Abortion regulator, RCOG, looks into foetal pain… but who looks into them?

James Evans
Biology teacher with a background in genetics

For months we have been aware of the discriminatory disparity in patient care: that unborn babies aged 20-24 weeks gestation undergoing spina bifida surgery receive foetal painkillers, but that babies of the same age being aborted are not given painkillers. 

MPs have been lobbying the Department of Health and Social Care who have finally raised the issue of the use of foetal painkillers in late term abortions with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). 

This would be welcome news because one would assume that the RCOG would recommend that all babies from a gestational age of 20 weeks onwards would receive painkillers prior to any invasive procedure.

However, RCOG’s track record suggests otherwise.

When they were first asked by the Department of Health to investigate foetal pain in 1997, they concluded that consultants should consider the need for the use of painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ on foetuses in utero. Indeed, the Department of Health admitted that foetal painkillers are used in cases of in utero surgery from 20 weeks gestation. But what about in cases of abortion? If an unborn child needs painkillers for ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’, surely they need them all the more in an abortion? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the RCOG omitted to raise or answer these awkward questions.

To do so would risk humanising the unborn baby our society has worked so hard to dehumanise, at least when it comes to abortion. This is why we witness this curious doublethink whereby unborn babies in need of ‘diagnostic or therapeutic procedures’ are given painkillers, but babies to be aborted are not. In the former case, the baby is (presumably) wanted, and therefore acknowledged to be a baby capable of feeling pain and entitled to pain relief. In the latter, the unwanted baby, destined to be aborted, amazingly enough, can feel no pain (according to RCOG at least).

How do we know that the baby destined to be aborted can feel no pain? Well, in 2010, the RCOG looked into this question confidently announcing that before a 24 week abortion,   “No, the fetus does not experience pain”.

In fact, the RCOG go even further than this. In their 2010 Guidelines on Fetal Awareness they assert that the unborn baby is in an unconscious state and does not reach consciousness until birth. This conclusion is based on, in the words of RCOG 2010 ‘good’, ‘increasing’ evidence, but this evidence was one paper from 1986: an experiment on sheep foetuses exposed to low oxygen levels. As a result, they concluded, and ever since have advised mothers accordingly, that there is no requirement for foetal painkillers prior to an abortion at any gestational age even up to the point of birth. 

Again though, this does not square with practice in relation to in utero corrective surgery on unborn babies.

Sadly this is not surprising given the varied lengths RCOG has gone to in dehumanising the unborn baby whose life will come to an end in abortion. For example, specifically using language which ignores the humanity of the child such as ‘products of conception’, a ‘pregnancy’ and, by the president of the RCOG, likened to a bunion

Moreover, the RCOG, who author all clinical guidelines for the UK abortion industry and have many members who benefit from this, are effectively unaccountable without checks or oversight. The Department of Health does not let the tobacco industry govern itself, but it does allow this freedom to the abortion industry, worth an estimated £118 million annually in 2011. They also use their position of unchecked authority to advise parliament and publish their version of abortion advice to schools.

RCOG clinical guidelines are more untouchable than the law itself. Our law is made by elected representatives in the open to serve the country; their clinical guidelines are made by an unaccountable body behind closed doors to serve themselves.

So, based on their past form and knowing that they can publish unaccountably, what advice will they come up with for these babies being aborted without painkiller? Unless their hand is forced, anything they wish.

Until RCOG say otherwise, around ten mothers a day* continue to proceed with a very late term abortion (post 20 weeks) under the assurance that their baby will feel no pain and so does not need painkiller. Yet in the same hospitals, mothers with babies of the same age are assured that their baby will feel no pain because foetal painkillers will be given.

*In 2018, there were 3,602 abortions after 20 weeks. Therefore, there were approximately 10 late term abortions (post 20 weeks) every day in 2018. (See Abortion statistics 2018: data tables T5)

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

All opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of Right To Life UK.

Gov says abortion is a devolved issue in Northern Ireland but will force it on the region anyway

Thousands gather in Belfast to March for Their Lives

In response to a petition in opposition to the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland, the Government in Westminister has conceded that abortion remains “within the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive” but they’re intent on forcing abortion on Northern Ireland anyway.

The Government’s affirmation of the sovereignty of the Northern Ireland Assembly in making decisions on this matter has been greatly undermined by the Parliamentary vote in July to force abortion on the region.

