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If healthcare professionals can no longer opt out of abortion, a vital pro-life witness will die. The two Glasgow midwives need our support: here’s how

These brave women have taken their cause to the Supreme Court in London. This is now a vital test case. SPUC have taken on the costs: they urgently need our financial help

By on Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, where Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, were employed as “labour ward co-ordinators” (PA)

The Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, where Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, were employed as “labour ward co-ordinators” (PA)

Earlier this year, two midwives, both Catholics, won (or so they thought) a legal battle to avoid taking any part in abortion procedures. Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, were employed as “labour ward co-ordinators” at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. They had lost a previous case against the NHS in Glasgow. At a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the judge, Lady Smith, had ruled against them, pronouncing that “Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy”. In other words, their human rights had not been violated by a requirement that they supervise arrangements for abortions to be carried out, since they were not directly involved in carrying out the abortions themselves.

They launched an appeal. Their counsel, Gerry Moynihan, QC told the court that since the women were part of a team, their right to conscientious objection extended to the whole of their duties, save for the provision that there was an obligation to participate in life-saving measures. He argued that there was clear legal authority that the right to conscientious objection was intended to apply to the whole team whose involvement was necessary to achieve the procedure. Mr Moynihan said that because the midwives let the administration know of their objection in advance, the health board should manage its staff as a whole to respect their right to conscientious objection.

Both women registered their conscientious objection to participation in pregnancy terminations years ago, but became concerned when all medical terminations were (shockingly, surely) actually moved to the labour ward in 2007. Nationally, it seems, a small but increasing number of abortions are being transferred to labour wards in line with national policies encouraging abortion for disabled babies. Screening and offering abortion for disabled babies is regarded as a cost-effective measure, and hospitals are encouraged to offer tests for disability.

The two Glasgow midwives bravely refused to have anything to do with these policies. They insisted that being called on to supervise and support staff providing care to women having an abortion would amount to ‘’participation in treatment’’ and would breach their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The three Edinburgh Appeal Court judges agreed. They ruled that the midwives’ right to conscientious objection (recognised in the 1967 Abortion Act) against direct involvement in “terminations” indeed meant that they could also refuse to delegate, supervise or support staff involved in abortions. “In our view”, they said, “the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose.”

Mary Doogan issued a statement:

Connie and I are absolutely delighted with today’s judgement from the Court of Session, which recognises and upholds our rights as labour ward midwifery sisters to withdraw from participating in any treatment that would result in medical termination of pregnancy.

In holding all life to be sacred from conception to natural death, as midwives we have always worked in the knowledge we have two lives to care for throughout labour; a mother and that of her unborn child.

Today’s judgement is a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would violate their conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession. It is with great relief we can now return to considerations that are all to do with child birth and midwifery practice and less to do with legal matters.

The two midwives were “absolutely delighted” too soon. Unbelievably, I was going to say, though in these times almost anything has become believable, the Glasgow NHS appealed to the Supreme Court in London. This is now, therefore, an important test case: and this is presumably why the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, SPUC, has undertaken the financial costs of this appeal. At the Supreme Court the appeal will concern the scope of the right to conscientious objection under the Abortion Act 1967 and in particular the decision of the appeal judges that the women’s entitlement to conscientious objection includes the entitlement to refuse to supervise staff in the provision of care to patients undergoing termination.

So this is now a case which concerns all Catholics (indeed, all those involved in the pro-life movement: not only Catholics are concerned) in the United Kingdom: the two midwives’ case is also, now, ours, too. In the words of John Smeaton, SPUC’s National Director, “If we don’t fight back now, legal protection for conscientious objectors could be gravely undermined…. Denying healthcare professionals the right to opt out of abortion will extinguish the vital pro-life witness which must be maintained if we are to see the day when the slaughter is to be stopped”. It will also mean that, in Mary Doogan’s words, Catholics would be debarred “from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession.”

SPUC has bravely undertaken a considerable and risky financial burden, and they have now launched an appeal to help meet their costs. I appeal to my readers to respond generously. The link to donate online is here.

Donors need to click on the drop-down menu and select “Glasgow Midwives Appeal – general”. Or you can do it by telephone. Get out your card and call SPUC HQ on 020 7091 7091.

Why not do it now?

  • teigitur

    This is a very important case, on so many levels.Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  • $81500782

    Done

  • la Catholic state

    I will definitely be contributing to this very worthy cause. It seems the NHS has little or no respect for its Catholic workers and their Faith, yet I bet they are the most conscientious and caring within the organisation. It’s time we Catholics became more aware of the discrimination against them within the NHS….instead of looking at it as some kind of saintly Christian like charity. It isn’t. And the fact that abortions are central to its provisions, doesn’t seem to dim our sanitised notion of this gigantic secular organisation.

    Better treatment of its Christian employees, and respect for the Faith of these stalwarts, is a must for the NHS.

