Page 1, 26th June 1970

26th June 1970
Page 1

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Locations: Stockport


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Abortions will rise by 50 per cent this year


EGAL abortions in Britain will increase by more than 50 per cent from 54,157 in 1969

to 82,000 this year. They are now being carried out at a rate of 227 a day, according to the Registrar General.

The total for the five weeks ended June 2 was 7,876, against 3,760 for the four weeks ended May 27 last year. Some 3,603 were for single women, who included 137 girls of 15 or under.

If the present rate continued, said Mr. E. A. J. Alment, secretary of the Royal College of Gynaecologists, more nurses were likely to follow the examples of those at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, who last week refused to help carry out further abortions.

A recent survey by the College had shown that 77 per cent of consultants had encountered reluctance in varying degrees by members of their staff to work on abortion operations. In almost all cases, the nurses had begun to protest when the number of abortions had increased' and when operations had been carried out at a late stage.

The nurses at Stepping Hill Hospital refused to help carry out the operations "as a matter of nursing conscience". They are using their rights under clause four of the 1967 Abortion Act, which permits them to refuse to assist with abortions on the grounds of conscience. The situation is being discussed by the Hospital Management Committee today.

'Not religious row'

Dr. W. Calvert, obstetrician anti gynaecologist at Stepping H4,1, said there was no dispute between himself and the nurses. "It is simply that they have ekpressed a distaste for these operations, particularly those carried out at the later stages or pregnancy, and have said that they do not wish to do any more.

"This is not a religious matter, certainly not a row between Catholics and Protestants. The nurses object to the practice, as it appears to them, of throwing human creatures into the dustbin.

One of the nurses involved, not a Catholic, explained her feelings about the abortion operation. She recounted how a pregnancy of up to 12 weeks was terminated by "a system of vacuum cleaning the womb, entirely breaking up the foetus before it comes out.

"One is left with a jar full of blood with recognisable bits of baby floating in it.

"After 12 weeks a 'hysterotomy is performed, similar to a Caesarian operation. The surgeon in this case takes from the womb a fully-formed baby.

"It has legs, arms, fingernails and eyelashes. If it was born prematurely at 24 weeks in a maternity ward, we would be fighting to save the baby's life. We would probably fail, but we would try.

"After the operation, I have seen one baby live for four hours and others for two hours.

"Deserving gynaecological cases are being put back in a waiting list already two years long or more, to make room for abortions. These include women who cannot have babies and older women who may be in some pain."

`Human dignity' The nurses have received a letter of support from 26 Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Community, an order devoted to the care of unmarried mothers, emotionally disturbed, deprived and drug and alcohol cases.

"As a group who are, like yourselves, dedicated to service of the 'highest human kind, we are heartened and encouraged by your action. It declares so clearly that the privilege and duty of a nurse or a doctor is to minister to human life from its inception till its close in a manner that befits the dignity of the human person. It seems to us that any act performed for or on a human being. born or unborn, which does not respect this dignity is not a service but a prostitution.

"In our bewildering age many troubled minds will be calmed by this evidence that men and women in the medical and nursing professions are dedicated to the art of healing and are not, as appears in some quarters committing themselves to a slow and shameful decline.

"That your action will indeed 'light the fuse of growing resentment about abortions, shared by both doctors and nurses' is our fervent hope and prayer."

The letter is signed by Sister M. Rose, of the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Bishopton, Rentrewshire, and 25 other

members of the community.

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