Skip to main content
Back to news homepage

RCOG release: Lord Steel to become Honorary Fellow at RCOG World Congress 2013

News 24 June 2013

Lord David Steel will receive an Honorary Fellowship at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) World Congress today, acknowledging his unique contribution to women’s health.

The RCOG Honorary Fellowship is an award acknowledging exceptional work of persons outside of the medical profession and is the highest honour the RCOG can bestow.

Lord Steel started his career as a Scottish Liberal MP in 1965. At 26 he became the youngest Member of that Parliament and went onto represent the Scottish Borders through eight further elections until he retired in 1997. He was then elevated to The House of Lords as Lord David Steel of Aikwood. He is also one of the 16 Knights of the Thistle.

The RCOG is recognising Lord Steel for his extraordinary contribution to women’s health in successfully piloting a bill through the Commons in 1966–67 to reform the law on abortion, which became the Abortion Act (1967). This landmark law rid Britain of the illegal and self-induced abortions, which had led annually to between 30 and 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries to women.

Lord Steel is noted for his extensive work with medical aid charities across the world. He is patron of many African charities and is President of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Africa.

In addition, he has been awarded honorary doctorates by numerous British universities, has written several books and continues to freelance for various newspapers, to broadcast and to lecture.

Lord Steel, Honorary Fellow, said:

“I am delighted to receive this award, not just on my own behalf but on behalf of those members of the RCOG who were so helpful to me and to Parliament during the passage of the legislation and because of the acknowledgement that it rid Britain of the scourge of illegal and damaging abortions.”

Dr Tony Falconer, President of the RCOG, added:

“The programme at this year’s Congress will provide an opportunity for the College to formally acknowledge the work and dedication of members of our wider community who have contributed a great deal to the advancement of science and women’s healthcare.

“It is important for our speciality to recognise the work of these people, in the UK and abroad, whose dedication and commitment to their work aids our College and its guiding principles. Lord Steel’s work brought about much needed change in the late 1960s and fought passionately for a woman’s right to choose.

“The Abortion Act (1967) was landmark not only in the UK but also internationally as it resulted in ensuring that women had access to safe abortion, thereby lowering maternal mortality rates across the world.

“I am proud to be presenting these awards and warmly congratulate this year’s recipients for their efforts and success.”

Another award recipient at this year’s Congress will be Professor Dame Sally Davies, who will be appointed a Fellow honoris causa, an honour that is presented to people who are not members of the College but who have demonstrated the highest level of dedication and support to the development of women’s healthcare services. Dame Sally has been the Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government since 2011.


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email


The congress will be held at ACC Liverpool, home to BT Convention Centre and Echo Arena. For more information and for the full programme please click here. For live updates from the Congress please click here. To download the RCOG Congress App search RCOG in the App Store. To tweet about the Congress please use the hashtag #RCOGCongress13.

The full lists of 2013 award recipients for fellows’ ad eundem/honoris causa are below:

Fellow ad eundem

  • Professor Chiara Benedetto, Italy
  • Professor Bernard Clarke, England
  • Professor Tom Fleming, England
  • Professor James N Martin Jr, USA
  • Professor Colin Sibley, England

Fellow honoris causa

  • Professor Dame Sally Davies, England
  • Professor Elhag Mohammed Malik, Sudan