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Scottish midwives lose legal battle not to assist in abortions

By on Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Two senior midwives from Glasgow have lost their battle not to assist in abortions following a court ruling.

In a judgment handed down today from the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lady Smith ruled that the midwives must accept the decision of their hospital management to oversee other midwives who are performing abortions on the labour ward.

The midwives in the case, Miss Mary Doogan and Mrs Connie Wood, argued that they had never been required to supervise abortion procedures in the past, and that the hospital was asking them to be morally, medically and legally responsible for abortions.

Although they said that this conflicted with their profound objection to abortions, Lady Smith said that the midwives involved were not protected by the conscience clause of the Abortion Act.

Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said he was “deeply concerned” by today’s Court of Session ruling. He said: “I view this judgement with deep concern. I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience. It is fundamental to the functioning of society that all citizens act in accordance with an informed conscience.

“Any law or judgement which fails to recognise this contradicts that most basic freedom and duty which we all have as human beings, namely to follow our conscience and act accordingly.” He said that any “assault on this principle undermines the very basis of the law itself and society’s moral cohesion, which the law should seek to guarantee.”

The Society for Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) also expressed their disappointment with the decision.

Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC said: “We are very disappointed by the judgment. SPUC has supported the midwives in bringing their case, and will now be considering their further legal options with them.”

Commenting on the ruling by the Edinburgh Court of Session in the case of Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said: “The case is yet another example of the way in which the UK Courts are interpreting s9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Religion) in the most limited and restrictive way possible.

“The courts have not hesitated to use the convention to protect murderous terrorists but have refused to use it two midwives who do not want to kill unborn children.

“What is more surprising is the extremely restrictive interpretation the judge has put on the Conscientious Objection clause in s4 of the Abortion Act.

“As the judge has interpreted it believing Catholics, Muslims and others will ever be able to take any form of supervisory or management role as midwives or nurses unless they are willing to be complicit in the provision of abortions.

“This decision is in stark contrast to recent decisions in the United States’ courts which have applied the American First Amendment to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists who refused to dispense the morning-after pill.”

  • Oconnord

    I did not “go on about pay rises.” I made a valid point in the last paragraph of a three paragraph comment. They had two choices once they decided their positions were untenable, explain to their HR managers that their posts as senior midwives went against their conscience, so could they have asked to go back to their previous posts which were morally acceptable to them.

    They took the second choice which was to look for privileged treatment . Do you think that movement of senior midwives between different wards is not standard practice? Do you think that during their careers that they often saw senior midwives moving between these wards? Were they being naive to think the same practice wouldn’t apply to them. Or were they being arrogant in demanding that SOP’s would not apply to them? In fact then taking a Human Right’s complaint so that it would not apply to them. Hardly the act of angelic nurses.

     ” Lady Smith judged that concientious objection was not unqualified. It says nothing like that in the act, there is no qualification, she has just created one.”

    Can you send me a link to “the act” as why you are right as opposed to Lady Smith. Because it seems obvious that it has to be qualified otherwise it would lead to stupid “slippery slope” arguments. The right not to treat a woman after an abortion would have no time frame. Once a women had a termination catholic nurses could then refuse to treat her for her life. That’s why the plaintiffs and indeed the headline were incorrect, these women were not asked to assist in abortions, plain simple fact.

  • Mdavies11

    Harry McCracken posted that the NHS “may choose not to employ Catholics”. That’s illegal discrimination. Harry also posted “What about having respect for the law as it stands.” Presumably you’d support a prosecution of the NHS employers in such a case. Given that you respect the law so much.

  • Anonymous

    The report, as worded here, comes from a biased perspective. For an alternative view visit:-

    This is to me a more balanced and fair representation of the facts. Catholics seem to enjoy posing as victims and spinning every event where their opinions conflict with the law as persecution.

    The law exists for us all, and it is applied fairly and without favour. You can campaign to change it, but in the meantime must obey it. If you feel it is being misapplied then by all means take your case to a court but, as in this case and in so many other similar recent ones, when you have lost then accept it as the expressed will of the majority. Catholics need to reflect long and hard about the fact that they are losing these type of cases and why. We don’t live in a theocracy any longer and they need to realise it.

  • Wendy Webb

     So, are you suggesting that murder is wrong only under a theocracy?

  • Anonymous

    I really don’t see any sense in your reply. Murder is wrong whichever form of government exits. What has this got to do with midwives and their right to conscientious objection?

    We already know that many Catholics equate a legal abortion with murder. Society as a whole does not agree but allows those with such a belief to not be actively involved. The ruling merely gave some structure to that, and drew the line in the sand beyond which conscientious objection could not be claimed. Quite right too. We cannot allow people to use such objections carte blanche. Down that road lies anarchy.

  • Amkennedypayen

    I would just like to say that I think it is wrong that these two midwives should be forced to assist in abortions.

  • TreeOfLifeSword

    Time for the Catholic Church to pull away from the world and only hire those who follow the tenets of Cathilicism faithfully. We have to circle the wagons, Bishops. These fine women should be offered a job with the Church. Those who are sick or the filth, lies and murder I. The world are welcome to join us–faithfully.

  • MC hammers

    The Catholic Church has to circle the wagons. Only hire and serve those who agree to uphold the tenets of our Church. The world is beyond help right now. We must give others an escape route and build a sub society (Amish-like, in a way). The more connected we are to the fallen the more they are trying to take us to hell with them. The Church and Bishops should offer these women employment to save them from this coercive environment.

  • paulsays

    All though I agree with abortion mostly. I think is very wrong to force people who disagree to take part, after all these nurses trained to help birth babies – and to do otherwise will certainly be against their instinct.

  • Lake

     I agree with Charles Martel people should only speak to those who already agree with them.

  • Lake

     Charles you genius; you are so right! We should never try to talk to people who disagree with us! Everyone should just read websites which reinforce their opinions and never attempt to challenge themselves intellectually! You truly are an intellectual giant Charles; Socrates is a small fry compared to the likes of you.

  • Bert455

    Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’ Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.’

  • Bert455

    …from an Abortion survivor,
    Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’
    Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.’

  • an Abortion survivor

    …from an Abortion survivor, Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’ Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.’

  • Anniebambino

    These two midwives have chosen their own stance. The Catholic Church did not chose it for them. They are prepared to lose their jobs and put up with a tirade of abuse to defend what they believe to be right. They are neither impressionable nor fanciful. 

  • mike

    Its time for them to quit and find a new line of work. Jesus will provide. They have Nothing to fear.