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Would you drive a woman to an abortion clinic?

Where does conscientious objection begin? The recent case of the Glasgow midwives raises difficult questions

By on Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Bad news generally dominates the press. So it is good to be able to highlight a small item of good news: that Washington District Court Judge Ronald B Leighton has ruled as unconstitutional the attempt by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy (under pressure from the state governor, Planned Parenthood and the Northwest Women’s Law centre) to compel a few objecting pharmacists to stock and dispense the Plan B morning-after pill in violation of their deeply held beliefs – or close shop. This was in spite of there being no evidence that consumers were unable to buy the product elsewhere. The Judge ruled that conscience formed by “a sincere religious belief” that so-called emergency contraception “terminates a human life” should be respected.

This reminded me of the case of Patrick McCrystal, a Belfast pharmacist who left his job in 1993 having decided he could no longer, in good faith, dispense the pill or other contraceptives. He was unemployed for three years: “No-one wants to employ a pharmacist who wouldn’t dispense the pill” he commented.

It also brings to mind the very recent case of the two Glasgow Catholic midwives who, when abortions were moved to the ordinary labour ward of the hospital at which they worked, decided that in conscience they could not delegate, supervise or support other staff who were engaged in the care of mothers having abortions. In their case the judge, Lady Smith, overruled their objection, stating that as “the nature of their duties” did not “require them to …terminate pregnancies directly” they were not covered by the conscientious objection clause in the 1967 Abortion Act.

It all depends on how you interpret the word “participate” which is used in the Act. There is “direct participation” and there is “indirect participation.” For those with an active conscience there is very little difference between the two. For the Washington pharmacists, as for Patrick McCrystal, if you dispense an abortifacient you are complicit in something you know to be wrong.

The medical receptionist who felt hat she could not, in conscience, type out a letter of referral for an abortion, felt the same. So did a friend of mine who, at the time employed as a cleaner at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, felt that in conscience he could not agree to clean a surgical room in preparation for an abortion, when he was faced with this request after his normal schedules had been changed.

Or what about the hypothetical situation of a taxi driver who is asked by a young, female customer to drive her to a well-known “clinic” in a leafy suburb? The old film, “Judgement at Nuremburg”, brilliantly shows what happens when no-one down the long chain of participation and involvement in unethical processes, ever questions what they are doing or whether in conscience they should say: “The buck stops here.”

  • daclamat

    “The old film, “Judgement at Nuremburg”, brilliantly shows what happens when no-one down the long chain of participation and involvement in unethical processes, ever questions what they are doing.”
    May God forgive you. I can’t. I once drove a woman. whose echography should extensive deformities, including the absence of a brain, to a clinic where the pregnancy, wholely unviable, was terminated.  Such pregnancies normally self terminate. She was spared weeks of unnecessary anguish of knowing that the foetus would inevitably self-abort. Would I drive a woman to an abortion clinic? I don’t know of any. I shall always be grateful to the non-judgemental medical team whose understanding helped my wife and I through this terrible trauma. Should I have told my wife to take a taxi? I held her in my arms before and after.  Of such stuff are Nazi muderers made.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, daclamat — you will always know that you and your wife killed your child and it was thrown away like so much trash.  It was going to be painful whatever happened.  I’m sorry you chose the path you did.  You still aren’t sorry for what you did.  May God have mercy on your souls.   You could have had that baby baptized and properly buried, but you chose not to.  You’ll have to answer for that someday.

  • buckingham88

     A tough call.

  • buckingham88

     A tough call.

  • Anonymous

    It depends how far through her term the woman was. Anything past about 16 weeks and I’d be very uneasy. If it was recently conceived I’d be more than happy to.

    As after all at that stage it simply is just a ball of cells, no brain activity whatsoever. Not a popular viewpoint I realize – but I can’t find much fault with it.

  • Anonymous

    It had no brain. If I removed your brain, would you still be a person? No you wouldn’t my friend. This good man you helped reduce the pain and suffering of his wife deserves a pat on the back.

    You really need to gain some perspective.

  • Anonymous

     I’m sure you will get a barrage of abuse for your comment, but all I want to say is that your decision deserves a great deal of respect.

    After all, as you say it had no brain -  and without a brain we really aren’t human are we, I’m afraid. If I take a bullet to the brain, as a human I do not exist anymore, and from my perspective neither did your wife’s baby.

    Its really brave of you so speak out about something so personal. You clearly really love your wife. I totally think you made the right decision and you should have no regrets

  • Oconnord

    I would have said that no human could live without a brain, but you buckwheat seem to have managed. You also seem to survive without empathy or compassion.

    I almost wish you are a Poe, but I doubt that a Poe would be that uncaring and hurtful.  

  • Oconnord

    This is a ridiculous “slippery slope” argument. “Would you drive a woman to an abortion clinic?”.

    Well what about a bus driver who’s route passes near a clinic. Can he refuse to allow women to board his bus? Any female may be about to visit the clinic, even the wily ones who get off a stop or two before and walk the remaining distance. So we better stop any trains, planes or aeroplanes with catholic operators too. Catholic pilots or drivers can’t be asked to take the chance that they are transporting a woman intending to get a termination. But what about the men who sometimes accompany those evil women. Well just to be safe we should allow men to be refused too.

    Just to be safe, catholics should stop exhaling, because the CO2 in their breath is then recycled into O2 which is then used by women who are getting abortions! 

    Stop breathing you faithful catholics as your every breath enables abortion!

  • daclamat

    Isn’t your pseudo racist?

  • Oconnord

    ERR…. What?


  • Anonymous

    Gain some reality.  He helped end the life of his own flesh and blood.  All innocent  human life is precious.  We are more than the sum of our parts.  But I suppose people like you have to pretend that a fetus isn’t human and some sort of malignant growth to justify your actions.

  • daclamat

    It was a reply to ObamaEatsBuckwheat – like throwing bananas on a football pitch 

  • Dominie Stemp

    Would you collect your daughter’s birth control pills? These too can cause chemical abortions. I think one would have to say no.

  • Anonymous

    The reality is that without ever having a brain the ‘baby’ never existed as a person.

    As a said before, if I shot my brains out with a gun – would I still be human? Of course not, but I’m afraid that’s the argument you are trying to make.

    Also please don’t presume to know my beliefs on abortion – how ridiculous is that? I don’t presume to know your views on immigration or taxation, or the colour red… Do you believe that you can simply lump all of humanity into people that agree with all your positions, and those that disagree with all your positions?

    I never have referred or thought of a fetus as a ‘malignant growth’, based on the stage of the pregnancy it is either called a baby, or a fetus – and I have never referred to it any differently then that.  

    In terms of justifying my actions, it sounds like you are presuming I have either had an abortion – or perform them myself! Neither which I plan on doing, or have done, or have advised someone to do.

  • Oconnord

    Sorry, my bad.

    Though I really don’t get the football analogies, purely from my lack of interest in sport.

    But I give my apology for mis-reading your comment.

  • ObamaEatsBuckwheat

    No –