Over 1,000 British doctors and medical students have publicly opposed efforts to persuade the British Medical Association (BMA) to back abortion up to birth.
Ahead of the association’s annual representative meeting, the doctors and students have signed a letter to Dr Anthea Mowat, the doctors’ union representative body chairwoman, warning that plans to decriminalise abortion would threaten the reputation of the BMA.
Under British law, abortion is technically illegal although doctors are exempt from prosecution if certain criteria are met, notably in cases where the unborn child is under 24 weeks gestation age and two doctors state that abortion would be less harmful for a woman’s health than the pregnancy’s continuation.
Cautioning that “if these measures were to be implemented, it would mean the introduction of abortion for any reason, to at least 28 weeks and possibly up to birth”, the signatories, who hold a range of positions on the general issue of abortion, urge the BMA to reject this “extreme motion”.
They describe the motion as at odds with their duties as “responsible professionals” and “the expressed wishes of British women with regards to the legality and regulation of abortion”. Pointing to how polls consistently show that most women want more restrictions on abortion, rather than fewer, they cited a ComRes poll from last month which found that just 1% of women wanted to see the time limit for abortion extended through to birth, while 70% wanted to see the abortion time limit reduced to 20 weeks or below.
Warning against allowing a “small group of campaigners with extreme views on abortion” to “impose their agenda on the BMA and risk severely damaging our reputation as a professional body,” the signatories said that British law, however imperfect, attempts to recognise “that the life and health of both mother and baby need legal protection”.
Lord Alton of Liverpool praised the doctors, who come from a wide range of areas of expertise including obstetrics and gynaecology, for speaking out, saying, “More than most, doctors know that abortion involves the deliberate killing of another human being.”
He congratulated those “who have had the courage to stand for the scientific truths against those who pursue the dark ideology that babies in the womb should have no rights.”