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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?

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > Can you specify any example of this?

    Your attack on prolifers as “terrorists”.

    > “My point, which you refuse to address, is that you are using violent and abusive language which encourages terrorism.”

    I am calling a spade a spade. And I don’t see you attacking anti-racists for using violent and abusive language.

    > “The prolife movement didn’t really get going till after 1980, though”

    The Catholic Church had been active in the pro-life movement since much before that.

    > “Arson and bombings are still a threat for every clinic which provides abortions. The most recent clinic fire-bombed was in Wisconsin, just a month ago.”

    Provide context. Compare the crime rate of abortion mills with that of gas stations and tell me if there is any significant difference.

    > “Another of your nasty analogies, like comparing women’s conscience to
    men’s violence”

    Abortion is not about conscience, it is about life. You keep repeating that word and don’t even try to answer the points I make.

    > “comparing women staying alive and healthy”

    False, bald-faced lie. I have already said many times, and it is a well known fact, that >90% of abortions are done for social reasons, and much of the remaining 10% are done for eugenics.

    > “If you want to discuss racism, let’s discuss the racism of the pro-life movement, and its ideological links with slaveowners, shall we?”

    For God’s sake! It is impressive that you have the gall to confess authorship to that thing!

    It is a puerile hatefest, in which you abandon all logic and concentrate on ridiculing, vilifying, libeling, and attacking your opponents – and don’t _even touch_ on their arguments.

    You could be better informed if you had checked freaking Wikipedia:

    “In her book The Pivot of Civilization, she advocated coercion to prevent the “undeniably feeble-minded” from procreating”

    The pivot of your “analysis” consists of pointing out that some slave owners restricted abortion in their female slaves, and therefore pro-lifers are tantamount to slave-holders!

    For God’s sake, do you actually think like that?

    You should know that Adolph Hitler was a strong vegetarian, fanatically anti-smoking, and anti-Marxism.

    Therefore, by your logic, vegetarianism, anti-smoking and anti-Marxism have ideological roots in Nazism.

    Therefore, your logic is so wrong it is not even funny.

  • Oconnord

    “You support people to be fired for having a conscience”.

    So I’m sure you would support American nuns, and Irish and Austrian priests, Fides.

    Or are you allowed to support a Thought Police if they wear the correct robes and mutter the proper Latin incantations. Rather than faith and reason….. What’s the Latin for pot and kettle I wonder? 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     You have once again lied through your teeth.

    The Church does not want to restrict free speech or religion, so your attack has no resemblance to reality.

    And the case of Margaret Forrester is a human rights violation – a government entity clamping down verboten speech.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Straw man, bald-faced lie.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     False analogy.

    The Church is a non-governmental organization, so she has as much right to fire employees who public attack its teaching than Greenpeace has the right to fire an employee who defends wiping out the Amazon Forest.

    If you are a Greenpeace employee and suddenly you find out that you hate forests and want them all down, and you will publicly campaign for it, the ethical thing to do is to leave Greenpeace and seek employment elsewhere. In the same vein, if you are a Catholic nun and you suddenly find out that you cant give a **** to unborn babies, then the ethical thing to do is to leave the Church and seek employment in Planned Parenthood or whatever.

    Private organizations have the right to do this because the employees are free to seek employment elsewhere. But if the government decides hat your ideas are unacceptable, then you are pretty much hopeless.

  • Oconnord

    I don’t know whether the American Nuns, or Irish and Austrian priests case will ever go through the courts; but it could well be another warning for the catholic laity. Truly, we have come to a desperate pass in these countries: the laity’s worries about the “dictatorship” of Papalism 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?
    A simple edit can show a different side, one more truthful to the worries of the “christian” populace.

  • Oconnord

    Staying well away from the morals here, but order and chaos in society are both needed. Order leads to atrophy and even decadence when left unchallenged. Change by way of revolution and rebellion is needed sporadically though it can of course lead to chaos. No society can exist for long with only one, instead they cycle between the two…. And civilisations rise and fall. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     The people who actually go to Mass and try to live Catholicism are ever more fond of the Pope.

    The heterodox clergy and religious are geriatric and dying quickly. New priests and seminarians are quite orthodox and love the Holy See.

  • Oconnord

    It doesn’t matter whether you consider him a catholic…. it doesn’t even matter if he considers himself catholic. The church, (Pope, Vatican and Magisterium et al), insist he is catholic. As they haven’t killed any heretics for a while, removed the option of defecting and made clear that even if excommunicated, once baptised YOU ARE CATHOLIC….. 

    The only term they used is lapsed. 

  • Oconnord

    My analogy was not exact, that’s the nature of analogies but you just added more which muddies the water even further.

    “The Church is a non-governmental organization, so she has as much right to fire employees/clergy/religious.”

    Only true if it is not accepting govt./ secular funding. Or acting against the rights of those employees as citizens of a secular state. The same would apply to a group like Greenpeace. But you admit that an organisation can fire someone who acts against it’s ethos.

