The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) will continue to oppose a change in law on assisted suicide, following a consultation of its members.
The RCGP’s consultation, conducted independently by Savanta ComRes, was sent to almost 50,000 members, who were asked whether RCGP should change its current position of opposing a change in the law on assisted dying.
Just under half (47%) of those surveyed said the College should not change its position, while 40% said it should support a law change providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place.
11% of respondents said the RCGPs should be neutral, while 2% abstained.
The RCGP Council agreed that the survey results did not support a change in the RCGP’s existing position on assisted suicide.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Assisted dying is a controversial topic and this was reflected in the responses to our consultation. However, the highest proportion of respondents said that the College should continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying…
“The role of the College now is to ensure that patients receive the best possible palliative and end of life care, and to this end we are working with Marie Curie and others to support this.”
In a victory for pro-life campaigners, the RGCP declared it will not review the College`s position on assisted suicide for at least five years unless there are significant developments on the issue.
The medical body last consulted members on the issue in 2013, when the majority said the college should remain opposed.
Currently, no professional medical body supports changing the law on assisted suicide, which is illegal in the UK.
However, activists have been attempting to introduce assisted suicide legislation to the UK through the courts, medical bodies and parliament.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is currently surveying its member’s views on assisted suicide. The results of the BMA survey, which closes on 27 February, will be discussed at this year’s annual conference in June and could see the professional body changing its current policy on assisted suicide.
Currently, the BMA believes that “the ongoing improvement in palliative care allows patients to die with dignity … [and] insists that physician-assisted suicide … voluntary euthanasia … [and] non-voluntary euthanasia should not be made legal in the UK.”
However, the BMA is now asking its 160,000 members:
“whether they believe the BMA should support, oppose, or take a neutral stance on a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for eligible patients to end their own life … [and] about a stance to a change in the law to permit doctors to administer drugs with the intention of ending an eligible patient’s life.”
The doctors’ union has had a policy opposing assisted suicide since the 1950s, but very briefly became neutral on the issue in 2005.
In a letter published in The Times, a large group of prominent palliative care doctors have called on the BMA to uphold their duty of care and remain opposed to assisted suicide.
The Royal College of Physicians dropped its long-standing opposition to assisted dying in favour of neutrality following a 2019 membership survey, despite continued opposition to assisted suicide being the most favoured position among those surveyed. The change in stance from the college is currently the subject of a legal challenge.
In November, the High Court rejected to hold a judicial review of the current law on assisted suicide, with judges stating the court was “not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life”. The Court of Appeal rejected an attempt to challenge this decision last month.
Similarly, in 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that Parliament was a “better forum” than the courts for determining the issue of legalising assisted suicide.
Parliament has consistently rejected attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to introduce assisted suicide, with 330 to 118 voting against introducing assisted suicide in 2015.
Just last month, strong opposition from MPs resulted in the Government rejecting a call for review on assisted suicide, despite the best efforts from large pressure groups in favour of assisted suicide.
Additionally, the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC has recently confirmed the Government has “no plans” to introduce assisted suicide legislation, saying: “Personally, I have grave doubts about the ability of legislation to be watertight when it comes to the potential for abuse.”
Assisted suicide pressure groups cite a poll that shows there is widespread support for legislation of assisted suicide, yet experts have heavily criticised the polling as deeply flawed. In fact, when asked questions that drill down into the merits of the debate, the percentage of those in support drops dramatically.
A new poll organised by the University of Liverpool and Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council has shown that 58% of Sinn Fein voters and 54% of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. This is a clear rejection of the extreme proposed abortion framework that the UK Government wants to impose on the people of Northern Ireland.
The polling demonstrates that the Conservative Government has no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland to go further than legally required when introducing Northern Ireland’s abortion framework.
The poll of 2,000 people showed that:
58% of Sinn Fein voters supported abortion being available only where the mother’s life is in danger.
54% of DUP voters supported abortion being available only where the mother’s life is in danger.
Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24-weeks – which is in-line with what the Conservative Government has proposed introducing to Northern Ireland.
The current Conservative Government are legally required, by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, to introduce a limited abortion framework in the province.
The Government has launched a consultation on a proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland which goes far beyond the limited changes strictly necessary for the Government to comply with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.
The proposed framework drops many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales. The proposals open up abortion provision to any healthcare professional, which could include pharmacists, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, art therapists and dieticians. It also drops the requirement that two doctors sign off on an abortion.
The proposal includes virtually no legal limit on the locations on where abortions can take place, potentially allowing for the home use of both abortion pills along with abortion provision in pharmacies, GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, mobile abortion clinics and ‘telemed’ abortions.
