I am totally pro-choice – I believe in the right of the pregnant individual to make decisions about their pregnancy, including deciding if they wish their pregnancy to continue. And if they don’t want it to continue, to be able to access safe abortion on demand at any point up full term – something we don’t currently have.
People have expressed surprise that I hold these pro-choice views and yet I am training to be a midwife. But to me they are completely in line with providing person-centred care – something we midwives are supposed to be all over. What could be more person-centred than trusting that the pregnant person is the one who gets to decide if they want the pregnancy to continue? Their body, their choice, right?
In line with the Abortion Act of 1967, abortion is currently legal up until 24 weeks of pregnancy in Scotland, England and Wales. (Abortion is only legal beyond this point if there is a grave danger to the pregnant person’s life or risk of serious permanent injury, or if the baby would likely be born with significant mental or physical disability). Two doctors also have to agree that more damage would be done to the pregnant person’s mental and/or physical health if they were to continue with the pregnancy than if they had the abortion. The act also includes a clause that anyone with a conscientious objection to abortion does not have be involved in administering this procedure, which has generally been understood to mean that those health professionals are not obliged to be involved in the procedure. So this clause protects those seeking abortions from accessing care from those whose moral objection may impact on their ability to care for them sensitively, as well as allowing health professionals exemption from doing something that is against their morals.
This is a kind of backstory as to why I am so unsettled by the recent news that two midwives are going to the supreme court to try and defend their right *not* to allow abortions to those who want them. Not just their right to not be involved in the actual procedure (which is already in place), but to argue that to even co-ordinate a ward when the procedure takes place contravenes their human rights. To essentially limit access to a legal procedure on a structural level because of their moral objection to abortion. As BPAS warns; “It would be grossly unjust if an interpretation of conscientious objection was allowed to stand which would disrupt services to the point that those committed to helping women were unable to do so”. If those coordinating maternity services can claim that they have a right to prevent abortions happening under their watch, those health professionals who want to provide abortions may be prevented from doing so which will essentially prevent those seeking to end their pregnancies from accessing a procedure that is not only necessary but also legal.
If the supreme court rules that these two midwives are right to interpret the conscientious objection clause to mean they are within their rights to refuse to have any part to do with any part of abortion provision – including co-ordinating the service that provides the abortion – then there will be a precedent that can be used to further limit access to safe legal abortion. And it is the safe, legal abortions that will be limited, not the need for abortion, or the number of abortions that people will seek out by any means necessary. What is person-centred about that?
Education for Choice – supports young people’s right to informed choice on abortion.
Abortion Rights – the national (UK) pro-choice campaign.