Christian pro-life campaigners have hit out at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) for denying members a chance to vote in a secret ballot on relacing abortion laws.
The RCOG today held a secret vote to relax abortion law, but instead of allowing all 6,000 doctors in the college to vote, just 33 members of the body's General Council took part in the ballot.
If the council members vote in favour of the motion, which has not been published yet, pro-lifers are warning that the college will have effectively backed the decriminalisation of abortion and would then be able to lobby the Government for a change in the law.
The decriminalisation of abortion could allow for abortion for any reason – including sex selective abortion, up until 28 weeks and possibly up until birth, according to Christian Action Research and Education (CARE).
This motion contrasts with polling by ComRes on abortion by Where Do They Stand, which showed that the UK general public would like to see greater protections introduced to safeguard both the mother and the unborn child
Nola Leach, chief executive of CARE, said: 'The RCOG risks severely damaging its reputation by adopting a radical stance that is not only against public interest, but that its members haven't even been consulted on and many are completely against. An issue of conscience and of this magnitude should not be taken by just 33 members.
'This motion has been shrouded in secrecy, even to the point where the RCOG members have not even seen the wording of it, and crucially have not been allowed to vote on it.
'Abortion carries inherent risks and that is why there are protections in place to support women and the unborn child. Decriminalising abortion would remove these protections, severely limiting the amount of care that women can receive.
'For example, getting two doctors to sign off on an abortion means that women have the time to talk through any concerns they have with a medical professional. It's also a crucial step in making sure that the woman is not being coerced into having a termination.
'CARE stands for the welfare of both the mother and the unborn child and that is why we do not believe that further liberalisation of abortion is in either of their best interests.'
A spokesman for the college said all UK members and trainees of the college were consulted on the proposed position statement in early September and asked to share their views with their council rep prior to the meeting today.
'The RCOG fully supports the rights of women and girls to access safe, high-quality abortion care services, as well as family planning and contraception. While respecting the diverse range of views on abortion, the College has a responsibility to protect women's health by ensuring they have access to this key service.
'The RCOG's Council will be asked to vote on whether they support decriminalisation of abortion. The College is seeking a position on this matter as it represents the group of doctors who provide the majority of abortion services across the UK. The vote will not focus on gestational limits for abortion which should remain in place through the appropriate regulatory and legislative process. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the College will continue to support those doctors with strongly held beliefs who consciously object to performing terminations.'