Christian doctors and nurses can once again train to work in sexual health without agreeing to provide abortifacient drugs.
A U-turn by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH) means medics can refuse to provide devices or drugs which can cause abortions, such as the morning-after pill, on the grounds that it goes against their conscience.
Previous guidance by the FSRH, released in April, said that anyone who wanted to obtain a diploma to work in the sexual health field must “prescribe all forms of contraception”.
The FSRH backed down after the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) warned of legal action.
In an article for the British Medical Journal, FSRH President Dr Asha Kasliwal and Chief Executive Jane Hatfield said that after consulting the group’s members, it found a “wide spectrum of views”.
They went on to confirm that FSRH diplomas would be available to all who fulfil the training requirements, providing they are willing to put patient care first.
Chief Executive of CMF Dr Peter Saunders said that while the guidelines could be better, it was “a big improvement” on the previous wording.
He said: “Whatever the reason, the climb-down is most welcome and will enable many more doctors and nurses to obtain diplomas in sexual and reproductive health. That can only be good for patient care.”
He remarked that the move mimicked a similar change of heart by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) in June.
Early draft guidance by the GPhC could have forced Christians to provide access to abortifacient or hormone-blocking drugs, but the new guidance recognises phramacists’ right “to practise in line with their religion, personal values or beliefs”.
The changes were made after The Christian Institute threatened the GPhC with legal action and hundreds of Christian professionals raised objections.