From the TUC

A Daily Mail hat trick: an attack on women, an attack on unions, and an attack on the EU

16 May 2016, by in Public services

So who do you trust to come up with an informed and considered position on how the legislative framework that covers abortion could be improved: the Daily Mail or the Royal College of Midwives, a union representing some 46,000 midwives who have dedicated their working lives to supporting women’s choices in pregnancy? I don’t need to tell you who I trust.

According to the Daily Mail, midwives are “mutinying” after their “feminist union chief”, Cathy Warwick “backs bid to axe ANY (sic – Daily Mail’s shouty capital letters, not mine) time limits on abortions”.

It’s hard to see how the journalist came to this conclusion. The RCM’s position is stated quite clearly on its website. Nowhere does it call for the removal of the existing time limit.

The RCM takes a clear line that abortion should be taken out of criminal law should be regulated in the same way as any other medical procedure. The RCM notes that our Victorian legislation is extremely punitive by European standards and that a woman ending her own pregnancy without legal authorisation can be sentenced to life in prison.

“The 1861 Offences Against the Person Act and equivalent Common Law offences in Scotland – passed before women could vote – threatens the harshest punishments for self-induced abortion imposed by any country in Europe today, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.”

The recent outcry – from both Republicans and Democrats, and even many of those who oppose abortion – in response to Donald Trump’s assertion that there should be “some form of punishment” for women seeking abortion in the US, suggests that even amongst those who don’t support abortion, the notion of imprisoning women who seek abortions is a step too far.

Even though the time limit is not mentioned in the RCM’s statement, it does indeed follow that taking abortion out of criminal law would mean that the time limit would no longer be a matter for criminal law but that is not to say it would be unregulated.

As the We Trust Women website explains, taking abortion out of criminal law would be unlikely to have any effect whatsoever on the number of late term abortions.

“There is no doubt that abortions post viability raise particular moral concerns for many people but there is no evidence that removing criminal sanctions leads to an increase in later terminations. Prior to 1990 in Scotland there was no abortion time limit. Despite the legality, there was not a greater proportion of late term abortions performed.

Currently, less than 0.1% of all abortions take place after 24 weeks gestation, mainly for reasons of serious foetal anomaly which could not be confirmed earlier in pregnancy. Women have terminations later in their pregnancy for very specific and very compelling reasons. Women do not wish to undergo later procedures, and doctors are unwilling to provide them outside of exceptional circumstances. This has been the experience in jurisdictions where abortion has been removed from the criminal law.”

The RCM’s statement in response to the Daily Mail attack makes it clear that the article is a gross misrepresentation of the union and its policy.  So what could this unprovoked attack be about? It appears to be dog whistle journalism at its worst but what axe could the Daily Mail have to grind against midwives? Surely everyone loves midwives, right?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the first line of the paper’s hatchet job on the union’s well respected leader, Cathy Warwick:

“One morning last month, Britain’s 30,000-odd midwives woke up to a piece of shocking news: their entire professional future depends on Britain voting to remain in the EU. That, at least, was the verdict of Cathy Warwick, the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)”

Could it be that this outburst of vitriol is payback for midwives daring to speak out against Brexit? Given that the TUC and health unions have raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on NHS staffing and funding, it strikes me that a union representing tens of thousands of midwives might have something useful to say about the risks of leaving the EU for ordinary workers.

Instead of shouting midwives down, the Daily Mail would do well to pay a bit more attention to what they have to say – both on the EU and on a woman’s right to choose.

5 Responses to A Daily Mail hat trick: an attack on women, an attack on unions, and an attack on the EU

  1. Michael Freeley
    May 17th 2016, 9:42 am

    When discussing abortion it is vital to remember that the foetus is a human being. A foetus with a ‘fatal abnormality’ is a human being that has been diagnosed with a disability and is terminally ill.

    Below is a description of second trimester abortion by Dr. Tony Levantino MD, a doctor who has performed over 1,200 abortions. It is fairly graphic but people should understand fully what these abortions involve.


  2. John Wood

    John Wood
    May 17th 2016, 10:51 am

    Michael, I’ve removed the quote from your comment above as we don’t have a way to flag stuff that might be harmfully triggering for readers. If people want to research the quote, googling for Dr Tony Levantino brings it up prominently.

  3. Scarlet Harris

    Scarlet Harris
    May 17th 2016, 12:48 pm

    Thanks for your comment Michael but I think/hope I made it clear in the blog that RCM aren’t advocating late term abortion. They’re not advocating abortion full stop. They’re advocating that women should not be criminalised for seeking an abortion.
    I’m not actually even sure why we’re talking about late term abortions. Less than 0.1% of abortions are carried out post 24 weeks. And, as I say in the blog, there is no evidence that taking abortion out of criminal law would increase that statistic.

  4. John Weeks
    May 18th 2016, 3:10 pm

    How did they leave out an attack on GLTG? The Mail must be mellowing in its post-fascist old age.

  5. Michael Freeley
    May 19th 2016, 9:26 am

    Thanks Scarlet. I agree with you that the RCM are not directly advocating for late-term abortions. But the law is there for a reason. Unborn children feel pain at 20 weeks, babies are now born at 22 weeks and survive, and thanks to 3D ultrasounds the majority of the general public are very much aware of how much a baby the ‘foetus’ is.

    We should question the motives of BPAS – the main organisation behind the ‘We Trust Women Campaign”. BPAS generates over £24 million annually from providing abortions (mostly from Gov’t funding). They have a huge vested interest in decriminalising late-term abortions, the very procedure they charge the most for (

    We should then also question whether it is appropriate for the chairman of the country’s biggest abortion provider (BPAS) to be the Chief Executive and General Secretary of The Royal College of Midwives. Surely this is a serious conflict of interest?

    Also the reason “why we’re talking about late term abortions” is that 0.1% of all aborted babies is still 230 babies.