CMF on Facebook CMF on Twitter CMF on YouTube RSS Get in Touch with CMF
menu resources

Pro-life doctors denied qualifications

summer 2014

From triple helix - summer 2014 - Pro-life doctors denied qualifications [p05]

PDF version
(Right click and choose 'save as...' to download a printable version of this article)

FSRH ban may be illegal

Review by Peter Saunders
CMF Chief Executive

Doctors who object to prescribing 'contraceptives' which act after fertilisation are to be barred from receiving diplomas or fellowships in sexual and reproductive health even if they undertake the necessary training.

The ruling comes in new guidelines issued earlier this year by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH) (1) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

Whilst many contraceptives act by preventing fertilisation, there is strong evidence to suggest that some, including most IUCDs (intrauterine contraceptive devices) and the morning-after pill EllaOne (2) (ulipristal acetate), also act by preventing the implantation of an early embryo. They are thereby embryocidal, or abortifacient, rather than truly contra-ceptive.

Many doctors choose to avoid using drugs or methods of contraception which act after fertilisation, a position consistent with the Declaration of Geneva adopted by the British Medical Association (BMA) in 1948. This originally stated, 'I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception even against threat'. The RCOG's move is thereby an extraordinary about-face by the profession from its historic position.

The FSRH may argue that they are not barring doctors from practising, but simply from obtaining certain qualifications. But as many job appointments will be conditional on applicants having these qualifications this is effectively also a bar on practice.

This seems extraordinary given that the use of contraceptives which have been proven to act after fertilisation is only a tiny part of the specialty of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) which encompasses a wide range of conditions, treatments and procedures. (3) Surely could not reasonable accommodation be made for pro-life doctors?

After all, doctors who have a moral objection to abortion are still able to complete the Faculty's qualifications because the Abortion Act 1967 contains a conscience clause which protects them. So the College appears to be taking advantage of the fact that there is no equivalent law protecting those who object to destroying human embryos. Or is there?

Under equality legislation, it is unlawful to discriminate against people who have 'protected characteristics' – treating someone less favourably because of certain attributes of who they are. This is known as 'direct discrimination'. These protected characteristics include religion or belief.

Examples of direct discrimination include dismissing someone, deciding not to employ them, refusing them training, denying them a promotion, or giving them adverse terms and conditions all because of a protected characteristic.

This action by the RCOG may therefore be not just discriminatory but also illegal. 4 If so the College could have placed itself in an embarrassing and dangerous position.


2. Saunders P. Christian Medical Comment 2010; 4 November

Article written by Peter Saunders

More from triple helix: summer 2014

  • Assisted suicide: doctors should have none of it
  • U-turn on aetiology of sexual orientation
  • NHS whistleblowers
  • Celebrating not censoring debate
  • Pro-life doctors denied qualifications
  • Those two imposters, triumph and disaster
  • primary care in crisis
  • Breaking the Cycle of FGM and Gender Violence
  • does being a christian make a difference?
  • Parish Nursing
  • Looking after your juniors
  • rethinking retirement
  • Surgeon or Jack of All Trades?
  • Guinea Pig for Breakfast
  • God – I’ve got cancer
  • Stress
  • What happens when I die?
  • On Eagles’ Wings
  • Beyond Human?
  • Knowing through poetic reflection
  • eutychus
  • The day I met Jesus
  • Christian Medical Fellowship:
    uniting & equipping Christian doctors & nurses
    Contact Phone020 7234 9660
    Contact Address6 Marshalsea Road, London SE1 1HL
    © 2019 Christian Medical Fellowship. A company limited by guarantee.
    Registered in England no. 6949436. Registered Charity no. 1131658.
    Design: S2 Design & Advertising Ltd   
    Technical: ctrlcube