  • $20596475

    “Screening and offering abortion for disabled babies is regarded as a cost-effective measure” By whom? I challenge anyone to provide a shred of evidence to support such an outrageous claim. Screening? Yes. Offering abortion for cost reasons? Never. If that were remotely true no-one in their right mind could support it. A woman might seek an abortion because she fears the costs involved in bringing up a disabled child, but that is very different to it being offered.

    This is indeed an important test case. I will wait to hear all the legal arguments, and what decision is made, before making up my own mind. I can though completely understand why the Glasgow NHS launched their appeal, even if committed “pro-lifers” cannot.

    Now I have a difficult decision to make. Should I send my money to support those in desperate need in the Philippines or to a one issue organisation offering to help two midwives with a particular view of what is right or wrong? Tricky one that, when the first could actually save lives and the second make no difference to anything but someone’s pride.

  • la Catholic state

    The next time we make an appointment at our doctor’s surgery or ante natal clinic etc, we should politely enquire if they have pro life doctors or midwives. We mightn’t get any….but it will show our support for these great medics. And who knows…we may even be lucky.

  • rjt1

    One can send to both.

  • $20596475

    Only if your resources are unlimited!

  • LocutusOP

    If you believe that “charity begins at home” then you should send the money to support the midwives.

  • $20596475

    I don’t. I believe we should always support those most in need.

  • PaulF

    But no support from you for the most vulnerable human beings of all, those in the womb. Right?

  • LocutusOP

    I agree with that.

  • TuAutem

    That’s incorrect, unless your resources consist of 1p. Save up to the point when your generosity can reach the 2p level and you’ll be able to give to both causes.

  • guestguy

    Think of the widow who gave all her money to charity… she gave more than all the rest. Jesus was quite fond of her I believe.

  • $20596475

    Of course I offer appropriate support, but as our definition of what is a human being is likely to be different, we are not going to agree on what that means.

  • $20596475

    You are the one whose maths are faulty. Unless the first need has been completely fulfilled your 2p will be best sent to them. Unless you have unlimited resources you must always make choices. You will always be unable to meet every need.

  • $20596475

    Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the point I am making. Being generous is wonderful, but you still have to decide where to target your generosity. Choices must be made.

  • Mr Grumpy

    If I’d thought of defining Filipinos as sub-human I could have saved myself quite a lot of money. Do ACN do refunds?

  • $20596475

    Are you proud of that comment? I thought it was pretty insulting to some really decent people myself! The debate over personhood really should not be trivialised in this way.

  • Shelagh Deakin

    hang on a minute- didn’t you just define a person who isn’t wanted as a sub-human. ? (This is in reply to major calamity below)

  • PaulF

    Thought so.

  • PaulF

    You don’t need to debate personhood at all unless you are trying to sow confusion. It is already well known that personality doesn’t come to fruition until long after birth. Hence we sometimes refer to a baby as ‘it.’
    That babies have not yet developed their personalities does mean we may dismember and dump them. Nor should we try to stop people, as you are doing here, from defending their lives through the nation’s courts.

  • PaulF

    The debate over personhood is a distraction. It is well known that personality does not come to fruition until long after birth.
    That does not mean we are at liberty to dismember babies and dump. Nor does it mean that we should try, as you are doing here, to stop people from defending their lives through the nation’s courts.

  • http://jabbapapa.wordpress.com/ Julian Lord

    Large charities, well-known for their propensity to divert a certain % of funds towards such things as the management of their own organisation, or certain pet causes that they are supporting for political reasons, are unlikely to be the best choice. Even several of the Christian charities are guilty of this.

    Notwithstanding that the true Charity of God must always first be focussed on the needs of those in our own communities who are in need, those with any means to extend that Charity further afield should do so via far smaller organisations, working towards the one specific purpose in the one specific place.

    One should of course avoid providing any funding of any sort to those organisations that one might consider to have any ulterior motives that one could not agree with, and beyond the mere providing of material support, which for any Catholic should include any groups have any links at all with Planned Parenthood, Freemasonry, evangelical Protestantism, or any other such organisations that are tainted by the promotion of any objective evils — the Red Cross being perhaps the most striking counter-example of a large and complex organisation nevertheless focused everywhere squarely on apolitical assistance towards the needy.

  • Magdalene

    We must ALL consider well what are the moral implications of our job situations–medical people most of all. For them, is there a ‘safe’ way to practice medicine that will continue to heal and not to kill? As a pharmacist, I ended my career early because of moral issues. I had a conscience clause for a time but many present governments or businesses do not recognize that any more. I had to quit my job rather than lose my soul. This is what we must keep in mind if any face this issue. The persecution against true Christians, Catholics in particular, is increasing in a number of ways.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Yes, actually, I am. Since I am not the one playing the circular game of invoking “debates” and “definitions” which are in reality driven by the desire to kill.

