Two senior midwives have been told that they cannot refuse to supervise the carrying out of abortions, after a Judge rejected their claim that it was a breach of their human rights.
Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, supervisory midwives at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital were given the ruling at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today.
Judge Lady Smith ruled that Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board is not infringing on midwives' human rights by refusing to let them conscientiously object to supervise other midwives involved in carrying out termination procedures.
The Judge said that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights in relation to freedom of conscience and religion were not absolute.
In her judgement, Lady Smith said the two midwives were not required to have direct involvement in abortions.
She said: “Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy. They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs.”
"Further, they knowingly accepted that these duties were to be part of their job. They can be taken to have known that their professional body, the RCN (Royal College of Nursing), takes the view that the right of conscientious objection is limited and extends only to active participation in the termination."
The court heard that Ms Doogan had been absent from work due to ill health since March 2010 and that Ms Wood had transferred to other work due to the dispute.
Although the women, both Catholics, had made their positions clear early on in their careers, the issue became a problem only in 2007, when abortion procedures began to be carried out in their labour ward.
The health board said it recognised the midwives' right not to participate in abortions under the terms of the Abortion Act.
The ruling could have implications for many other health professionals who exercise the right not to conduct or assist in abortion procedures.
February 29th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross