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NHS trust drops threat of dismissal against pro-life nurse

By on Wednesday, 4 April 2012

After taking legal advice, the NHS trust has now assigned the nurse to alternative duties (PA photo)

After taking legal advice, the NHS trust has now assigned the nurse to alternative duties (PA photo)

A Catholic nurse threatened with the sack for refusing to work on an abortion ward has won her case without going to court.

The staff nurse, who does not wish to be named, persuaded the NHS trust that employs her that her right to conscientious objection was protected by Section 4 of the 1967 Abortion Act and that she should not be forced to work in a Termination of Pregnancy clinic attached to the hospital.

Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre, the barrister who represented the nurse, also informed the trust in a letter that her conviction that human life began from conception was a “philosophical” and religious belief protected by the 2010 Equality Act and also by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He warned the trust that any attempt to pressure the nurse to change her mind or to suggest to her that her career prospects might suffer would breach laws against harassment and discrimination.

After taking legal advice, the trust, which is in the Midlands, has now dropped its threat of dismissal and assigned the nurse to alternative duties.

The nurse, a married mother-of-two who is in her early 40s, said her ordeal began when she doubled the work she undertook at the hospital from 15 to 30 hours after her three-year-old son began at nursery.

She said she was not informed when she agreed to extra hours that she would be required to fill in at the hospital’s abortion clinic.

Within two months, however, her name was added to the rota and she complained that she could not work in the clinic in good conscience.

Although she was raised a Catholic, she said the sight of an unborn child aborted at 23 weeks when she was working in a hospital in 1999 had also left her convinced that abortion was wrong.

“It is a form of killing, to be honest,” she said. “That’s how I view it. I’m not being judgmental about people. I know there are cases of rape and all sorts of reasons why people do it to end the life of their child, because some way or another they are in a predicament and they see no way out, I suppose, but I just don’t want to participate in it.”

She said that it was pointed out to her that she would not be required to perform the act of abortion but only to prepare women for the procedure.

But she said that in her view that would make her culpable in an act she objected to on grounds of conscience.

The nurse also said that it was put to her by colleagues that other Catholics worked on the abortion ward, one of whom also served as Eucharistic minister in her local church.

“I said: ‘I can’t be responsible for other people’s beliefs. I can only speak for myself’,” the nurse explained.

Mr Addison said that in his opinion the nurse was clearly protected by the conscientious objection clause of the 1967 Act.

He said it was right for nurses to provide medical care on general NHS wards for women who had undergone abortions. But he said to prepare a woman for an abortion would be actively participating in the procedure.

This particular nurse, he said, was being asked to work “unambiguously in the Termination of Pregnancy clinic”.

“It has got to be protected by the [Abortion] Act,” Mr Addison said.

  • Adam Thomson

    Thanks be to God, both for the integrity and courage of this nurse, and for the outcome in God’s good providence!

  • paulsays

    What an insane NHS Trust! – just because the law means that it is legal to get an abortion, does not mean people automatically want to take part in it. Smoking is legal, but that doesn’t mean that the government expects me to start.

    I scoured the rest of the news and failed to find any mention of this story, it would be nice to have a read of the original source of this story – just to see what others have to say.

    I do find it just a tad ironic though, that it is Harriet Harman’s 2010 Equality Act that in fact formed part of the basis of the lawyers case – the same act that was continuously attacked for protecting other rights above the rights of Christians. Maybe next time its best not to so easily jump on the bandwagon.

  • MJCarroll

    Excellent news.

    Maybe the next case of this arising at an NHS trust will be quashed immediately.

    However, it is shocking that the other abortion ward nurse is a Eucharistic minister. This should be challenged and halted immediately. Any member of laity undertaking any duty on the sanctuary  should be living a fully Christian life.

    Having said this, only priests should distribute communion and then, as is the rule, only when there is extenuating circumstances should there be any involvement in distributing communion by a Eucharistic minister.

  • teigitur

    Excellent news.

  • Honeybadger

    Thanks be to God and His Most Holy Mother that this NHS Trust has been brought bang to rights by this judgement!

    Let’s pray fervently for healthcare workers here in the UK and in the USA that our fight for the right to life, our faith and conscience will win.

  • Diane

    Thanks be to god ……that’s what is needed a voice in this situation. The nurse was so right in her opinion, it’s the killing of a child, there is a war on the womb and it’s awful. Rachels wailing is happening as we speak and may the lord have mercy on these women who all too often are given no room for changing their minds and are very rarely told the reality of the aftermath of abortion. Sad times

  • Amkennedypayen

    Well done and congratulations to this nurse. I say that, because I think it’s of the utmost importance to stand by what you truly believe in……no matter what that is !

  • Benedict Carter

    ” … other Catholics worked on the abortion ward, one of whom also served as Eucharistic minister in her local church …”.

    God in Heaven. Has the Church sunk so low? What on earth has happened to people’s understanding (or even knowledge) of the Faith these past decades? A woman participating in murder handling Our Lord’s Body? This is a true scandal, a sacrilege.

    For these reasons the Church ALWAYS barred anyone except the priest touching the consecrated Host. We must go back to that as soon as possible.

  • James

     Yes, it is high time to get rid of the nonsense that is “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion”, there is only one minister of Holy Communion and that is an Ordained Priest…Only his hands have been consecrated to touch the Sacred Host, that is why communion on the hand is an aberration…. How these people can reconcile such beliefs with distributing Holy Communion, I am lost for words to explain.

  • Jsbyde

    This is FANTASTIC news and made this Maundy Thursday even better! The culture of death has no chance against the Culture of Life. Here and in America we are starting to see cases of clear discrimination against Christians being thrown out with the ignomy they deserve. This unnamed but courageous woman deserves the thanks of everyone who believes in religious freedom in particular and freedom in general. God bless her and Happy Easter to you all!

