Student midwife forced to suspend studies over pro-life views

A midwifery student who was forced to suspend her studies over her pro-life views believes she was unfairly targeted and has asked for a formal apology from the University of Nottingham.

Julia Rynkiewicz faced expulsion from her degree after lecturers raised concerns about her involvement with the Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL) society.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, the final year midwifery student was suspended from her course and became the subject of an almost four month long investigation.

During this difficult time, Julia was also banned from completing her placement at a local hospital.

As a result of the investigation against her, Julia will now graduate a year later than her fellow students but has suffered undue “stress” and a lack of financial support during the ordeal.

Last week, university officials U-turned on their decision and dismissed the case against her.

However, Julia believes that she has been unfairly targeted over her pro-life views and has raised questions over the significant procedural failures by the University.

She has issued a formal complaint against the Russell Group university and has asked for an apology “as a matter of justice” so that “they realise they have done wrong and will change it so that no one else has to go through what I have”.

If the University doesn’t apologise, Julia could carry her case through to the ombudsman and then on to court.

The undergraduate told The Telegraph: “I’m willing to take this as far as necessary. I think it’s important to remember that being pro-life isn’t incompatible with being a midwife.”

She added: “It all felt a bit ridiculous and I have had to put my life on hold for a year and that’s been frustrating.

“I would quite like an apology for everything they have put me through… I suppose that they have realised they have done wrong and [I hope they] will change it so no one else has to go through what I have.

“I’m going to be applying for compensation for this. I’m willing to take this as far as necessary but I suppose we will see how this goes. I think this case says a lot about freedom of speech especially regarding pro-life students.”

Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel at ADF International, a legal organisation, which supported Julia, said: “No student should have to go through this kind of daunting process.

“Julia’s treatment, in this case, represents a very chilling prospect for freedom of speech on campus. Of all places, university is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas – even those with which they disagree.

“In this case, Julia’s involvement with an affiliated pro-life society led to her fitness to practise being investigated. The now dismissed allegations were initially withheld from Julia, then drip-fed, and then changed before she had the chance to respond.”

Julia served as president of “Nottingham Students for Life”, a pro-life student society that was initially denied affiliation by Nottingham University’s Students’ Union.

However, following the threat of legal action, the decision was overturned in July 2019.

In what is becoming a pattern at universities across the UK, many pro-life groups have been hindered in their ability to speak freely and enjoy the same benefits as other student societies.

Student representative bodies at Aberdeen University, Glasgow University, Nottingham University, and at Strathclyde University have all had to reverse their decisions to refuse affiliation to pro-life groups after the groups raised the prospect of legal proceedings.

In 2018, the UK’s Joint Committee on Human Rights released a report on Freedom of Speech in Universities, which criticised growing restrictions on free speech and the new phenomenon of ‘no-platforming’ policies on UK campuses and the exclusion of pro-life views.

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“Universities were once considered a key forum in which ideas and opinions could be discussed and argued, however, more and more we are seeing attempts to censor the pro-life view from being discussed on campus.

“This behaviour sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of speech and expression more generally.”

The growth in pro-life student groups reflects the shifting public attitude towards abortion in the UK. A 2017 Savanta ComRes poll revealed that 72% of the UK public oppose introducing further extreme abortion legislation to the UK.

Call for review of abortion time limits after new evidence reveals unborn babies could feel pain at just 13 weeks

New evidence has suggested unborn babies at 13 weeks gestation could be suffering pain as they are being aborted.

Currently, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists author all clinical guidelines for UK abortion providers. They rely on a 2010 review they undertook into fetal awareness when providing guidance to abortion providers on whether unborn children in an abortion can feel pain. 

They claim that the unborn baby is in an unconscious state and does not reach consciousness until birth. They have been criticised for this conclusion being based on the evidence from only one paper from 1986, an experiment on sheep foetuses exposed to low oxygen levels.

