization told The Mail on Sunday: “The College is committed to having a position on decriminalization and every member has been given the opportunity of informing that position. Next steps will be announced in due course.”