Midwives take hospital to court to defend conscience
Two midwives went to court today (17 Jan) to challenge a policy introduced by Southern General Hospital in Glasgow which requires midwives to help with abortions, regardless of their religious convictions.
The right of midwives to refuse to participate in abortions on the basis of their religious beliefs is explicitly protected by the 1967 Abortion Act, and has historically been respected by the hospital.
However, the hospital recently changed its stance by imposing an obligation on midwives to watch over, and sometimes assist, with late abortions, which were frequently being transferred from the gynaecology department to the labour ward.
The two midwives, Mary Doogan and Teresa Wood, both Catholics, were unable to persuade the hospital to uphold their right to refuse to participate in abortions during the statutory grievance procedure.
They are now challenging the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board in court, claiming that the refusal to recognise their entitlement to conscientious objection was unreasonable, violating their rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Their petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh states: "They hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination or pregnancy is a grave offence against human life."
The midwives are being supported by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, commented:
“This is a political action by the hospital, the aim of which is to promote an ideology supporting abortion, forcing its staff members to be involved; to coerce their behaviour and be no respector of conscience.
"The court must uphold the right of midwives to opt-out of abortions in order to protect religious freedom. Many people, whether they have religious convictions or not, are deeply disturbed at the practice of terminating unborn children. Nobody should be forced to participate in any way whatsoever.”