But two medical researchers, including a ‘pro-choice’ British pain expert who used to think there was no chance unborn babies could feel pain before 24-weeks, say recent studies strongly suggest the assumption is incorrect.

In an article, published in the influential Journal of Medical Ethics, the researchers say there is now “good evidence” that the brain and nervous system, which start developing at 12 weeks’ gestation, are sufficient enough for the baby to feel pain.

They argue that women considering an abortion at this stage of pregnancy should be told about the pain their unborn baby could experience while being terminated.

Noting the increased concerns of women over the pain unborn babies may experience, they say medical staff should ask if the woman wants the baby to be given pain relief.

To carry on regardless of new evidence “flirts with moral recklessness,” they add.

Currently, the use of pain relief in the UK is not required by law or suggested in official guidelines. This in itself is contradicted by the standard NHS practice of giving painkillers to unborn babies receiving surgery in the womb for spina bifida

The lead author of the article is British professor Stuart Derbyshire, who has acted as a consultant to the US’ largest abortion provider – Planned Parenthood – and the Pro-Choice Forum in the UK.

In 2006, he wrote in the British Medical Journal that not talking to women seeking abortions about pain experienced by unborn babies was “sound policy based on good evidence that foetuses cannot experience pain”.

However, due to recent studies, he says “it is now clear that the consensus is no longer tenable.”

Professor Derbyshire and Dr Bockmann advise: “Given the evidence that the foetus might be able to experience something like pain during later abortions, it seems reasonable that the clinical team and the pregnant woman are encouraged to consider foetal analgesia [pain relief].”

The two medics add that their own “stark differences” on the morality of abortion “should not interfere with discussion of whether foetal pain is possible”.

Pro-life groups and leading politicians have called for a parliamentary review on abortion time limits, noting that the last debate had on this issue was in 2008 before any new evidence had come to light.

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce said: “Given developing views and research on foetal pain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance on this issue in relation to abortion – which is now nearly ten years old – should be reviewed.”

Cross-bench peer Lord Alton, who is part of a parliamentary inquiry into foetal pain, said: “This new evidence adds further pressure on Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We last had a proper debate on time limits in 2008.”

Calls for a review of time limits were quickly rejected by the UK’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, who boldly told the Mail on Sunday: “There is nothing in this paper which would lead to a change in practice.” 

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists declined to comment. 

This is in contrast to the French College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines which state: 

[English translation]: “Fetal analgesia is justified by pain stimulation in case of an intracardiac puncture, but also because the injection of KCl [potassium chloride] or death itself can be painful.”

A national survey of French pre-natal diagnosis centers revealed that for late-term abortions 97% of abortion clinics or hospitals surveyed will always give unborn babies pain relief prior to administering a lethal injection that induces a heart attack (known as feticide). 

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“In light of this new evidence, we back the calls of Fiona Bruce and Lord Alton in calling for an urgent parliamentary review of time limits.

“17,913 women in the UK underwent an abortion at 13 weeks or later, in 2018, without any guidance mandating the use of pain relief for the unborn baby at any age. Yet, babies undergoing correctional surgery in the womb for Spinal Bifida, from 20 weeks gestation, will experience minimal pain as they’ll be administered pain relief. 

“Why is there this discrepancy? Perhaps it is because the provision of painkillers to a baby that is about to have their life ended would help bring home the reality of abortion. To recognise their pain would have a deeply humanising effect on unborn babies, which is something that abortion supporters are keen to avoid. It would acknowledge that there is another human being who is being denied their right to life, while they are at their weakest and most vulnerable.

Pharmacist taken to court over refusal to sell ‘morning-after pill’ has conscience rights protected by German court

A pharmacist who was taken to court because he did not wish to sell the ‘morning-after pill’ has had his conscience rights upheld by a German court. 

Andreas K. owned and operated a pharmacy in Berlin which neither stocked nor sold the ‘morning-after pill’. 

However, not long before his retirement in 2018, Andreas was reported to the Berlin Pharmacists’ Chamber over his desire to not sell the pill.

