Doctors at the British Medical Association (BMA) have voted in favour of a motion to decriminalize abortion up to birth, following a heated debate about the issue.
On Tuesday, delegates attending BMA’s annual meeting in Bournemouth voted by 2–1 in favour of a motion calling for a change to U.K.’s abortion law, iNews reported.
The current law allows abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, but there is no time limit in cases when the woman’s life is at risk or fetal abnormalities have been found. Two doctors must ensure that the requirements of the Abortion Act are met before an abortion can be performed.
A special session on “Abortion and the Criminal Law,” attended by about 500 medics, prompted a passionate debate.
Some medics have argued that abortion is a medical decision, not a criminal one, adding that the change in policy supports the rights of women.
“We must respect women and have trust in women to make decisions for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Coral Jones, who presented the motion.
Dr. John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said that the motion was not about time limits, noting that BMA supports current time limits on abortion.
Nearly 1,500 doctors and medical students have expressed their objection to the motion, saying pro-abortion campaigners should not be allowed to “impose their agenda on the BMA and risk severely damaging our reputation as a professional body.”
Prior to the vote, they have signed a letter addressed to Dr. Anthea Mowat, the doctors’ union representative body chairwoman, denouncing the motion and warning her that it puts the reputation of BMA at risk.
The letter pointed to a recent ComRes survey which found that only one percent of the public favor extending the abortion limit up to birth.
“The same poll found that 70 per cent of women wanted to see the abortion time limit reduced to 20 weeks or below,” the letter stated.
John Campbell, Professor of General Practice and Primary at the University of Exeter Medical School, wrote an op-ed published in The Daily Mail, expressing his objections to the motion.
“To treat abortion as a lifestyle choice is wrong. To extend the abortion limit is wrong. And for the medical profession to attempt this when almost the whole of the public oppose it is the most destructive course of action imaginable,” Campbell wrote.
Campbell said that he believes many of his colleagues would reconsider their membership with the BMA if the motion is approved. “I would do that and I have been a member for 35 years,” he went on to say.