Many have been shocked by this week's comments emerging from the Chief Executive's Office of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Cathy Warwick, who leads the RCM, has supported the scrapping of time limits on abortion and the removal of all current legal restrictions. The situation emerged when Professor Warwick signed the RCM up for a campaign led by Britain's biggest abortion provider, BPAS, calling for complete decriminalisation of the procedure.
Currently there is a 24-week time limit on abortions, which also require the consent of two doctors and for certain medical requirements to be met. Professor Warwick is the chair of BPAS, however she took an executive decision to sign the RCM up to the BPAS campaign without going through the RCM's democratic process. Midwives are up in arms.
The RCM is a democratic organisation, a trade union affiliated to the TUC, as well as a professional body. It has a motion-based policy-making process, and therefore to agree to such a significant policy position change is contrary to the way it's designed to work.
Midwives are furious there has been an executive decision on this, undermining their professional standing, and that Warwick has refused to withdraw from this position. She has argued that the shift is no different than the organisation's support for women to "have control over their own fertility and over their own reproduction"; the pro-choice agenda. Midwives view this differently. Her neutrality in representing midwives' interests has been put under scrutiny.
Abortion levels in the UK remain the highest across Europe, with 184,571 terminations in England and Wales last year, and numbers are not falling.
This throws up so many issues. Why have sexual health services been cut and public health budgets been slashed? School nurses (the army of public health workers promoting prevention rather than 'cure') have almost vanished. Why is it that real prevention is not at the forefront of the government's agenda?
Beyond this, Warwick is taking the debate in the opposite direction to that of science. When over 50 per cent of premature babies born at 21 weeks' gestation go on to live healthy lives, why is she not arguing that the abortion time-limit is reduced? For a midwife to deliver a baby at this fragile age, they will know all too well the miracle of life that they witness before them, and yet elsewhere in a neighbouring theatre, the life of another of the same gestation may be terminated.
But in believing that life begins at conception, there are many more issues which should be discussed now that Warwick has triggered the debate. Why do so many believe it is permissible for a foetus to be aborted due to having a disability? Why is discrimination in the womb acceptable to the point of removing a life, and yet from the moment the baby is born, any form of less favourable treatment is illegal?
We could argue that the wonder of the 'miracle of life' has been lost by so many, but first, maybe we should ask if our wonder at the 'Creator of life' has been lost. The Father's love in creating a completely unique individual out of just two cells is mind-blowing. How they combine and cause cells to share DNA and multiply, before rapidly taking on functions and shapes is beyond our comprehension. When an embryo the size of a grain of rice has a heart that beats we are just in awe. How each day this foetus develops makes us marvel at the detailed planning that shapes who each of us are.
As recorded in Psalm 139:
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
If ever there was a time to cry out to God and call for his revelation, now is such a time.
Rachael Maskell is the Labour (Co-op) MP for York Central. Elected in 2015, Rachael has worked as a Care Worker and Physiotherapist in the NHS for 20 years. As a trade union representative at her local hospital and as an official at a national level, Rachael has represented NHS workers and campaigned for many years against discrimination and for equal pay. Rachael is on the Council of Reference for Christians on the Left, having previously served as vice-chair.
Follow her on Twitter @rachaelmaskell.