Professor Cathy Warwick signed up RCM’s 30,000 members in support of a British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS) campaign titled We Trust Women. The campaign calls for abortion to ‘be removed from the criminal law and 21st century women trusted to make their own decisions about their pregnancies’. Professor Warwick had previously suggested the 24-week legal limit on abortion be ‘relegated to history’ – making abortions legal up to the point of birth.
Hundreds of midwives responded by signing a letter which objected to the professor’s ‘extreme position’ and stated ‘The RCM does not speak in our name’. A separate public petition against the professor attracted over 40,000 signatures.
As well as heading up the RCM, Professor Warwick chairs the board of trustees at the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BPAS), leading some to suggest a conflict of interest.
The head of the Christian Medical Fellowship Peter Saunders called on Professor Warwick to resign. He told Premier the proposal to decriminalise abortion was ‘absolutely appalling’.
Commenting on Professor Warwick’s attachment to both the RCM and BPAS, Saunders said, ‘I don’t see how she could possibly carry on with both of these positions because of this conflict of interest and in the ways she has carried this out without proper consultation amongst the members.
‘This is astonishing from an organisation whose very motto is that “life is the gift of God”…I think she should do the decent thing and step down.’ The RCM responded by issuing a statement which said, ‘The RCM is not for or against abortion. It is for women, and respecting their choices about their bodies. NHS policy is explicit that high-quality maternity services include respecting women’s rights to make reproductive choices.
‘The RCM’s stance on decriminalisation of abortion is compatible with this.’
Writing in The Guardian, Professor Warwick said, ‘The RCM believes that if we are to be advocates for women then we must advocate for choice on all aspects of their care. ‘Decriminalisation is not the outrageous idea that some sections of the press suggest.’