The chamber, which has a compulsory membership for every pharmacist in the state, then proceeded to initiate legal proceedings against Andreas at the Administrative Court of Berlin. 

In an encouraging ruling, the German court upheld the pharmacists right to act in accordance with his conscience. 

According to ADF International, who provided legal support to Andreas’ lawyer, the German court stated that the pharmacist had not neglected his professional duty and had the right to conscientiously object in such a situation. 

Felix Böllmann, Legal Counsel for ADF International said: “This is an encouraging decision by the court. It is a clear statement that the pharmacist had the right to act in line with his conscience and did not neglect his professional duty in doing so. The right to freedom of conscience must include the right to act accordingly. A free society relies upon its citizens acting conscientiously.”

The Pharmacists’ Chamber has appealed the decision, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Germany. 

In 2015, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a pharmacy that was fined €3,000 for opting not to sell the ‘morning-after pill’ despite a legal requirement to do so. 

According to the Telegraph, the court drew a parallel between the morning-after pill and abortion. The court ruled in its sentence that in this case, legally obligating the vendor to sell the product clashed “with the concept advocated by [the pharmacist] regarding the right to life.”

Where do all five Labour leadership candidates stand on abortion?

Abortion is quick becoming an issue in the Labour leadership race, in which five MPs are competing to be named Jeremy Corbyn’s successor on 4 April. 

The current Labour leader is standing down after Labour lost its fourth general election in a row last month.

After announcing plans to introduce abortion, for any reason, up to birth, Labour suffered their worst electoral defeat since 1935. 

The five candidates standing to be the leader of the Labour Party include Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Philipps and Emily Thornberry. 

Sadly, all five candidates voted in favour of imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland as illustrated in the graphic below.

Issue one: Amendment to impose law change on Northern Ireland to introduce abortion (09-07-2019)
Issue two: Amendment to pressure the Government to change abortion legislation in Northern Ireland (24-10-2018)
Issue three: Introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up-to 24-weeks in Northern Ireland (23-10-2018)
Issue four: Introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up-to-birth in England and Wales (13-03-2017)
Issue five: Legalise assisted suicide (11-09-2011)

Additionally, all five candidates have thrown their support behind a host of pro-abortion pledges listed in an open letter to them as evidenced through their personal tweets: Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Jess Philipps and Emily Thornberry

The pledges include:

  • Introducing abortion up to birth, for any reason to the UK 
  • Opposing any attempt to reduce the abortion time limit
  • Supporting the introduction of buffer zones around all hospitals and clinics providing abortion ‘services’ 
  • Supporting making the ‘morning-after pill’ available for free from pharmacies, including for under 16s
  • Remove the two doctor clause
  • Require doctors to register their conscientious objection
  • Introduce a legal requirement for hospitals to provide abortion ‘services’

The 57-year-old shadow Brexit secretary is, as of writing, the bookmakers’ favourite to become Labour leader and received the most backing in the first stage of the contest, securing 88 nominations. 

However, before becoming an MP in 2015 Sir Keir Starmer made some startling revelations over his abortion stance while he was the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions. 

A month before quitting as the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Sir Keir ruled against the prosecution of two doctors who were secretly filmed arranging sex-selective abortions in a Telegraph exposé. The CPS stated it was not in the “public interest” to prosecute the individuals. 

In a letter explaining his decision to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, Sir Keir said that the 1967 Abortion Act “does not… expressly prohibit gender-specific abortions.” He also noted that in In many cases doctors approve abortions without even meeting their patient.

Ahead of the election, Sir Keir signed a pledge from the UK’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, to support a change in law that would introduce abortion for any reason up to birth – the only leadership candidate to have done so.

Since then he has also said abortion should not be a “criminal law issue”

Speaking during a visit to a nursery in Batley, West Yorkshire, he said: “It should be a matter of a woman’s right to choose. I want to see this reviewed and changed. We need to take criminal law out of it.”

