New abortion rules in place

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

MIDWIVES and nurses in Wigan borough will soon be able to carry out abortions under new rules introduced by health chiefs.

Department of Health rules say for the first time that midwives and nurses may ‘participate in the termination’. The controversial guidelines have been condemned by anti-abortion campaigners.

Under previous guidelines, midwives and nurses could undertake ‘certain actions’ in helping 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’.

A spokesman for Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) said: “There are many reasons why a woman may choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“These can include personal circumstances, health risk to either mother and baby or high probability that the pregnancy may not be sustainable.

“While we are aware of the new legislation, regarding midwives and nurses participating in terminations, we do not currently participate.

“The trust would never pressure or coerce any health care professional – doctor, nurse or midwife – to carry out such a procedure if it was against their beliefs or values.”

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 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 the abortion law, believes the new guidance is designed to free up funds in the NHS.

He said: “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.”