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Margaret Forrester was fired by the NHS for giving a booklet on the effects of abortion to a colleague who made no complaint: how deep will this purge go?

Anti-abortion doctors are threatened with being struck off: now this totalitarian sacking. What’s next?

By on Monday, 4 June 2012

Margaret Forrester has launched a human rights challenge against the NHS at the High Court (PA photo)

Margaret Forrester has launched a human rights challenge against the NHS at the High Court (PA photo)

Is there an NHS policy – secret or simply implicit — of purging health care in this country, not simply of Catholics who will not carry out abortions (see my last post) or refer pregnant women to colleagues who will abort their children, but even of health care professionals who do no more than discuss their objections to abortion, not with “patients” (ie pregnant women, who have nothing wrong with them, so are not actually patients at all) but with colleagues?

Consider, if you have not already done so, the case of Mrs Margaret Forrester, who was a “psychological wellbeing practitioner” before being fired, who has launched a human rights challenge against the NHS at the High Court. She accuses the Central and North West London NHS Trust of breaching her freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

She was “disciplined” (an interesting euphemism, in the circumstances) after discussing her views on abortion with a colleague who worked as a receptionist organising, inter alia, abortion appointments. Her concern was that women seeking medical advice were being routinely offered abortions without fully considering other options. In the course of this conversation, she gave her colleague a copy of a pamphlet entitled Forsaken, in which five women who have had abortions tell their stories, and discuss how abortion has affected them.

A week later Mrs Forrester was summoned for a meeting in which she was interrogated over her views before being suspended. She was moved to other duties in what her lawyers say was a “punishment posting”. When she was questioned during these “disciplinary proceedings” she said she did not regret giving her colleague the leaflet: she was then accused of insubordination. During these proceedings she was told, it seems, that part of the problem with the booklet was that it was “religious in tone”. She was subsequently fired for her reluctance to be shifted to a job which was unrelated to her area of expertise.

It is important to note that she did not give the booklet to an NHS “patient”, nor did Mrs Forrester ever suggest that it should be (though why it shouldn’t be offered to a woman uncertain about whether to proceed with the killing of her own child, I really don’t understand). The conversation between Mrs Forrester and her colleague was friendly and the receptionist did not object to being given the booklet.

According to the Thomas More Legal Centre, which is representing Mrs Forrester, the human rights aspects of the case have been clear from the outset. “Even those who disagree with Margaret Forrester’s views on abortion should support her in this claim,” it says. “If employees of the NHS cannot even discuss the subject of abortion with their colleagues then the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organisation with no regard for freedom or diversity.”

“The NHS is harming the interests of patients by attempting to crack down on free discussion,” the centre continues, “If abortion is as problem-free as the NHS claims then there should be no objection to the subject being discussed among health service professionals.”

Mrs Forrester has now lodged a case at the High Court, suing the Central and North West London NHS Trust for breaches of Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The articles, enshrined in the 1998 Human Rights Act, respectively protect the human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression, and protection from unjust discrimination.

You would have thought, wouldn’t you, that she has an open and shut case? But it’s not just the NHS that doesn’t believe in the human rights of Christians to express their views on such questions. As Deacon Nick points out on Protect the Pope, “based on past cases brought by Christians the likelihood is that the UK judiciary will continue to perpetrate the lie that Christians’ human rights are not being violated in the UK.”

According to Lord Carey, who after a difficult decade as a sometimes uncertain Archbishop of Canterbury (though I was always rather fond of him) is really coming into his own,

Courts in Britain have “consistently applied equality law to discriminate against Christians”.

They show a “crude” misunderstanding of the faith by treating some believers as “bigots”. He writes: “In a country where Christians can be sacked for manifesting their faith, are vilified by state bodies, are in fear of reprisal or even arrest for expressing their views on sexual ethics, something is very wrong.

“It affects the moral and ethical compass of the United Kingdom. Christians are excluded from many sectors of employment simply because of their beliefs; beliefs which are not contrary to the public good.”