Unless Stormont reconvenes by the 21st October, the legislation will come into effect in Northern Ireland immediately. It will permit abortion up to 28 weeks for any reason, including abortion on the grounds of the sex of the baby. In fact, the new law removes all regulations and safeguards on abortion throughout the first 7 months of pregnancy. In which case, abortions could be performed in almost any setting and on children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

The Government response to the petition came just a few days before an MP in the House of Commons demanded that the people of Northern Ireland not be consulted in regard to the implementation of new extreme abortion law.

As part of their response to the petition, the Government has said that its “preference therefore remains that any change to law on abortion… is taken forward by a restored Executive and functioning Assembly.”

In a debate earlier this week however, MPs from Northern Ireland pointed out that the Government’s response is a “non-solution”.

Sammy Wilson MP said:

“[The Government] cannot run away and hide behind the statement, “It is up to the parties in Northern Ireland,” as one party that is essential to the setting up of the Administration [Sinn Féin]… have been driving the pro-abortion agenda in Northern Ireland…”

“[The Government] knows that as long as [Sinn Féin] remain in a position where they veto the formation of an Assembly, the solution that [the Government] says is in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland is not a solution at all.”

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

“The Government response to this petition which gathered almost 15,000 signatures, as well as statements in Parliament, shows the low regard Westminster has for the sovereignty of Northern Ireland Assembly in this regard.”

“In fact, from early July when this debate was fast-tracked through Parliament, the will of the people of Northern Ireland has been consistently ignored and disregarded. The majority of women in Northern Ireland (66% in general and 70% of 18-34 year olds) do not want abortion law imposed on the region from Westminster. There are also 100,000 people alive today who would otherwise not be, had the Abortion Act 1967 in the rest of Britain, been extended to Northern Ireland.”

Doctors call out “misleading” and “wildly inaccurate” assisted suicide activist video

Senior leaders at a national charity for end of life care have criticised a recent video from an assisted suicide lobby group labelling it “irresponsible”, “misleading” and “wildly inaccurate”.

Dignity in Dying released its video, The Inescapable Truth, as part of its ongoing efforts to legalise assisted suicide in the UK.

The distressing video features a mother talking to her son about his grandfather’s death. She tells her son that his grandad “moved to a special place called a hospice”, intercut with flashbacks portraying his death as agonising and traumatic.

Carole Walford and Tracey Bleakley, Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Executive of Hospice UK respectively,  said the film was “misleading and irresponsible campaigning.”

In their open letter to Dignity in Dying they call for the “sensationalist and inaccurate video” to be taken down. 

They say that it “could scare people away from the support they so desperately need… care that alleviates suffering, listens, communicates, and through skilled evidence based interventions meets the personal, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.”

Dignity in Dying claim the video is “a realistic portrayal” of those experiencing end of life care, and have so far not taken down the video. In a new report, Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, claim 17 people in the UK die in such a manner every day.  

A claim that has been disputed by healthcare professionals who lined up on Twitter to criticise the film.

An NHS palliative care doctor said: “The very last thing the debate on assisted dying needs is deeply misleading and wildly inaccurate portrayals of dying in a hospice.”

An NHS project manager for cancer alliance said: 

“The inescapable truth? Whose truth? Are you so desperate for support that you are reduced to #fakenews? This is definitely not my experience of my parents’ deaths, one in a hospice & one in an acute hospital. This is the most terrible exploitation of peoples’ fears. Shameful.”

A palliative care nurse tweeted: “This is a low act! I’ve nursed many many people dying in hospitals and hospice settings. NEVER, have I witnessed such a distressing scene. You are sensationalising and stigmatising death!”

“This is not truth,” added GP Dr Andrew Green, who has been a GP for 40 years.

Parliamentary efforts to allow doctors to help patients kill themselves have been consistently rejected in recent years, including by 330 votes to 118 in 2015. 

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Leading doctors at Hospice UK and elsewhere are correct to call out Dignity in Dying for their misleading, irresponsible scaremongering. A recent study into end-of-life care ranked the UK as the best in the world, praising the quality and availability of services.”

“Our world class end-of-life care is becoming increasingly important for a society which values the lives of people with terminal or life-limiting conditions.”

“Legalising assisted suicide would inevitably lead to pressure on vulnerable people to choose the quicker, cheaper option of death over end of life care.”

(Image credit: Dignity in Dying video screen shot)