Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members have responded to a consultation on abortion and have voted in favour of decriminalisation – but the RCN position on the issue remains unchanged.
The UK-wide poll showed that 73.7% of 3000 respondents voted in favour of removing criminal sanctions for terminating a pregnancy.
While the response rate was only 1% of the RCN’s total membership, of around 435,000 members, the results were definitive.
‘As the largest nursing organisation in the United Kingdom, we have sought to understand the views of all our members on decriminalisation,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN.
‘I want to thank all those who completed the survey to help us inform our positon on this important issue for the profession. We will use the views of all our members to inform the RCN’s future work on this issue.’
As the abortion debate has returned to the spotlight across the country – thanks to the upcoming Irish referendum on the 8th amendment and the Abortion Reform Bill in the Isle of Man – the RCN took the step to consult members on decriminalisation but not on the wider ‘for or against’ issue.
However, while the RCN has stated that their position remains unchanged they ‘will now consider its future work relating to termination of pregnancy legislation.’
The RCN will explore abortion regulation and quality monitoring processes that exist to protect women’s rights to access free and safe healthcare, however, they are not calling for any changes to gestational limits or the right to conscientious objection by health professionals.
Last year, both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists changed their positions to be in favour of decriminalising abortion.
The Abortion Act 1967 made abortions legal in England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland, which has its own laws that include penalties for women who undergo the procedure illegally.