‘RCM calls on Department of Health in Northern Ireland to issue guidance on abortion referrals for midwives’

By RCM on 07 September 2017 RCM Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Abortion Midwives RCM Women Department of Health Healthcare Professionals Amnesty International

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called on the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to issue clear guidance on abortion referrals for midwives and other healthcare professionals.

The call from the RCM comes as the threat of prosecution against midwives and other medical professionals in Northern Ireland to make abortion referrals to the UK has been lifted.

Amnesty International has confirmed today that the Director for Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory QC has told them ‘that he can see no risk of criminal prosecution for NHS employees in Northern Ireland who refer women to NHS hospitals and clinics in the rest of the UK’.

Responding to the announcement, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM’s) Director for Northern Ireland, Breedagh Hughes, said; “Midwives have been operating in a climate of fear of prosecution since 2013. Women in Northern Ireland have not been getting the care and referrals to services in the UK that they really need because of this threat which we now know does not exist.

“This is a welcome development and will enable us to look after women who seek or need abortion services. Midwives and other healthcare professionals will now be able to refer women to the rest of the UK for abortion services, confident that they will not face prosecution or criminal sanctions.

“The RCM is now calling on the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to issue clear guidance on referring women for abortion to midwives and all those working in this area of healthcare.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager, said: “The threat of prosecution has long loomed over medical professionals in Northern Ireland, who have previously felt unable to refer women to other parts of the UK for abortion services for fear of criminal prosecution. This has acted as a significant barrier for women seeking to access abortion.

“The Public Prosecution Service has now stated clearly they can see no risk of criminal prosecution in these circumstances. This is hugely important and should relieve the profession of this chilling threat. This is a significant breakthrough in the fight for abortion rights here.”




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The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.