By editor - 30 April, 2014
The UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare has barred doctors and nurses who object to contraception or the morning-after pill as ineligible for “diplomas in sexual and reproductive health as well as full membership of the faculty.”
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, under official guidelines, pro-life Catholics and others who hold a pro-life position are “ineligible” for the qualifications provided by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) even if they complete the training programme.
“While the diplomas are viewed as an important qualification for GPs or nurses treating sexually transmitted infections or involved in family planning, full membership is seen as essential for doctors who specialise in the field,” according to the Daily Telegraph.
The ruling has led to accusations that the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, a branch of the RCOG, is unfairly discriminating against medical staff who act on grounds of conscience.
The bar on qualification applies to medical staff who object to “any form of contraception” including the morning-after pill which can be taken up to five days after sex.
Pro-life doctors decline to prescribe the so-called “five-day after pill” because it acts after fertilisation when life has begun, and is therefore similar to abortion.
The exclusion of pro-life doctors and nurses from specialist diplomas in sexual and reproductive health as well as full membership of the faculty is contained in updated guidelines.
While the diplomas are viewed as an important qualification for GPs or nurses treating sexually transmitted infections or involved in family planning, full membership is seen as essential for doctors who specialise in the field.
The latest guidelines state that those with moral objections are “welcome” to study the diploma course.
But it adds: “Completing the syllabus means willingness during training to prescribe all forms of hormonal contraception, including emergency, and willingness to counsel and refer, if appropriate, for all intrauterine methods.
“Failure to complete the syllabus renders candidates ineligible for the award of a FSRH Diploma.”
It adds: “Doctors who hold moral or religious reservations about any contraceptive methods will be unable to fulfil the syllabus for the membership … or specialty training.
“This will render them ineligible for the award of the examination or completion of training certificates.”
The RCOG insisted that although the new guidelines were recently updated the exclusion was long-standing.
Dr Peter Saunders, chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship said: “It bars pro-life doctors from specialising in sexual and reproductive health and also makes it much more difficult for non-specialists to get jobs in family planning or reproductive health.”
He added that while the rules would clearly affect Catholics who adhere to the church’s teaching on contraception, many others would also be impacted.
David Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, the Roman Catholic institute in Oxford, said: “By these guidelines the FSRH is seeking deliberately to exclude people who have a conscientious objection to some or all forms of contraception from eligibility for the diploma and from membership of the faculty.”
He added, “This is a form of unjust discrimination against professionals on the basis of their personal beliefs and, indirectly, a form of discrimination against patients who share the same beliefs and who may wish to be treated by professionals with a sympathetic understanding of their position.”