He outlines a string of cases in which he argues that British judges have used a strict reading of equality law to strip the legally established right to freedom of religion of “any substantive effect”.

“It is now Christians who are persecuted; often sought out and framed by homosexual activists,” he says. “Christians are driven underground. There appears to be a clear animus to the Christian faith and to Judaeo-Christian values. Clearly the courts of the United Kingdom require guidance.”

Lord Carey is now appealing to the ECHR, from which, ironically, Christians currently seem to be getting more recognition of their rights than they do here. His case will be heard in Strasbourg on September 4, and will deal with the case of two workers forced out of their jobs over the wearing of crosses as a visible manifestation of their faith. It will also include the cases of Gary McFarlane, a counsellor sacked for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexual couples, and also the Christian registrar who wishes not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

I don’t know whether Margaret Forrester’s case will have gone through the courts here by then; but it could well be another one for Lord Carey. Truly, we have come to a desperate pass in this country: the Pope’s warnings about the “dictatorship” of Erelativism are being borne out more dramatically than, 10 years ago, I would have thought possible. These are strange and sinister times: how will it all look in another 10 years’ time?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    When is it called a health care by killing and terminating medically proven of another person

    It is not.

    Prolife kills and terminates medically proven other people – women. Treats women as subhumans, who need not be considered as people with feelings, with huge potential, with health, life, conscience. The prolife arguments on this thread are compassionless, pro-death, Dr Mengele in their disregard for the humanity of women.

    Access to abortion ensures that the human rights and dignity of women are respected.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    With the right professional counselling, a pregnant woman can overcome
    mental trepidation or depression concerning the carrying of a child in
    her womb.

    With good professional counselling, which does not attempt to impose the “right” point of view, the pregnant woman will be enabled to make the choice that is right for her.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     No one defends that employees should be forbidden from using
    contraception; Catholic institution simply want the right to not pay for

    Now, you know perfectly well that isn’t true, because we discussed it at length. Catholic institutions want the right to prevent their employees from using their health insurance to get contraception if the employee wishes.

    You argued at length that an employer has a perfect right to impose their “ethos” on an employee then, because the employee can just quit their job if they don;t like it.

    Now you’ve suddenly changed your mind.

    Amazing how that works when you have no real principles except “my church, right or wrong!”

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye


    True, as you make clear only a dozen or so words later.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    The NHS is a statutory body, not a governmental organisation. Are you British?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    You know, you’re awfully fond of insults and abuse when you know you’ve lost the argument.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     No one in the NHS, ever, advises women that they should kill their own babies.

    That is a horrible lie.

  • Acleron

    If she worked for say a pharmaceutical company and tried to convince other staff that homeopathy worked and medicine didn’t, she would have to be dismissed if she refused to see the problem. You are not paid for spreading disinformation. Trying to use the religion angle is not a get out of jail card in this situation. If the management allegations are correct, it isn’t anything to do with rights just clear dereliction of duties.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     So you support access to abortion on demand?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     But upthread, you agree that the demand for a woman to die in pregnancy is only acceptable if her right to have an abortion is legally protected.

    Since otherwise, the double death in pregnancy that you see as a good goal isn’t a voluntary death, because the woman wasn’t legally able to choose to die pregnant: she was forced.

    Why you believe that it’s better for two to die than one to live, you didn;t explain.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Irrelevant. They are primarily funded by tax dollars.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    You consistently put words in my mouth and attack that

    Never done that with you, Fides. Not in the habit of doing it with anyone.

    You just don’t seem to like your own views when shorn of the pretty language you dress them up in.

    For example, you agreed that the Catholic Church bans abortion in every circumstance, and you know that sometimes pregnancy can be lethal, so you knew that you were arguing that the Catholic Church requires women to die rather than be saved by abortion.

    But when I pointed this out to you, you went into your “straw man” shtick.