In practice, abortion on demand would be available to either 22 or 24 weeks under mental health grounds. Abortion without certification would be available to either 12 or 14 weeks. This would allow sex-selective abortions to be available on-demand through this period with no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22/24 weeks.
The proposal would also see abortion for disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome introduced to Northern Ireland, and possibly available right through to birth.
In England and Wales – where abortion is available up until birth if a baby has a disability – people with disabilities are unjustly and disproportionately targeted by abortion legislation.The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.
Northern Ireland has a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than screening them out.
This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome, in the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.
This very large discriminatory change was highlighted in a speech by disabled peer Lord Shinkwin in the House of Lords when he was speaking against the proposed changes.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“This polling shows a clear rejection from the people of Northern Ireland for the UK Government’s plans to impose an extreme abortion framework on Northern Ireland.
“Only last month, Sinn Fein and the DUP put aside their differences which allowed the Northern Irish Executive to be restored. This was celebrated across all communities in Northern Ireland, and by the UK Government, as an opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to get their voice back.
“One issue which unites the majority of both Sinn Fein and DUP voters is the rejection of the UK Government’s proposed extreme abortion framework. If the devolution settlement of Stormont is to be respected, the cross-community view against this extreme abortion framework must be respected.
“If the UK Government pushes ahead with their extreme abortion framework proposals, they would be undermining the devolution settlement at a time when it is already fragile.
With Stormont restored, it is vital that the people of Northern Ireland have a say on their country’s new abortion framework through their elected representatives in the Northern Irish Assembly.
The law sadly requires the UK Government to introduce a new abortion framework in very limited circumstances. Going further than what they are legally bound to do demonstrates a will from the UK Government to impose their abortion-on-demand ideology on Northern Ireland, which would be surprising considering the Conservative Party claims abortion is a matter of conscience.
To stand up for the devolution settlement; to show that they are listening to the voters of Northern Ireland; to be consistent with their party’s own position; and ultimately to protect the unborn child, I urge the Conservative Government to drop their proposed extreme abortion framework for Northern Ireland, and only implement what that they are legally bound to do.”
Voters in New Zealand are calling on their Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the New Zealand First Party, Winston Peters, who was elected on a ‘values’ and pro-life vote in the last general election, to withdraw his bill which will introduce the world’s most extreme abortion law to New Zealand.
Ahead of the 2017 New Zealand election, Winston Peters cornered the ‘values’ and pro-life vote making it clear to voters that his New Zealand First Party would not ‘decriminalise’ abortion (introduce an extreme abortion law allowing abortion up to birth) and that they would support a change to the law to state that the unborn child has a right to life; to improve informed consent during the abortion process, and to implement parental notification for girls aged 15 and under seeking abortions. This reinforced a clear long-standing position which had been communicated to voters over a number of years.
Once in Government, Winston Peters has joined his coalition partner in bringing forward a bill to introduce the most extreme abortion legislation in the world – which would allow abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth – to the New Zealand Parliament.
Ahead of the legislation being introduced in Victoria in 2008, abortion activists claimed that, although abortion would, in practice, be allowed for any reason, doctors would ensure that the vast majority of abortions would only occur in rare circumstances, such as when a baby had a condition where they would either die in the womb or shortly after birth (a fatal foetal abnormality or life-limiting disabiity) – similar claims are currently now being made about the proposed NZ abortion law by abortion campaigners and MPs in New Zealand.
Data from the 12 years of the law being in operation in Victoria shows that this has not been the case. Right To Life UK’s Public Affairs team have undertaken an extensive analysis of published abortion data on late-term abortions in Victoria from The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality.
This data shows that since the law changed in 2008, 1,418 late-term abortions (between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth) have been performed, allowed by doctors for ‘psychosocial’ reasons – these were terminations where the baby did not have a disability and the abortion was performed on social grounds. In 2011, one of these abortions on social grounds occured at 37 weeks.
This strict law has meant that abortions post 20-weeks are rare – for example 72 abortions occurred after 20-weeks in New Zealand in 2017.
Victoria has a population that is only 32% larger than New Zealand’s, but the number of abortions that occurred post 20-weeks were much higher, 323 or 348.61% higher than the number that occurred in New Zealand that same year (published data for Victoria has not been released for 2018 yet).
Another side effect of the very high late-term abortion rate in Australia is that scores of babies have been left to die after being born alive during a number of ‘botched’ terminations.
The Victorian Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity reported that in 2012 there were 53 ‘terminations of pregnancy’ after 20 weeks ‘resulting in live birth’.
By contrast, a 2008 report for England and Wales found that 66 infants were born alive after NHS terminations in one year. While these figures are comparable in number, Victoria’s population of 6.36 million is just a tenth of the size of the population in England and Wales.
