Almost half of medical students object to the late term abortion of disabled babies, a new study has revealed.
Pro-abortionists are concerned that this will make it more difficult for women to access abortions.
Abortion is allowed after 24 weeks if there is a “substantial risk” of the baby having a “serious handicap”, but this requirement has been interpreted to include even treatable conditions such as a cleft palate.
According to the study 43.7 per cent of medical students reported an objection to the abortion of disabled babies after 24 weeks. And 29.5 per cent said that they would refuse to perform such a procedure.
The survey, of 733 medical students, also found that 45 per cent of them believe they should be able to refuse to administer medical treatments that run against their ethical or religious beliefs.
Dr Sophie Strickland, who carried out the research, said: “The survey revealed that almost a third of students would not perform an abortion for a congenitally malformed fetus after 24 weeks, a quarter would not perform abortion for failed contraception before 24 weeks, and a fifth would not perform abortion on a minor who was the victim of rape.”
Francesca Minerva, blogging on the University of Oxford’s practical ethics website, said: “Maybe we should stop hiring doctors who make conscientious objections in favour of the ones who are able to leave aside their moral concerns.
“And maybe we should discourage students to pursue a career in medicine if they cannot put their patients before their own moral or religious beliefs.”
According to General Medical Council guidance, doctors are free to refuse to carry out treatments that run against their conscience but they must inform the patient of their right to see another doctor.
Earlier this month the Government released official figures showing that nearly 18,000 babies were aborted between 2002 and 2010 on the grounds of disability. Of these 1,189 were aborted after 24 weeks.
During last year alone 2,290 such abortions were performed, with 147 of those performed after 24 weeks.
Of the 2,290 seven were performed on the grounds of a cleft palate, a condition which can be rectified by surgery, and 181 were attributed to musculoskeletal problems such as club foot.