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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?

  • Tridentinus

    Alas, logical argument with you is utterly futile.

  • Tridentinus

    Alas, logical argument with you is utterly futile, I’m sorry to say. Most people on here probably would agree.

  • teigitur

    Its always serious when someone dies at the hands of another. Though you do not seem to think so. Its just subjective to you.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     First, I didn’t call her “gal”.
    Second, this sort of appeal to authority is an exceedingly weak argument.

  • JByrne24

    We too have for some years been the Bank of Mum & Dad. Currently (fingers crossed) only the Bank for one of them. Yes, our children’s lives can be difficult for obvious reasons.
    I should have said “of death”, for, as I also said: “I don’t know what is going to happen to me” (eventually) – and the uncertainty naturally gives rise to the fear that you mention – especially as the stakes are, to say the least, so very high.
    I also fear the actual process of dying (the Liverpool Pathway and Death on The NHS etc) too.
    I would choose euthanasia if I had the option, and if the need arose. It would too, I think, be a charitable action releasing my family from a drawn-out period of anxiety and also releasing resources for the benefit of the young – including baby human beings and their mothers.

  • teigitur

    Well I am sorry to be your reality check, but nothing of the sort is obvious from your former comments.

  • teigitur

    In what catagory would you place the unborn? as you clearly do not consider them human.

  • theroadmaster

    So the totalitarian, subjective mindset of a relativistic, ideological conformity continues to infest public bodies.  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.   Let us hope that when the case of the lady concerned reaches the High Court, that the presiding Judge(s) recognize the applicability of the relevant Articles, enshrined in the Human Rights Act(1998), to the situation that is under discussion.  We need landmark cases to be decided in favour of those people, who have been disadvantaged by a misapplication and abuse of ant-discriminatory legislation, because of their Faith principles

  • teigitur

    Its an industry, state funded in many countries, and has “offices” and “officers” almost everywhere. Planned Parenthood. BPAS.Marie Stopes, etc

  • theroadmaster

    Since when is the destruction of nascent life in the womb “healthcare”?  Not for the developing child, that is for sure.  That is a blatant misuse of the term and abortions are carried on average far more for “social reasons” than for any alleged dangers to health.

  • maryclare

    Oh please do stop trolling about, we who remain faithful Catholics ARE being very serious about the matter.

  • theroadmaster

    With better maternal health-care procedures,these shocking figures can be reduced.  Destroying the life in the womb as a first resort is barbaric and this type of activity certainly is”inhumane,misogynistic(contrary to the best interests of the woman), compassionless”

  • Tridentinus

     Maybe it did offer an unbalanced and one-sided view but who is Claire Murdoch to decide that NHS staff would be offended by it. Nothing but a totally Fascist reply.

  • teigitur

    Three words spring to mind, pot, kettle and black

  • Tridentinus

     Wow, are we supposed to be impressed by that news.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    No, this is the 20th time that you have lied through your teeth because you have no argument.

    I simply say that the right to life, the right of an innocent person not to be murdered, is the first human right. All other rights are subordinate to it. Without life, no other right can be exercised, so the right to life is the principal right. Not _women_ neither _men_ have the right to kill. Got it? Women and men have the same right to kill unborn babies: none. Abortion is as bad as a bank robber killing his hostages.

    Every time I say this, you simply change the subject, invent the assertion “women have no right to use her reason and conscience”, put it in my mouth, and then attack that straw man.

    Reason and conscience give no one the right to kill; for example, a communist’s conscience might tell him to kill counter-revolutionaries, his Marxist philosophy approves and in fact mandates it, but he still has no right. Because killing political enemies would violate human rights.

    If you had any logical reason to defend abortion, you would show us that reason, instead of lying again and again.

  • theroadmaster

    A foetus is a human life in transition.  We all reached that stage as our lives progressed in the womb.  You seem to thing of a human foetus as a meaningless, neutral object, devoid of value.   It is this sort of thinking that dehumanizes life and makes it easier to snuff out.

  • teigitur

    The person turning away from God on here, is in your bathroom mirror in the morning.

  • Charles Martel

     You call yourself a Catholic, JByrne, but you aren’t. Got that? In fact, far from being a Catholic, you don’t accept some very basic natural law concepts, such as the heinousness of murder (the ‘unspeakable crime of abortion’, to quote Vatican II). I don’t believe you are a Catholic grandfather. You are an atheist troll with too much time on his/her hands and a very twisted anti-Catholic agenda. Get a life. Take up bicycling or a musical instrument or something. They are better ways to relieve bitterness than hammering out vicious nonsense on your keyboard.

  • Charles Martel

    JByrne. No, old girl, the charges that may be levelled at you when you leave this world will be quite different to what you suppose. Your soul will hang in the balance over the issue of openly preaching the moral goodness of an unspeakable crime – abortion. Get ready for it. Above all, understand that it is NEVER too late to repent until you die. Do it now.

  • GFFF

     You are objectifying human life; I am not. You are inflicting your puritanical fanaticism on the rest of us. For some reason you cannot face the fact that a baby is a human being. You can’t even use the word. There is life before the abortionist does takes the life and there isn’t afterward. This is the fact of the matter. There is a life which has been snuffed out because it was inconvenient and ideologues like yourself justify it by calling it a disease. You advocate for a raw power over human lives–that is the reality. Apparently you cannot face that.