A Channel 7 news report, broadcast on April 17 2010, reported that there had been a large increase in late-term abortions being performed at the Royal Women’s Hospital since the introduction of the 2008 Abortion Law Reform. Presenter Jennifer Keyte stated how “midwives and doctors feel traumatized” by having to perform so many late-term abortions at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Journalist Louise Milligan said that there had been some ‘alarming requests’ for late-term abortions, including a request for a termination at 32 weeks because the baby had a hare lip.
The Abortion Legislation Bill that Winston Peters’ Government has introduced, is even more extreme than the law in Victoria, Australia – making it the most extreme abortion law in the world.
It would allow abortions between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth with the go-ahead from just two health practitioners (this could include nurses and midwives) rather than the higher threshold of two doctors that are required in Victoria.
In the proposed legislation in New Zealand, the Abortion Legislation Committee have now widened the, already loose, criteria to include “overall well-being” – making it even easier for abortions to happen between 20-weeks and birth in New Zealand. These are undefined terms and it will be up to the health practitioner involved as to how they interpret them.
In addition to introducing abortion on demand, for any reason up to birth, the bill will also make the following extreme changes to New Zealand abortion law:
There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved in an abortion.
HOW WINSTON PETERS AND NZ FIRST CORNERED THE ‘VALUES’ AND PRO-LIFE VOTE
Winston Peters has carefully targeted the ‘values’ and pro-life vote over a long period of time leading up to the 2017 election. This included speaking at Family First’s high-profile Forum on the Family event along with consistently brandishing his pro-life credentials with ‘100% pro-life on abortion’ ratings in a number of leader questionnaires on life issues.
The results of these questionnaires have been circulated in Value Your Vote guides to tens of thousands of households across New Zealand and positioned his party as the one to elect for this part of the voting public.
In the 2017 Value Your Vote guide issued ahead of the 2017 election, Peters stated that he took the following position on abortion:
Opposed the ‘decriminalisation’ of abortion (introduce an extreme abortion law allowing abortion up to birth).
Supported a change in law to state that the unborn child has a right to life.
Supported introducing abortion informed consent legislation, to improve the informed consent during the abortion process.
Supported introducing abortion parental notification legislation, to implement parental notification for girls aged 15 and under seeking abortions.
He provided similar responses in earlier questionnaires which were published in previous guides going back a number of years, including a 100%/ ‘four smiles’ rating on abortion/pro-life issues in 2014.
This position was mirrored in a 2014 interview on stage at the high profile Forum on the Family election event where Winston Peters said:
Life starts at conception.
That he did not support decriminalising abortion (introducing an extreme abortion law to New Zealand).
“Do you support the Green’s policy of ‘decriminalising’ abortion? No we don’t.”
That he supported parental notification for a girl 15 years or younger to obtain an abortion.
This was reinforced by Tracey Martin, who represented Winston Peters and NZ First on stage at the 2017 Forum on the Family election event where Martin confirmed that the party supported keeping abortion in the Crimes Act (not ‘decriminalising’ abortion) and that the party supported introducing abortion parental notification legislation.
The pro-life and ‘values’ vote in New Zealand can have a significant impact for smaller parties that successfully corner it. In recent years, New Zealand First has positioned itself as the only electable party which has taken a clear moderate pro-life position, seeking to oppose ‘decriminalisation’ and introduce new incremental abortion restrictions. This was especially important to many voters ahead of the 2017 election as the Labour Party was pledging to ‘decriminalise’ abortion, and NZ First had made it clear to voters that they would not support ‘decriminalisation’ and wanted to see abortion laws further restricted.
There could be a big move of these voters post-election away from New Zealand First if Winston does not withdraw his bill.
Winston Peters has hidden behind claims that he will introduce a referendum amendment at Committee stage of the bill to give New Zealanders a say on whether this extreme bill becomes law.
This appears to have been a move to try and stop voters from leaving the party; the problem with this approach is that it will not be part of the core bill, and he does not have the support of sufficient numbers for it to pass.
If he was serious about letting the New Zealand public have a say on whether this bill becomes law, he would have insisted that his Government include a provision guaranteeing a referendum on this issue in the body of the original bill, but this was not included.
Right To Life UK is encouraging the public to sign a petition calling on Winston Peters to immediately withdraw his Government’s Abortion Legislation Bill. Click here to sign the petition now.
A number of NZ First voters who Right To Life UK have spoken to said they were outraged about Winston bringing forward the bill and stated that they would never be voting for his party again if he did not urgently get his Government to withdraw the Abortion Legislation Bill.
Kieran Udy, New Zealand First Party member and voter from Whanganui, said:
“I’ve been a Winston voter all my life and I am a member of NZ First Party. However, given he has brought forward this extreme abortion bill, I don’t know who I’ll be voting for at the next election, but it definitely won’t be Winston. In fact, my whole family voted for him but that won’t happen again.”
