Rape clause ‘fundamentally damaging for women’, says BMA

Written by Tom Freeman on 17 July 2017 in News

Doctors may boycott tax credits assessments after BMA condemns UK welfare reform

Child tax credit amendment - Holyrood

The new controversial provision in claiming tax credits dubbed the ‘rape clause’ has been condemned by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The change in the tax credits system as part of wider cuts to welfare by the UK Government means a women must state a third or subsequent child is the product of a rape to continue to receive the benefit.

The statement must be signed by a doctor or other professional.


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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said a healthcare professional, social worker or an approved rape charity can also give evidence on behalf of the victim.

However, many third sector organisations including Rape Crisis Scotland have said they will not co-operate with the scheme.

In April, Scotland's Health Secretary Shona Robison said NHS Scotland staff would also refuse to co-operate. 

Now the BMA’s UK council has voted overwhelmingly to reject the scheme, calling the process a “terrible ordeal” for women.

This could lead to many doctors refusing to participate in the assessment process.

Dr Peter Bennie, Chair of BMA Scotland, said the body had not been consulted about the changes.

“The ‘rape clause’ is fundamentally damaging for women – forcing them to disclose rape and abuse at a time and in a manner not of their choosing, at pain of financial penalty.

“In addition to the likely negative impact on the woman and the doctor-patient relationship, there is also the impact on individual children, who may have been conceived through coercion or rape, to consider.

“This is an ill-conceived piece of legislation and I encourage doctors to consider very carefully whether to participate in this process or not.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss, who has campaigned on the issue in the House of Commons, said the BMA had sent a “strong message” to government.

“The two child restriction on tax credits has been opposed by many organisations as being damaging to family incomes, particularly those who are working in low paid jobs,” she said.

“The UK Government now needs to listen to the BMA as well as many other organisations who are calling out the rape clause for what it really is - absolutely shameful.”

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said Labour would repeal the reform.

“I welcome the BMA joining the long list of people and organisations who have condemned the Tories’ horrific rape clause,” she said.

“Forcing rape victims to fill out a form acknowledging their child is the result of rape is one of the most vile policies ever introduced by a Tory government, and that is saying something.”

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