    A pregnant woman who has cancer may have other treatment options than outright removal of her uterus. For example, chemotherapy and radiation may be preferred treatment options, to shrink the tumour, followed by surgery. But in order for her to have chemotherapy safely, she would need to have an abortion.

    Apparently the Catholic Church doesn’t allow that, preferring to mutilate the woman completely rather than let her have abortion, then chemotherapy/radiation treatment, then let her doctor consider surgery.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    How do you presume to judge who God will reject?

    Isn’t that kind of spiritual arrogance regarded as profoundly dangerous?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     > “Now, you know perfectly well that isn’t true, because we discussed it
    at length. Catholic institutions want the right to prevent their
    employees from using their health insurance to get contraception if the employee wishes.”

    False. The Church simply does not want to cooperate with it. If the employee pays for the contraception with his own money (or if he pays extra to the insurance company to get it covered), it is a different story.

    > “You argued at length that an employer has a perfect right to impose
    their “ethos” on an employee then, because the employee can just quit
    their job if they don;t like it.”

    Bald faced lie.I didn’t say that the employer has the right to impose their ethos. I merely say that the employer, if it is a non-governmental organization, whose main focus is doctrinal, and en employee starts publicly campaigning against the teaching of his employer, then the employer can fire him.

    > “Now you’ve suddenly changed your mind.”

    Bald-faced lie.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     So the totalitarian, subjective mindset of a relativistic, ideological conformity

    Weren’t you also arguing on the Catholic employers reject contraception coverage (etc) thread, just a few days ago, that employers have every right to impose their doctrine on all of their employees, and an employee who doesn’t like it should just leave?

    Now an NHS Trust in London, seems to be the latest to “discipline” one
    of it’s employees for merely reflecting a Faith-based approach to the
    abortion issue to a receptionist and handing her a pamphlet. 

    The employee disciplined was a therapist, who was, therefore, supposed to be providing supportive, non-judgemental care for patients. For an NHS therapist to distribute material which contains false and injurious information in a clinical situation, is a serious problem for the NHS, whose ethos is that the welfare of the patients should be the first priority.

    Now, if you were sincrely principled when you argued in the previous thread that employers have a right to impose their ethos on their employees, you;d agree that the NHS has a right to do this.

    But if you were just using whatever rationale sounded well to ensure that Catholic doctrine was imposed in whatever case, I’d guess you’d do what you’ve just done: argue that a Catholic employer should be allowed to remove religious freedom of conscience from a dissenting employee, but argue that a healthcare employer ought not to be allowed to impose clinical standards on an employee because, er…freedom of religion!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “If she worked for say a pharmaceutical company and tried to convince
    other staff that homeopathy worked and medicine didn’t, she would have
    to be dismissed if she refused to see the problem.”

    If she handed one pamphlet, to one _colleague_, a _receptionist_, who didn’t complain, and then got fired, it would be a totalitarian act.

    Let me repeat: if that pamphlet contained advocacy for more sex-change
    operations in the NHS, and she got firefd for it, leftists would riot in
    the streets.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     False. I respond all your points.

    When I call a spade a spade and say that you have lied through your teeth, it is because you refuse to address my points and attack straw men.

  • theroadmaster

    Well if someone is going to indulge in value free sex, then they know what the consequences could be, pregnancy in the womb.  Why destroy an innocent life as a consequence of indulging in sex without responsibility? My concern is with children and their mothers.  But some would have the child in the womb pay the ultimate price for someone else’s original decision to indulge their passions without thinking about the ramifications.  At least half of all abortions which take place in some US clinics arise due to contraception failing.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > Never done that with you, Fides. Not in the habit of doing it with anyone

    You have done that dozens of times.

    > “For example, you agreed that the Catholic Church bans abortion in
    every circumstance, and you know that sometimes pregnancy can be lethal,
    so you knew that you were arguing that the Catholic Church requires
    women to die rather than be saved by abortion.”

    Straw man, bald-faced lie. I explicitly said that life-saving treatment, including inducing early labor, may be acceptable. But you simply REFUSE to listen to me and attack an imaginary straw-men who denies women life-saving treatment.