    “Private organizations have the right to do this because the employees are free to seek employment elsewhere. But if the government decides hat your ideas are unacceptable, then you are pretty much hopeless”

    The NHS is hardly private, but Ms. Forrester’s chances of regaining employment would have been far better than those of a nun or priest. I do fully accept that no one has been “fired” yet, and I add that that is unlikely in the case of priests. The nuns are far more worried though.

    Perhaps a better analogy is needed. If an employee at a catholic hospital in the US, one of the many who never carry out terminations, was seen to hand a receptionist an unbalanced pro-abortion leaflet, would that person be fired? I think you already know.

    Case in point being an employee who hands out unbalanced literature of a medical nature at a medical practice which runs against it’s ethos risks being fired.

  • teigitur

    Ah, so they just develop into humans. So a newborn is a fully developed human, or a toddler, or a teenager? Is it not the case that from conception we are all at different stages of humanity? After all, after conception, nothing but food and oxygen are added. So exactly when, at what point do they suddeny become human?

  • teigitur

    Thinks thats pretty well coverd by”Thou shalt love thy neighbour as yourself”

  • teigitur

    Ah if only…..Auto Da Fe!!

  • teigitur

    Oh please drop the victim act, you are well able to fight your corner. Invariably wrong of course, but no shrinking violet.

  • teigitur

    Whats with the “we” Damo. You a faithful son of the Church all of a sudden?

  • JabbaPapa

    He’ll probably just quote back at you the opinions of a pagan of 5th century BC as if they were Christian Scripture…

  • JabbaPapa

    If it was so “obvious”, why then did you pretend not to understand in the first place ?

  • JabbaPapa

    You’re the one who’s not only rather violently rejecting Catholic teachings, but teaching these uncatholic views of yours in order to try and convince others of them — now THAT’S what I would call “shameful”, personally — and you should not be surprised when Catholics blame, sometimes quitye severely, you for publicly promoting these heresies and apostasies of yours, and your description of them as “catholic”.

  • JabbaPapa

    No — SORRY !!! — you have described abortion as a “moral good” — he’s clearly dead centre in his objections to your evil teachings !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    That opinion has nothing whatsoever to do with a) Christianity b) the topic of this discussion thread.

  • JabbaPapa

    It has been claimed in here, by someone describing himself as “catholic”, that abortion is a “moral good”.

    Moral good in relationship to pregnancy is childbirth, in that the child is the only good that can come out of pregnancy in and of itself. Some secondary goods and evils, rights and wrongs, may exist in *relation* to the pregnancy, but of its own and considered apart from any other factors, the ONLY good in pregnancy is the child.

    The loss of that child, for whatever reason, by stillbirth, miscarriage, unviability, theft, murder, is therefore the precise opposite of whatever good exists in pregnancy.

    The deliberate murder of that child whilst still in the womb is not only a horrendously evil sin in itself, but it also destroys everythng of good in the pregnancy itself. Rather than being a “moral good”, it is very easily seen that abortion is intrinsically disordered and evil, in the gravest and most serious manner.

    Artificial termination is therefore only morally licit in the full sense where the life of that child can be determined as having already been lost, for whichever medical reasons, and where continuation of the unviable pregnancy is putting the mother at risk for her own life — but even then, the abortion is NOT a “good” ; it is an _evil_ that the child’s life should be terminated even when that life is unviable ; but it is a “good” that the mother’s life be saved via medical intervention, and health care.

    These are the teachings of the Catholic Church — these are what such a “catholic” as JB24 is outright denying and teaching against. Shame !!!

  • ms Catholic state

    You are a messenger of Satan then.  And to him you will go.  Satan awaits. 

  • ms Catholic state

    No.  You cannot take an innocent life to save another. Our lives are (or should be in all civilised societies) ringfenced when we are young…..and when we are older they are still ringfenced….but we can voluntarily sacrifice them for the sake of another.  As Christ God Himself said….No greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friend.

    Many women do this every day.  God sees and knows their sacrifice.

  • ms Catholic state

    Totally wrong.  The universe is highly ordered…..and works beautifully.  Revolution and rebellion are the hallmarks of Satan….and he is only capable of destruction.  Societies can last forever….if they follows the laws of God and remain faithful to Him.  If not….then their destruction is inevitable, courtesy of Satan.

    Only evil societies have time limits . 

  • ms Catholic state

    Though of course all societies will come to an end on the Last Day.

  • ms Catholic state

    Abortion is evil and a murderous assault on a child.  Those who promote it have blood on their hands and will answer for it.  Just a timely warning. 

  • EdinburghEye

    I think even you don’t think like that.

    What, you think it’s moral to tell lies?

    Well, yes, you may well do. But I think a woman who’s deciding to have an abortion deserves clear accurate information – which the prolife movement invariably legislate against, if they can – and proper support to make the decision right for her.

    If Margaret Forrester was unable to do that, she shouldn’t have been in that job.

    Based on your posts, it seems that you support encoding ideology into
    law, so that PC ideas are promoted while unPC ideas are considered
    “lethal”, “lies”, and their proponents punished.

    Ad hominem abuse, and straw man.

    It is prolifers who support encoding ideology into law.

