Midwives issued advice on abortion care in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland midwives who object to providing abortion care have been advised by their professional body to inform their management as soon as possible.
The new arrangements mean that women will not be criminalised for seeking an abortion and midwives and other healthcare professionals will not be criminally prosecuted for providing abortion services.
However, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that at the moment, "midwives and other healthcare professionals continue to have no statutory right to conscientious objection".
Karen Murray, RCM Director for Northern Ireland said yesterday that women will now be entitled to access, free, safe and legal abortion options without fear of being prosecuted.
They will also now have the same rights as women across the UK and Republic of Ireland.
"Importantly, midwives and other healthcare professionals will not be criminally prosecuted for supporting, advising or signposting women to abortion services," Ms Murray said.
She also urged conscientious objectors to let health bosses know their position, in order to assist with planning "to roster midwives on who are happy to provide abortion care and women will receive the high quality care they are entitled to."
Ms Murray added: "The expectation of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (RCM) code is that if a midwife had a conscientious objection that they would make that known immediately to their employer, colleagues and the woman that they may be caring for at that time."
Meanwhile new guidance issued by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) outlines that until March 31 2020, abortions in cases of "fatal or serious foetal anomaly" can be carried out up to 28 weeks.
Each will be treated on a case-by-case basis with a consultant taking into consideration the mental and physical needs of the patient.
There are no plans for additional services to be routinely available in Northern Ireland before the end of next March.
From April 2020, medical abortions will be provided on two hospital sites here.