Proposals to severely weaken abortion laws are being considered by the British Medical Association (BMA), but have faced strong opposition from MPs.
The BMA put forward the options in a discussion paper which also considered different views on when life begins and gave strong backing to conscientious objection.
But in its conclusion, the doctors’ union only listed options for a total or partial decriminalisation of abortion, prompting an immediate backlash.
Currently it is legal in Great Britain to abort unborn children up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.
Labour MP Robert Flello expressed concerns that the BMA was pushing for abortion at any stage, up to birth.
“That would lead to the unacceptable situation where unborn children who could survive outside the womb were being killed”, he said.
Flello added that claims from the BMA that the paper was neutral were “completely misleading”.
Conservative MP Maria Caulfield warned: “While claiming it does not have a policy on decriminalisation, the discussion paper is an attempt by the BMA to steer the abortion conversation in a particular direction.”
The BMA’s discussion paper, entitled, “Decriminalisation of abortion”, gives three options for the future:
– complete/total decriminalisation
– decriminalisation and selective recriminalisation
– selective decriminalisation.
Under “selective decriminalisation”, abortion would be allowed up to 28 weeks – four weeks later than at present in Britain – unless evidence was shown that the individual baby could survive outside of the womb.
Alternative views on when life begins are also considered by the paper, from conception to the “development of self-awareness”.
The BMA also stated that regardless of views about decriminalisation, “Health professionals must have a statutory right to conscientiously object to participating in abortion.”
A spokesman said: “The BMA does not have a policy on the decriminalisation of abortion.
“This paper does not include recommendations about whether, and if so how, abortion should be decriminalised. It aims simply to inform debate.”
Last year a row broke out after the head of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) pledged the union’s support for a radical pro-abortion campaign.
RCM Chief Executive Cathy Warwick backed a campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) to change the law and allow abortion up to birth for any reason.
In addition to her RCM role, Warwick has been chairman of BPAS since 2014.
Midwives have signed a petition against the union’s involvement with the campaign.