  • $20596475

    The debate over personhood has nothing to do with the development of a personality. It is to do with when a foetus becomes viable and therefore a person. The “pro-life” position is well understood, and does not require further explanation. Others though take another view, hence the disagreement.

    This action has nothing whatsoever to do with the rights of people “defending lives”. It is to do with how the NHS is managed and at what point conscientious objections become strong enough to overpower an employees obligation to perform their contracted duties.

  • $20596475

    See my reply above as this comment is a duplicate.

  • $20596475

    Then you should be ashamed of yourself. By the way I, and I don’t think anyone who reluctantly accepts that there is sometimes a need for an abortion, have any “desire” to kill. Sometimes difficult choices have to be made. That is my last word on this, as all the arguments have already been put many times.

  • Frank

    Wrong on almost every point and a hopelessly confused but you don’t fool anybody else.

  • $20596475

    I suspect that it is you, and those getting themselves over excited about this case who are actually confused. As I said earlier let’s wait to hear all the legal arguments before reaching a conclusion. I suspect it won’t be centred on what you expect to be.

  • $20596475

    Large charities have the organisation behind them to actually make a difference. The one I work with has operating costs of around 10%. I could do it on my own, and it would not cost a penny, but I would not have the reach!

    Giving money only to those who meet your own criteria in other matters means you are giving with strings attached, because they won’t always be the most effective deliverers of the aid. This means you are putting your own prejudices before your desire to actually help. Much better to put aside such considerations and respond only to need. The idea that you work primarily within your own community means that you are not responding to those whose need is greatest. This doesn’t appear very Christian to me. The organisation I work with now has a large team in the Philippines, but has a larger team in Syria where the need is enormous because so many have been displaced. Public sympathy for the Filipinos is huge. Much less so for the Syrians, but that doesn’t stop the need being there, and therefore being responded to.

    The Red Cross is indeed a worthy recipient, but there are many others whose work is only to help relieve suffering. Mine falls into that category.

  • Nesbyth

    Why not support both causes….and if you haven’t donated to the Phillipines yet but are only thinking about it now, a good two weeks AFTER, I think you have only brought this up as an untrue dilemma of yours.

  • Nesbyth

    I think majorcalamity is trolling. If she/he still hasn’t donated to the Philippines Disaster, which happened a good two weeks ago, then she/he probably has no intention of doing so and is therefore does not have a genuine donation dilemma.

  • Nesbyth

    And what has taken you so long to donate to the Philippines?

  • $20596475

    I see, you aren’t satisfied with just attacking me you now want to criticise the moderator because they also find your comments unacceptable. Don’t you ever reflect on why that might be, or do you always think you are right?

  • $20596475

    We donated immediately and continue to do so. This weekend we have been collecting in 3 local town centres, and held a fund raiser in our local pub on Friday night. My house in the Philippines is now in use as a base for a relief agency. I am doing all I can.

  • $20596475

    See my reply above.

  • $20596475

    My dilemma was sarcasm! See my reply to you above. My wife and I are working our socks off to try to help.

  • prakash

    I do not, for a moment, doubt majorcalamity’s concern for the Philipino victims.

    But, then, “Now I have a difficult decision to make. Should I send my money to
    support those in desperate need in the Philippines or to a one issue
    organisation offering to help two midwives with a particular view of
    what is right or wrong? Tricky one that, when the first could actually
    save lives and the second make no difference to anything but someone’s
    pride.” was troll, obviously.

  • Nesbyth

    Sarcasm is never a good idea! It passed me by.
    You asked a question 4 days ago as to whether or not you should donate to the Philippines. This implied that you hadn’t yet….a good two weeks AFTER the disaster. How was anyone supposed to know that you had done so, or that you and your wife “had been working your socks off” donating??

  • Nesbyth

    In which case why did you pose your question 4 days ago as to which charity to support? This implied that you hadn’t chosen to support either, and that two weeks after the Philippines you were still dithering.

  • $20596475

    There have been a couple of other threads which have discussed this and as I was accused of “boasting” in another, when I described some of the things I was doing, I chose not to elaborate here. I am sure most, if not all, of the regular posters understood that I was replying with my tongue firmly in my cheek but obviously regret you didn’t. Sorry, but you cannot win them all!

  • $20596475

    Please see my other reply, which explains why.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Weasel words from start to finish. I remain unashamed of a comment whose irony was either genuinely lost on you or – I’m more inclined to suspect – just a little too near the knuckle.

  • $20596475

    If you believe that even mentioning Filipinos as being sub-human was “ironic” then you use a different dictionary to me. I realise you weren’t serious but it was still a crass thing to say.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Sorry, I should have spared your feelings by making it clear that Filipinos are only sub-human whilst still in the womb.