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Sir John Peel

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 09 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:366

This article has a correction. Please see:

Surgeon-gynaecologist to the Queen who talked the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists into supporting the legalisation of abortion

Sir John Peel steered the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists through the intense debates that led to it supporting abortion law reform in 1967. He also wrote the report that engineered the move of childbirth from home and into hospital. Peel attended six royal births, all of which took place at home, and he made childbirth safe for women with diabetes and their babies.

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It was during his tenure as president of the royal college that Peel chaired the committee advising the government on its bill to legalise abortion, which became the 1967 Abortion Act. The college was closely involved with the government at all stages of the bill.

The abortion debate was marked by deep divisions along religious, moral, and ethical lines, and the college was no exception to this. Its council included a prominent antiabortionist, Professor Hugh Maclaren, and several Roman Catholics, who objected …

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