  • Charles Martel

     “Smoking is legal, but that doesn’t mean that the government expects me to start.” Right. Smoking is bad for your health, but it is not murder. Abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. Therefore it must always be illegal and treated as an abomination that no Christian or man of good will may ever participate in. A slight difference, wouldn’t you say?

  • paulsays

    I wasn’t comparing smoking to abortion like that. What I was saying is that the simple legality of something does not make something automatically universally recognized or agreed with.

    Abortion, nor smoking both legal – but it doesn’t mean that all or even the majority of people – want to smoke, or be near smokers, or have an abortion, or participate in an abortion.

  • David

    Common sense prevails. It is a pity it has taken so long.

  • Fr. David

    Mr Carter, Your final statement is inaccurate; deacons have always been allowed to distribute Communion and there is evidence that in some communities of the Early Church it was not unusual for the head of the household to take the “Bread of Life” home so that his family could receive during the week (as we know, daily celebration of the Mass was not a feature for the first 400-500 years or so). I completely agree that reverence for the Sacrament is of paramount importance – but what then of the scandalous minority of priests  who are guilty of sexual abusing children or having sexual affairs?  Even those who are discovered and subjected to canonical penalty (e.g. removed from public ministry) are normaly allowed to celebrate Mass privately and thus touch the Host. I agree with your sentiments, and lay person who is honoured by being commissioned to distribute Communion should be living a solidly Catholic life (as indeed should those who proclaim the Scriptures) but the premise of your last paragraph is very shaky. May this Triduum be a blessing to you and yours.

  • Annie

    It would seem reasonable to examine prospective Extraordinary Ministers to ensure that they accept the teachings of the Church.  As it is now all you have to do is show up and announce you’re interested in being a EM and after a few “how to” classes you’re given the okay to distribute Communion.  

  • Benedict Carter

    Take your point re Deacons David. 

    A very happy Easter to you and your family also! Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit vere! 

  • Benedict Carter

    I agree completely Annie (and by the way, an Oath of Acceptance of ALL Catholic teaching should be demanded of all Diocesan lay employees also). 

    In the case of so-called “Eucharistic Ministers”, they just need to be told “Thanks but today’s the last time”. 

    God only knows why we have them: such a practice is a gross abuse. 

  • Charles Martel

    There is clearly zero vetting of or preparation for so-called Eucharistic Ministers. One of my ‘Eucharistic Minister’ sisters is a pillar of her parish. She thinks I’m an ‘extremist’ (and called me this in front of her children – all of whom have left the Church!) for saying abortion should be illegal. She also supports homosexual civil unions and casts aspersions on the veneration of relics. Oh, and she fully supports Obama in his war on the Catholic Church and supported Brown’s closing down of Catholic adoption agencies.
    Another of my ‘Eucharistic Minister’ sisters thinks Mass should be ‘fun’ for her daughter, and refused to attend a Latin Mass because it could not possibly be fun for her. (What are the bets her daughter is going to leave the Church, too?) She also characterized the use of Latin in the liturgy as ‘weird’.
    The auto-demolition of the Church is far advanced when we find Catholics with nothing but loathing for the doctrines and traditional practices of the Church.
    Neither sister has the foggiest idea of how Catholic teaching differs from Protestant teaching, except that in some vague way ‘we have the Pope’. Rrrright. It’s a pity they don’t listen to anything he says, though.

  • whytheworldisending

    Its really about the arrogant assumption that the law is on the side of atheists. The NHS Trust backed down because they realised – after being forced to consult the law – that the law actually didn’t give them the power to do what they thought it did; namely to trample over the beliefs of christians, other people with faith in God, and common decency generally. Materialists are so convinced that the government is about to abolish religion, that they unthinkingly go further than the government has gone and arrogate to themselves powers which they would like the government to give them, but which they do not yet possess – and hopefully never will. It is the other side of “Laws – U – Like” designed to win votes by pandering to the self-interest of the electorate. All 3 of the main parties will legalise crime to get votes, and turn a blind eye where it is expedient. For example, taking down speed cameras when speeding motorists complain – effectively sacrificing human beings by increasing road deaths to keep drivers happy. Legalising wrongdoing and ignoring laws that are right and that are there to save lives are signs of a corrupt society, but even in a corrupt society, it takes time to totally corrupt what decent laws there are still left. Hitler got there by committing the crimes (murders) first and legalising them afterwards. The Pro-death lobby didn’t even think they needed to do that. They thought that out laws were already as corrupt as their consciences, but are laws have their roots in the Christian faith, and thank God they were wrong.

  • Benedict Carter

    None of them are Catholics in any meaningful sense of the term. THANKS Vatican bloody II. Please God one day soon it will be declared the Robber Council it was.

  • Charles Martel

     Hear hear. I find I simply cannot talk about Catholic things with my own family, as we are clearly starting from different premises. Their premise is that, whatever the Church was in the past, it is now the mirror image of their own glorious smug bourgeois selves, and my task is to keep up with these ‘developments’, and stay ‘in the centre of the Church’. I asked if that centre was Rome, or my parish or the parish next door, and was told ‘Why can’t you be like Fr Aidan Nichols?’

  • BunnyOlesen

    Considering the government allows that muslims don’t have to handle PORK or ALCOHOL if they don’t want to when they work at a grocery, because of their religious beliefs, I can’t believe they would try to force someone to help with abortions.  It’s all anti-christian bull.  
    Muslims say they don’t even want to check out pork or alcohol because they would be participating in someone elses ‘sin’ which is against islam – I would think that murdering babies could fall under that presumption.  I don’t even care if you’re an atheist, nobody should be forced to participate in that if they don’t want to.