    > “A pregnant woman who has cancer may have other treatment options than
    outright removal of her uterus.”

    Depending on the severity of the cancer. In the scenario I was referring to, womb removal is the only option.

    > “preferring to mutilate the woman completely rather than let her have abortion”

    Bald-faced lie.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > Interesting. So in efffect, the Catholic “pro-life” position is indeed pro-death – it doesn’t matter if the pregnant woman dies.

    You simply mad that up out of thin air, and attributed it to me. You consistently fail to address m y points, because you have no argument.

    You may be having fun with tis trolling, but it showcases the weak position of pro-aborts.

  • Acleron

    First it sounds that not only did she hand out the leaflet containing misinformation, ie lies, that she refused to recant. This isn’t anything other than not doing what you are paid to do.

    Second, she wasn’t recommending any change in the emphasis of accepted treatment within the NHS. Your switch is just not any form of analogy. She tried to influence a colleague with a piece of cherry picked propaganda. My analogy is much closer to the management claims.

  • theroadmaster

    Your attempt to appear reasonable and non-judgmental  regarding a neutrality that counsellors should observe regarding not imposing their objective viewpoints, seems superficially laudable.  But if one explores a little deeper into this attitude, one can see the moral confusion that it has sown in wider society and the bad harvest that we are reaping from it.  There is an objective right and wrong in this situation, and muddying the waters will not obscure that reality.  It comes down to the heinous destruction of human life in the womb which in the majority of cases for reasons that are indefensible.  In Britain, the Abortion Act of 1967 has become abortion on demand.  We need a strong pro-life presence in these clinics of death, to offer much needed spiritual and moral guidance to women who are considering aborting their young.  They can make the difference between life and death.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     The government is not supposed to define what “misinformation” is, nor it is supposed to make people recant. That is what they do in China and North Korea.

    Speaking with colleagues is allowed in any free society.

  • Acleron

    What has the government do with this? It was a management decision.

    The misinformation is defined quite easily, it was taking some cherry picked examples and claiming that this is what always happens. It is the same as if she had taken some failed chemotherapy examples and tried to convince a colleague that chemotherapy always failed.

    But it is a good example of the religious mind set. This is trying to frame a simple case of dangerous incompetence into some sort of victimisation because of her religion. If it has anything to do with religion it shows how dangerous such delusions can be, even in a reasonably civilised society.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye


    We don’t use dollars in the UK, Fides.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Bearing false witness against your neighbour is a dangerous, wicked thing to do, you know.

    “Who is my neighbour” you ask?

    Well, the doctor who performs abortions. The women who need abortions. In Christian thinking, they are your neighbours. and telling lies about them – saying they “love abortion for its own sake” is a vile, wicked thing to do.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Why is an American getting all riled up about British healthcare? Our system of healthcare ensures that everyone who needs care gets the best possible care we can afford.

    The US system of healthcare ensures that so many people suffer and even die due to lack of care.

    Why so angry about our system, and so little apparent concern from the people harmed by yours?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    I agree.

    The “end” of prolifers, to have women die in illegal abortions and die in pregnancy rather than live – and live well – because they had access to safe, legal abortion – this “end” is apparenly seen by most people in this discussion as a clear moral good.

    And to that end, they justify the most hideous cruelty towards rape victims, even children: they justify calling women and doctors “murderers”: they justify violence against clinics and legislation designed to strip women of their human rights and dignity.

    But it is not justified.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Your violent language towards women and doctors has been used to justify terrorism and murder.

    Those who promote it have blood on their hands.

    I wish I could believe that you would answer for your violent language and abuse, but sadly, I am sure you will still continue to use it no matter who suffers as a result.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Well if someone is going to indulge in value free sex

    So any sexual act between a man and a woman is “value free sex” as opposed to sex between two men or two women?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     I fail to see what “spiritual and moral guidance” someone who is filled with vile hatred towards women and doctors could offer.