Sir Keir voted in favour of Rob Marris’ assisted suicide bill which was roundly rejected by 330 votes to 118, in 2015.

The 40-year-old shadow business secretary received the second-highest number of nominations, with the backing of 33 Labour colleagues. 

Rebecca Long-Bailey was under fire yesterday from Labour party supporters on social media after it was widely reported she does not support disability-selective abortion after the standard limit of 24 weeks. 

Currently, disability-selective abortion, for conditions including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot up to birth, is legal for any reason up to birth while the upper limit is 24 weeks if there is no disability. 

However, since then, a spokesman for Long-Bailey has ‘stressed’ to the Guardian that she “unequivocally supports a woman’s right to choose” and highlighted her vote in favour of in favour of imposing Europe’s most extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland. 

In the same questionnaire, Long-Bailey claimed she would “never contemplate abortion” but has since then tweeted about her “unequivocal support” to a host of pro-abortion pledges listed in an open letter to Labour’s leadership candidates. She tweeted: “For the avoidance of doubt, I unequivocally support this. Some pretty grubby attempts over the past 24 hours to deliberately misrepresent my position”.

She has been absent from most votes on abortion since her election, in 2015. 

That same year, she joined a majority of 212 MPs in voting against a Bill to introduce assisted suicide, in the UK, in 2015. 

The 40-year-old MP for Wigan gained 31 nominations from fellow MPs and MEPs. 

Under Jeremy Corbyn, Lisa Nandy initially stayed in the shadow cabinet as an energy spokeswoman, but later resigned in protest at his leadership, saying he was “unable to form a broad, inclusive shadow cabinet that draws on the best of our movement’s left and right traditions”.

Lisa has remained relatively quiet on abortion since becoming an MP in 2010, but her voting record displays her pro-abortion stance. Additionally, yesterday, she tweeted her full support to a host of pro-abortion pledges listed in an open letter to Labour’s leadership candidates. 

Lisa has voted against an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion, against mandating abortion clinics to offer free independent counselling and to impose an extreme abortion law in Northern Ireland. 

Lisa missed the vote on Rob Marris’ assisted suicide bill, which was defeated. 

The 38-year-old Birmingham Yardley MP secured 23 nominations to make the current contest round – just one above the threshold. 

In the same article, she attacked pro-life Conservative MP Maria Caulfield for wanting to start a debate on reducing the time limit on abortion to 12 weeks.

Jess celebrated Westminster’s decision to impose Europe’s most extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland, telling BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat: “We’re not doing this as Westminster overlords. We are doing it because hundreds and hundreds of women from Northern Ireland have requested that we fight for their rights.”

In 2017, she voted to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up-to-birth in England and Wales.

Jess Phillips also voted in favour of Rob Marris’ defeated assisted suicide bill. 

The 59-year-old shadow foreign secretary was the first contender to throw her hat into the ring, but the last to get enough nominations – making 23 just 10 minutes before the voting closed. 

Emily Thornberry has voted against an explicit ban on sex-selective abortion, against mandating abortion clinics to offer free independent counselling and against a law requiring parents of girls 15 and under are notified if their daughter is seeking an abortion.

Like all other leadership candidates, Emily voted last year to impose an extreme abortion law in Northern Ireland. Unlike other candidates, there is evidence of Emily backing the imposition of abortion laws on the province as far back as 2008. 

Emily Thornberry was absent in 2015 for the vote on Rob Marris’ rejected assisted suicide bill. 

How the leaders will be decided

  • 13 January: Nomination period closes
  • 15 January – 14 February: Second stage of nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and affiliates, including unions
  • 18 January: The first of seven scheduled hustings takes place in Liverpool
  • 20 January: Voting eligibility for new Labour Party members and affiliated supporters is frozen
  • 16 February: The last scheduled hustings is held in London
  • 21 February: Ballot opens for leadership candidates
  • 2 April: Ballot closes
  • 4 April: Special conference to announce results