A leading Christian nurse is warning that nurses and midwives could find themselves under new pressures to be involved with abortions and other procedures that go against their conscience.
Steve Fouch, head of nursing with the the Christian Medical Fellowship Head of Nursing, warns in a blog of a challenge to the rules that allow doctors to opt out of abortions.
He is writing after a new study, headlined 'Vacuum aspiration for induced abortion could be safely and legally performed by nurses and midwives', questions the need for abortions to be carried out by doctors in the first place.
Sally Sheldon of the University of Kent argues that midwives or nurses should be allowed to do vacuum aspirations.
'But the real concern will be over freedom of conscience. If nurses and midwives are legally empowered to train and perform VAs and, in time, other surgical terminations of pregnancy, how long before it becomes a fundamental part of their job description? Even if the Abortion Act allows for freedom of conscience in performing terminations, the FSRH training could become essential to some posts in obstetric nursing and midwifery,' says Fouch.
'In Sweden we have already seen a midwife effectively barred from employment because she has expressed a clear conscientious objection to being involved with abortions. How long before similar issues arise in this country?'
He warns that it could herald moves to get a 'less troublesome' professional group 'empowered' to undertake abortions. 'We need to be standing together to challenge any such discrimination and potential erosion of freedom of conscience.'
Speaking to Christian Today, Fouch added: 'There will be people of all faiths and no faith who would have similar issues of conscience as Christians. But for Christians in particular there will be a number of ethics and values they will want to cleave to in the clinical setting out of respect for human life and dignity.'
Most of the time, Christians working in medicine had no problem. 'As Christians, we need to be both respectful to authority but also to recognise where there is a line and in conscience be obedient to what God wants us to do.'
All Christians are required to do things in understanding of the gospel and human ethics. 'We have to stand up and challenge, even if it is costly to us. And sometimes people do lose their jobs because of taking a stand on these issues. Sometimes the pressures onus are not to do with caring for the vulnerable. They can be to do with expediency.'