Over 800 health professionals have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State over their concerns and opposition to the potential changing of abortion laws.

One of those 800 plus health professionals is Fermanagh midwife, Wendy Campbell, who spoke to the Impartial Reporter this week.

Mrs. Campbell stated that she understood “that this is a very controversial subject and there is much sensitivity, understanding and compassion needed towards one another whether you are pro-life or pro-choice in your opinion”.

Abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland unless a woman’s life is at risk or there is a serious risk to her physical or mental health. But legislation passed at Westminster earlier this year would mean that the government will have to put in place regulations for abortion services in Northern Ireland by next April.

Speaking about her own views Mrs. Campbell said that she believes life starts at conception:

“Personally I am pro-life in my views towards abortion and that’s for a number of reasons, my vocation, my faith in God and my moral and ethical beliefs. Being a midwife makes me feel very honoured to be part of the journey of 'new life' which I believe starts in the womb at conception.

The philosophy of our care as midwives focuses on preserving the life of both the woman and the baby throughout pregnancy, in labour and after the baby is born. As the baby grows and develops in the womb in my opinion it is very much a living human being and not just merely a cluster of cells.! At just 12 weeks it is physically developed with a beating heart and a functional brain.”

While devoted to her Christian faith Mrs. Campbell was keen to make the point that it is an unfair generalisation to say that everyone who signed the letter to the Secretary of State come from a Christian background:

“As a Christian my faith in God also plays a major part of my belief in the sanctity of life, Gods word says we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made’ and it is my personal conviction that the miracle of life is given by God. But I want to make the point that many midwives who are part of the 'Midwives for Both Lives' Facebook group are of non-faith backgrounds and still they believe in protecting the life of the unborn child,” she said.

Mrs. Campbell strongly believes that people need to speak up for unborn babies whom she sees as “voiceless”:

“The legalisation of abortion to me is very worrying as babies will no longer be protected at their most vulnerable time, they are voiceless, and we need to speak for them. Current statistics from the Department of Health published in England and Wales state that 98% of abortions that take place are in pregnancies were the baby and mother are physically well. Just 2% are for those immensely difficult cases termed as 'Hard Cases',” she explained before going on to talk about the compassion that needs to be shown to pregnant women:

“I realise that there are some difficult circumstances in which women find themselves in and they feel that the only option they have is to end their pregnancy. It is important that we listen to these women and try to understand their situation and put in place support services to help them to continue their pregnancy. Women considering termination of pregnancy need ongoing individualised and compassionate antenatal care by specially trained healthcare professionals whose primary focus is on alternative options to abortion such as counselling and adoption. Women should never have to feel alone in this situation.”

One point of frustration for Mrs. Campbell, and other health professional who signed the letter to the Secretary of State, is the lack of legislative “protection” that they may be afforded:

“I think I can speak on behalf of many health care professionals in saying that we feel very uncertain about what the legalisation of abortion in this country will mean for us.

“That is why a letter of concern has been written and signed by over 800+ health care professionals to our politicians highlighting our concerns. Currently the mainland UK do have legalisation in place which protects those who do not wish to be involved with abortion. However at present there is no legislative framework or guidance in place to protect health care workers in Northern Ireland who conscientiously object to being involved in the act of abortion for personal reasons. This leaves us feeling vulnerable and let down by our government to be put in this situation.”