  • EdinburghEye

     Honestly, I’m rather horrified that not one of them can drop their ferocious attack for long enough to wish your wife well.

    I’m about to go out – hope you’re having a lovely day, wherever you are!

  • ms Catholic state

    Abortion is always an evil.  And those who believe that to injure and kill the least of Christ’s little ones is ‘good’, better be prepared for Hell .

  • EdinburghEye

     I am merely saying that all humans should stop hurting innocent people,

    Yet you advocate hurting women. You advocated forcing a raped nine-year-old girl through pregnancy and childbirth on the grounds that she might survive.

    Is that raped girl not an innocent person, who does not deserve to be hurt?

  • EdinburghEye

     Lack of context. The Church is a non-governmental organization,
    therefore it has the right to only employ people who share its values

    The NHS is a non-governmental organisation, and yet you are arguing that it does not have the right to only employ people who share its values.

  • EdinburghEye

     Thank you for clarity.

    ..but we can voluntarily sacrifice them for the sake of another.

    The key word there is voluntarily. For a woman to voluntarily choose to die in pregnancy – which will, of course, ensure that the fetus she is gestating dies too – she must have safe, legal access to abortion on demand.

    If she does not have this access, she isn’t choosing to die from pregnancy, she’s being forced.

    Could you clearly explain why it’s better in your view that where abortion can save a woman’s life, it’s actually better in your eyes for her and the fetus to die?

  • Nicolas Bellord

    A baby, a foetus, a conceptus are all human beings.  Killing an innocent human being is gravely wrong.

  • LocutusOP

    This is exactly why (well, one of many reasons) many have argued against nationalised healthcare systems.

  • ms Catholic state

    I can’t explain any clearer.  Doctors should strive to save both lives and should never take an innocent life. 

    And as far as I know….abortion is never needed to save a woman’s life.   

  • EdinburghEye

     And as far as I know….abortion is never needed to save a woman’s life.     

    Well, now you know better.

    There are lethal complications in pregnancy which can kill a woman if the pregnancy is not terminated.

    So, again: why do you feel it’s better, when a woman’s dying and her life can be saved by an abortion, to stand aside and let the woman die and the fetus die inside her? Why are two deaths better than one?

  • EdinburghEye

     Not at all. You have made an assertion, that the Catholic Church considers it OK to perform an abortion if doing so saves the woman’s life.

    This is explicitly contradicted by several bishops out in the world and by several Catholics on this thread – Ms Catholic State, for example.

    I’m presuming you’re basing your assertion on some source of information that I don’t have, that those bishops didn’t have or went against, and that (for example) Ms Catholic State isn’t aware of.

    So: what is that information source? Cite it.

  • EdinburghEye

     And what of your earlier clarity that this ought to be voluntary?

    have you changed your mind about this, too?

  • EdinburghEye

     So again: it’s evil to save a woman’s life by performing an abortion? In the case of a child made pregnant by rape, who would be injured or killed by trying to carry a pregnancy to term, you think a doctor who performs an abortion on the raped child to save her life – and any future chance the child has of children – “better be prepared for Hell”?

  • EdinburghEye

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

    Why do you find your own views so hateful that when I discuss them. you accuse me of “attacking straw men”?

    Why do you accuse me of lying, when I have written only and absolutely the truth?

  • la catholic state

    Let’s hear from an honest doctor shall we?!  I don’t trust pro-aborts.  It seems they love abortion for its own sake.  Very very dangerous and wicked.

  • markbob

    Hello EdinburghEye. This link has some useful information:

  • la catholic state

    Of course not.  Why would I change my mind.  It is never right to take the life of an innocent person…even to save another.  Unless the person chooses to sacrifice their lives….even then no direct action may be taken to kill that person.

  • la catholic state

    Of course. You cannot take innocent life to save another. Would it be evil to take the mother’s life to save the child?!  Yes…unless consent was given…and even then no direct action could be taken to kill the mother..  However as far as I know abortion is never needed to save a mother’s life.

    If a child can get pregnant….they can carry to term.  If not….then there is always the choice of a caesarean.  But you do not kill innocent human life.  You strive to save all.  That is the sign of a good doctor.

  • JByrne24

    “trolling” you say – as in troll?
    me. Really
    you do!

  • JByrne24

    Well I’m pleased that the administrator has removed the abusive posting.

    And I note your comments and believe that I have understood your views etc on this matter. However, I really don’t think that you, and many others, have understood mine.

    This is probably much more my fault than yours and that of some others, as my writing abilities on such a topic as this are very limited.

  • Charles Martel

    Hello, atheist. No, it was not a frivolous or nasty comment. It was a bald statement of fact. I didn’t say ‘women’ were murdering their babies; I said the NHS were. Read my post again. And no, I’m not homosexual. I like women very much.

  • JByrne24

    I didn’t “pretend”. I really thought that he meant “gal” for girl.

    Surely you can accept this as it ties in nicely with me being an inferior life form to all the Grand Theologians on the website.
    (Ah…if I only had a brain like theirs’)

  • JByrne24


  • JByrne24