Nearly three quarters of members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) responding to a UK-wide poll voted in favour of removing criminal sanctions from abortion legislation.
Members were asked their views following a debate taking place across the country, in Parliament and in health organisations on the issue. The move was also considered at RCN Congress in 2016.
Based on the views of its members, the RCN will now consider its future work relating to termination of pregnancy legislation. However, its current position on the termination of pregnancy is unchanged.
The RCN’s position statment says: ‘Whether pregnancy is planned or unplanned, the RCN believes that every woman should have the right to choose how to deal with this life event, within current legislation. The RCN believes that termination of pregnancy and contraception are necessary and integral to the provision of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare service, and support the current legislation.’
The RCN has said it will ‘explore regulation and quality monitoring processes, which must be in place to protect the rights of women to access free, safe and effective services, and support best health care practice.’
The College has also stated that the process of decriminalisation should be based on the best evidence available and in accordance with relevant professional standards.
The RCN membership survey focused solely on the principle of decriminalisation. Members were not consulted on the wider issues relating to the termination of pregnancy, including the arguments for or against the procedure. The RCN has not called for any change to gestational limits or change to the right to conscientious objection by health care professionals.
RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies said: ‘I want to thank all those who completed the survey to help us inform our position on this important issue. We will use the views of all our members to inform the RCN’s future work.’