    Anyone who calls a woman who has had an abortion a “murderer” and accuses her of “killing her own baby” is not fit to provide “spiritual and moral guidance” to anyone.

    Yet apparently, that’s all the pro-life lobby has to offer.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    Why are you lying about a discussion that we had only a few days ago? What is the point of pretending?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Prolifers are advocating for a raw power over human beings – pregnant woman – which is akin to the raw power that slaveholders had over human beings in the days when that was legal.

    For some reason you cannot face the fact that a baby is a human being.

    Straw man. Of course a baby is a human being.

    There is life before the abortionist does takes the life and there isn’t afterward.

    Excuse me? Don’t you realise that the woman is alive before the doctor performs an abortion, and is still alive afterwards? Are you seriously describing a pregnant woman as “not life”?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Hello, without the right to life, there is no women’s rights, no
    talk about rights and dignity itself, do you get the drip, Mr. Edinburgh?

    Of course, That’s why I’m pro-choice. The right to life, health, and wellbeing is key to all women’s rights, which is why the right to choose abortion is essential and must be protected against those who would set a woman’s right to life at naught – prolifers.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     I agree.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “What has the government do with this? It was a management decision.”

    By the NHS, which is primarily funded by tax money.

    > “The misinformation is defined quite easily”

    Not supposed to happen in a free society. The government is supposed to allow free flow of information, instead of punishing people who pass information the government considers to be wrong.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     That was figurative.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    That is what you should ask yourself.

    I do not lie.

  • Acleron

    Can you point to any link between government and the implementation of a management decision? We are not living in a totally controlled society such as a religion, fortunately. Even if you are funded by tax-payers money doesn’t mean that every movement you make is controlled by someone else.

    And stop trying the ‘passing on information’ shtick, if the management claim is correct, she was lying to a colleague, this was a piece of propaganda and as such has to be stopped. 

    In your world it appears it is quite ok to lie but in a clinical situation that is extremely unethical. Society has moved on from delusions having ascendency over facts.

  • Ronishort


  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    But why this indifference to the life and potential of the pregnant woman? Isn’t she an individual who doesn’t deserve to be bludgeoned or dismembered,. who deserves to live her life?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye


  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Give one example.

  • theroadmaster

    I mean’tthe corrosive effectsof value-free sex in the conextof a promiscuous lifestyle, facilitated by contraception, as opposed to the selfless giving of a couple to eachother within marriage.T

  • Sweetjae

    Its not spiritual arrogance my friend, didn’t you read the context of my post, of course ultimately God is the one who he will be rejected or not, rather in the premise of what the rules and regulations are that logicallly follows IF a person joins a club and knowing full well that one of the rules of that club is that “X” is prohibited yet he still do it, then the club has the right to expel him. Similarly applied to the church he’s joining into.

  • maideqi


  • Fides_et_Ratio

     The above is commercial spam! Please delete it.

  • Neil Addison

    Do you have a source for this quote so we can check if it is accurate.

  • whytheworldisending

    There were germans who were “disciplined” for refusing to take part in massacres of jews. We fought to free Europe from one kind of totalitarian anti-faith fanaticism, apparently only to replace it with another.

  • Ronk

    1. The USA case has nothing to do with employers imposing anything on their employees. It’s about governments forcing employers to act against their consciences in their OWN actions. Just  the same as the government is doing to people here.
    2. Contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients  are freely and cheaply available. No employee is going to “miss out” on them because his employer won’t pay for them.
    3. If an employee doesn’t like his employer’s moral principles, he is free to quit and get a job elsewhere. Especially when a large majority of other employers do not have such moral qualms. It’s not reasonable for a government to say to health care workers, in a country where the government has nationalised the entire health care industry , “if you don’t like being forced to do things which you believe are immoral for you to do, you are welcome to emigrate overseas which is the only way you’ll find another employer in the career to which you have devoted many years of training and experience, or else go get a job as a garbage collector.”