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Nurses: Ethics

Volume 482: debated on Tuesday 11 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance (a) his Department and (b) the Chief Nursing Officer have issued to primary care trusts on procedures for appointment of nurses to hospital posts with duties including termination of pregnancy since 1997; and if he will make a statement; (233965)

(2) whether student nurses are required to undertake duties involving termination of pregnancy as part of their training; and if he will make a statement.

The Department last issued guidance in 1994 in PL CMO(94)8 and PL CNO(94)10 “Termination of pregnancy by medical methods: the role of the registered nurse or midwife and others who are not registered medical practitioners”. The document has been placed in the Library. In addition, the Royal College of Nursing issued guidance in October 2008: “Abortion care, RCN guidance for nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses”.

Both documents reaffirm that section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967 allows nurses to opt out of participating in any treatment for abortion to which they have a conscientious objection. As such, student nurses are not required to undertake termination of pregnancy as part of their training but they are taught theory and implications of the Abortion Act.