  • Charles Martel

    I don’t believe for a moment that you are a Catholic grandfather. You most certainly are not a Catholic.
    Just in case you are a grandfather, though, it may be time to start worrying about the eternal fate of your soul. It may hang in the
    balance over the issue of openly preaching the moral goodness of an
    unspeakable crime – abortion. Get ready for it. Above all, understand
    that it is NEVER too late to repent until you die. Do it now. Having said all this, however, I am sure you are just an atheist troll having a good old laugh at how easy it is to annoy Catholics.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Unborn babies are human beings. And the defence of their life has been part of Christian teaching since the 1st-century Didache.


    You are clearly a frivolous man with nothing better to do with your time save write vain, self-projecting comments with no regard for their truth value. A clear case of bad faith and quite frankly you deserve to be shunned by all Christians. Any man who can discuss the killing of unborn children with your levity of tone clearly has serious moral and psychological problems. Good luck with them.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “Straw man”

    False. The grandparent said it explicitly: “Spreading misinformation in a clinical situation is not acceptable, surely you can see this?”
    And the “clinical situation” in this case is a government hospital, and is not a clinical situation at all, but just a chat between two colleagues.

    > That would seem to be what William Oddie is demanding.
    Gratuitous, crystal-clear straw man.

    > “The hospital / medical authorities have determined that a healthcare
    worker was providing misinformation about a medical service.”

    Therefore defining what “misinformation” is, and that hospital is run by the government.

    > “For the hospital / medical authorities to be overruled and told they
    have no right to decide what constitutes medical misinformation because
    the Church says otherwise”

    Double straw man. It is not “because the Church said so”, it is because of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And no one is telling the hospital what is medical information, we are simply demanding the universal right to Free Speech. No one is telling the Hospital to agree with what every employee says, we are telling the Hospital to _allow their employees to speak, even if the hospital disagrees with their ideas_ a.k.a. the human right to free speech.

    > Interesting that when the Church is the employer, you were arguing
    that employees who disagreed with the Church on a point of doctrine
    ought to just change jobs.

    Lack of context. The Church is a non-governmental organization, therefore it has the right to only employ people who share its values – just like Greenpeace would readily fire an employee who started a public campaign for the mass deforestation of the Amazon forest. Now, if an employee of Greenpeace wants mass deforestation, but doesn’t militate public about it, Greenpeace would probably tolerate it. There is a difference between a public campaign and talking to one colleague.
    And if the Church or Greenpeace fires you, you have plenty of other potential employers. But if the NHS fires you, and your talent is in the medical services, you are almost completely hopeless.

    > But when the healthservice is the employer

    You mean when the _government_ is the employer. And even private hospitals should allow free speech, because, unlike the Church and Greenpeace, they are not a doctrinal organization. They don’t focus on teaching, so the opinion of their employees is irrelevant. Having an employee with a different viewpoint does not harm their business.

    > “you are now arguing that
    employees who want Church doctrine to override their employer’s medical
    standards ought to get their way.”

    Straw man, bald-faced lie. Chatting with a colleague, which is a _receptionist_, does not violate medical standards.

    > “It’s almost as if your vaunted defense of “religious liberty!” or
    “free speech!” is basically just whatever will allow the Church
    hierarchy to enforce doctrine.”

    Straw man, bald-faced lie with no resemblance to reality.


  • JByrne24

    Thanks EE.
    They are really ganging up aren’t they,
    like a pack of hounds hungry for flesh.
    You can imagine them in the 17th Century having a fine old time.
    No arguments whatsoever, simply the same statement over & over again that abortion must never take place and is always an unspeakable evil. I don’t care if they ignore me – as their comments are simply the above statement with added variable abuse.

  • JByrne24

    I’m sure you know the answer to your question already: they are foetuses (not foeti) which can normally develop into human babies.

  • JByrne24

    The Trust CEO says that Ms Forrester distributED the booklet.
    We will know if that is true in due course.

  • JabbaPapa

    Deny Catholic teaching as much as you’re capable of, but don’t do so in the name of Catholicism !!

    Your attitude is an utter disgrace !!

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    First, this is the first time I see you asking this.

    Second, are you mad? People and institutions are innocent until proven guilty. I don’t have to provide the evidence you want.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     It doesn’t say she “distributed” for more than one person.

  • JabbaPapa

    Your evil teachings have nothing to do with the Catholic Faith.

    I’m starting to agree with those calling you an atheist troll, are you one of those obnoxious Telegraph crowd ?

  • JByrne24

    That is described as “a reply” to my posting. But it isn’t.

    It is pure abuse, calling me: a liar, an atheist, a troll, twisted,…etc, with sneering remarks about possible part-time hobbies or activities, probably written for abuse and the cheap entertainment of some fellow posters who share your attitudes.  Shame on you.

  • JByrne24

    You obviously meant “gall” and left out the second “l”. (A “gal” can be slang for a girl).

