Boss of midwife union defends decision to back campaign to scrap abortion law

Britain's biggest midwives' union has defended its decision to support a campaign calling for the current legal limits on abortion to be removed.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) came under heavy criticism from its own members after its chief executive backed the campaign to scrap the 24-week abortion limit - without consulting members or holding a vote.

Cathy Warwick - chief executive of the RCM - said the campaign had the union's full backing and said that the legal limit should be “relegated to history”.

The RCM re-issued a statement confirming its position saying it does not believe it is right that "women who choose to have an abortion can be criminalised and jailed".

Professor Warwick is also chairman of the board of trustees of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) - the country's biggest provider of birth control services and terminations.

The BPAS has called for abortions to be removed from criminal law.

Suzanne Tyler, director of the Royal College of Midwives, said the union stands for women having choice. Credit: Good Morning Britain

Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, Suzanne Tyler, the director of the Royal College of Midwives, said that the union is neither pro- nor anti-abortion.

She said that but that the RCM stands for women having choice - and that the medical professions and midwifery should respect that "women are the experts in their own care".

Campaigners say decriminalisation would give women real choice but some union members who say it could lead to late-term abortions.

The government has said it has no plans to scrap the 24-week limit on abortions.

Credit: Reuters
  • What's the current law on abortion?

Under the 1967 Abortion Act,terminations are legal in England, Scotland and Wales, as long as the procedure is carried out in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy - and with the consent of two doctors.

In rare cases abortions can take place later if there are health complications.

Having an illegal abortion later than 24 weeks can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In northern and the Republic of Ireland abortion is illegal unless a woman's life is at risk.

  • Have women been jailed for having abortions?

Although it is rare - there have been cases of women being jailed for having abortions later than 24 weeks.

In 2015 in County Durham, Natalie Towers, was sentenced to two and a half years for taking pills to induce abortion at 32 weeks.