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Britain's Royal College votes in favor of relaxing abortion laws despite protests from 650 doctors

(Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)A pro-life campaigner holds up a model of a 12-week-old embryo during a protest outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast October 18, 2012.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) voted in favor of relaxing Britain's abortion laws, despite a recent protest letter signed by more than 650 doctors.

On Friday, RCOG, which represents the college's 6,000 doctors, held a secret vote on endorsing the decriminalization of abortion in England and Wales. However, instead of allowing all 6,000 doctors to vote, only 33 members of the body's General Council were allowed to participate in the ballot, according to Christian Today.

Prior to the vote, more than 650 doctors signed a protest letter, warning RCOG that the move would severely damage their profession's reputation, adding that the vote would not reflect their views.

Between 30 to 40 of the signatories are members of RCOG, while others practice in other fields of medicine, Catholic Herald reported. The doctors also denounced the college's decision not to allow members a vote on the issue.

"It is completely unacceptable that all members of the RCOG have not been given the opportunity to vote on this significant change in policy and you have refused to release the wording of the motion until after the general council have voted on this motion," the letter stated.

"As doctors and medical students, we object to this new extreme position being forced upon members of the RCOG," it continued.

The signatories argued that while the members of the council are entitled to their convictions, they should not "impose their agenda on the RCOG and risk severely damaging its reputation as a professional body."

"We, the undersigned, wish to state publicly that any policy which seeks to remove abortion from its current legal framework does not represent us or our views," the doctors stated.

The Royal College will now lobby the British government to change the regulations on abortion so that it would be treated just like any other medical procedure.

Under the current law, abortion is only legal up to 24 weeks and late-term abortions after that point are limited. Women seeking abortions are also required to receive permission from two doctors before the procedure.

Professor Lesley Regan, chairman of the Royal College, contended that decriminalizing abortion would not make the procedure any less safe or less tightly regulated, adding that women would only need one doctor's signature rather than two.

Friday's vote stands in contrast with the results of a survey conducted by ComRes on abortion, which showed that the general public supports greater protections on the procedure to safeguard both the mother and the unborn child.

RCOG joins the Royal College of Midwives and British Medical Association in supporting the legalization of abortion throughout pregnancy.

A spokesman for RCOG said that all members and trainees were consulted on the proposed motion in early September and were asked to share their views with their council representative prior to Friday's meeting.

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