Sarah Assen, New Zealand First voter from Rotorua, said:
“Winston made it clear that he wanted to restrict, not liberalise, our abortion laws ahead of the election. I voted for him because of this. Many people in my church were very worried about Labour’s pledge to liberalise abortion laws, so voted for Winston because he had made his conservative position on abortion clear.
He has now gone on to introduce this extreme abortion bill. He has totally betrayed us voters.
As a voter I am also appalled that Winston is insulting the intelligence of us voters by saying he is going to bring forward a referendum amendment at Committee Stage and this amendment has any chance of becoming part of the Bill. If he was serious about ensuring a referendum on the bill, he would have made it part of the original bill. This is just him trying to distract his supporters from the real issue here, how extreme his bill is.
If Winston Peters does not scrap his Abortion Legislation Bill, I will definitely not be voting for him in the next election. I have spoken to a number of other friends who voted for his party in the last election and they have said exactly the same.”
A grieving mother has relived the harrowing moment she went into hospital for an abortion but instead gave birth to a live, crying, baby boy who died in her arms.
Doctors diagnosed Sofia Khan’s son with spina bifida during a routine ultrasound scan 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
Even after the diagnosis, Sofia was determined to choose life for her baby. Recalling the moment, she told the Sun: “I was devastated. I kept thinking that we would manage and that he could have surgery to help him.”
However, doctors put immense pressure on Sofia and her husband to abort the baby claiming the baby boy’s spina bifida was the worst case they’d ever come across. They told Sofia to have an abortion saying it was unlikely her son would survive the pregnancy.
Heartbroken, and following much discussion, the couple decided they would listen to the doctors’ advice. Sofia said: “We were heartbroken, but we made the decision to terminate. We felt it was best for the baby but even so I had moments of doubt and guilt.”
At 25 weeks pregnant Sofia travelled to St Mary’s Hospital, Manchester to terminate the pregnancy.
During the procedure, a lethal injection was administered to the umbilical cord with the intention of stopping the baby’s heartbeat. Sofia was then transferred to her local hospital, in Bolton, where she underwent an induced labour with no choice but to deliver what she expected to be her dead baby.
Following the injection, doctors carried out two scans to ensure there was no heartbeat and confirmed to Sofia that her son was dead.
Sofia said: “It was a relief to know his suffering was over but heart-breaking that he was gone.”
But, before the procedure she felt her son move. She alerted midwives but had her concerns dismissed as they assumed the injection in the other hospital had killed Sofia’s baby.
Sofia said: “As I waited, I felt the baby kick. I told the midwife but she said it was impossible. I asked her to put the monitor on to be sure but she said there was no need.”
Ten hours later, she gave birth and was stunned to hear her baby son crying.
She says: “I thought I was going mad. I thought I was hearing the cry because that’s what I wanted – my baby to be alive.
“The midwife went into shock. She was screaming for help, she ran with the baby into the corridor.
“They brought him back and said: ‘What do you want us to do?’ and I didn’t know what they meant. I held him and cuddled him and told him how much I loved him.
“He was such a fighter. He had a huge hole in his spine and he was very disabled, and yet he hung on to life for an hour.
“I can’t help thinking that he was determined to have one cuddle with his mummy.”
Sofia and her husband named their son Mohammed Rehman. They gave him a full funeral and he is buried near their home.
Shockingly, an internal investigation into the incident revealed that the assistant coroner had recorded the baby’s death as “by natural causes,” despite the intervention of a lethal injection and forced labour.
Dr Philip Bullen told assistant coroner Simon Nelson: “I was extremely shocked to hear what had happened … I was stunned as the procedure had gone exactly how we like the procedure to go, very smoothly.”
Disturbingly, rather than ensure doctors do more to help babies who survive an abortion, guidelines have been changed to ensure doctors listen to heartbeats for longer post-abortion to ensure that they have ended the lives of babies before inducing labour.
Asked if the hospital had apologised, Sofia added: “The hospital have offered their condolences to me but it doesn’t feel to me like they have actually apologised.
“I have been told it was very, very unfortunate and very rare and that in future women will be told that the procedure is not 100 percent effective…
“I do feel angry with the hospital. I feel angry that I wasn’t listened to.”
“I am still grieving. I think of him every day,” she added.
Estimates have predicted that 80 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with spina bifida, each year, are aborted.
However, pro-life campaigners are hopeful that now the surgery has been made routinely available on the NHS, the number of unborn babies terminated each year will fall.
A new study, conducted by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health, has confirmed the long-term benefits of the surgery over those who had traditional corrective surgery after birth.
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