    Definition: : GALL:  brazen boldness coupled with impudent assurance and insolence

  • JByrne24

    She possibly just might know a great deal about what actually happened,
    and  was doing her job. Fascist ?

  • Fides_et_Ratio


  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Knowing what happened is one thing, respecting human rights is another. This isn’t the first time that pro-life people have been sacked for their views.

    And yes, fascist.

  • EdinburghEye

    In [countries where abortion is legal], the story is very different.

    Fixed that for you.

    But even so, there is no country, anywhere in the world, where the maternal mortality/morbidity rate is zero.

    Straw man, ad hominem, shameful.

    How so? In other comments, you’ve compared a woman’s access to healthcare with a man’s crime of rape. You routinely trivialise and deny the risks of pregnancy. You brutally suggested a nine-year-old girl should be forced through pregnancy after rape.

  • EdinburghEye

     With better maternal health-care procedures,these shocking figures can be reduced.

    Exactly so. Better maternal healthcare procedures includes abortion, legal, safe, and accessible.

  • EdinburghEye

     Why so? Prolifers are awfully fond of denying that pregnancy actually does anything, but the plain fact is: a conceptus, a fetus, are not the same as a baby.

    The notion that every woman who has an abortion is a murderer who should be in jail, is an extraordinarily inhumane idea.

  • EdinburghEye

    Indeed, and so why are they murdering those of us who haven’t yet been born?

    A frivolous and nasty comment. You don’t like women, do you, since you accuse so many of them of being murderers…

    By the way, research in the US has established that Catholic women have abortions at about the same rate as anyone else.

    But no, I am not Catholic. I am an atheist.

  • EdinburghEye

    Since when is the destruction of nascent life in the womb “healthcare”?

    Wherever the health and wellbeing of women is regarded as important, abortion is treated, as it should be, as healthcare.

    You may regard a woman’s health as merely “alleged”, but true healthcare professionals feel differently.

  • EdinburghEye

     I don’t have to provide the evidence you want.

    You do if you expect me to believe you.

  • EdinburghEye

     I simply say that the right to life, the right of an innocent person not to be murdered, is the first human right.

    And you do not apply that human right to women.

  • Oconnord

    I’d put the secular law forbidding the rape of children above the first four commandments, which protect the ego of a petty, jealous god.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    I can’t believe you think like that.

    You invent an accusation, and the burden is on me to prove innocence?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     > In all three instances, pregnancy can prove so lethal or destructive
    to the woman that the only way to preserve her health or life is to
    terminate the pregnancy.”

    “Terminate the pregnancy” is euphemism for dismembering the unborn baby alive, then throw him away as medical trash.

    In the astronomically unlikely scenario that a woman cannot sustain a
    pregnancy without endangering her life even with good health care, it is
    possible to wait as long as medically possible, then induce early
    labor. Then all care should be taken to try to preserve the unborn baby,
    even if his chances are very slim (sometimes it happens that a miracle
    baby survives against all odds). He also should get a baptism and, if he
    dies, be respectfully buried.

    In short, respect both patients.

    > “It’s amazing how keen pro-lifers are to mutilate women rather than allow women to choose abortion.”

    Will you _please_ stop attacking straw men and lying through your teeth? Do you have no shame?

    In the scenario I gave, the woman _has no medical choice_ but to have her womb extracted, because her womb is cancerous!

    For God’s sake! You seem completely unable to use logic, you attack straw men after straw men.

    I try to be polite, but this repeated behavior is revolting.

  • Rohan

    Not right. They are human beings who are developing, as nature intended, into adults.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > In [countries where abortion is legal], the story is very different.

    Another lie.
    Chile has one of the strongest anti-abortion legislations of Latin America, and it happens to have the greatest HDI in the region.

    “The evidence from Chile, however, clearly indicates that maternal
    mortality continued to fall even when abortion became more restricted.
    This provides very solid evidence that increases in the educational
    level of women and improvements in maternal-health facilities are
    responsible for the decline in the maternal mortality rate. Furthermore,
    Poland, Malta, and Ireland, where abortion is restricted, have among
    the lowest maternal-mortality rates in Europe. All in all, this research
    provides very good evidence that access to abortion has had little to
    do with improved public-health outcomes for women.”

    >How so? In other comments, you’ve compared a woman’s access to
    healthcare with a man’s crime of rape.

    False. Straw man. Lie. I have compared the intentional dismemberment of unborn babies, followed by throwing them in the trash, with the crime of rape.

    > “You routinely trivialise and deny
    the risks of pregnancy.”

    No, I just state the known fact that > 90% of abortions are done for social reasons, and a large percentage of the remaining 10% are done for eugenics.

    > “You brutally suggested a nine-year-old girl
    should be forced through pregnancy after rape.”

    You brutally suggest that two completely innocent months-old unborn babies should be dismembered alive, then thrown away as medical trash, because of the crime of their father.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    She gave one pamphlet, to a _colleague_ (not a patient, not a client), who was a _receptionist_, who _did not complain_, and she was then punished for expressing verboten ideas.

    If she had been punished for advocating more sex-change operations, leftists would be rioting in the streets.