Hundreds of medical professionals have signed letters opposing a proposed abortion law in Northern Ireland, saying abortion is the unjust taking of a human life.
They also insisted that the right to conscientious objection be upheld, and that healthcare professionals should not be forced to participate in or assist with abortions.
More than 700 doctors and other healthcare workers wrote to the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and Richard Pengelly, the permanent health secretary, opposing the imposition of abortion by Westminster.
GP Andrew Cupples said that they were concerned for both pregnant mothers and their unborn children, and, as medical professionals, it was their firmly held belief that abortion was the “unjust and violent taking of human life”.
He told BBC News NI that medics say they can no longer “stay silent” on the issue and that legal protection was essential for staff.
Midwives for Both Lives have written an additional letter to Mr Pengelly and the Northern Ireland office, and also the Royal College of Midwives, expressing “deep concern” at the radical nature of the proposed changes.
saying there was “currently no conscientious objection in law in NI for midwives… in contrast to our counterparts in mainland UK who are protected under law and under the NMC code”.
“These changes will remove every explicit legal protection from unborn babies until they are capable of being born alive and potentially up until 28 weeks,” they wrote.
“Current statistics from the Department of Health in England and Wales show that 98% of abortions in the UK involve women aborting physically healthy babies. As midwives we have been taught to care for the mother, fight for her life and when her life is at risk do our best to save the unborn also. In discussion with many of our colleagues, there is a strong opinion that abortion is not healthcare and that in our care of a pregnant woman, we have two patients, i.e: mother and child,” the letter pointed out.
“If this law is introduced as it currently stands there will be no automatic or guaranteed legal protection for medical professionals who conscientiously object to abortion. There is currently no conscientious objection protection in law in Northern Ireland for midwives because of the limited nature of our existing law and the link to the risk to the life of the woman. This is in sharp contrast to our counterparts in mainland UK who are protected under law and under the NMC code.
Unless the Northern Ireland Assembly is restored by October 21st, the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act will permit Westminster to impose a liberal abortion regime on the region. A pro-life rally opposing the measure drew unprecedented crowds of 20,000 people in Belfast earlier this month.