Two Catholic midwives are challenging a ruling which requires them to supervise staff involved in abortions.
Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, from Glasgow, told their employers that they were unwilling to delegate, supervise or support staff who were looking after patients through “the processes of medical termination of pregnancy”.
But their position was rejected by management at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow who insist that, while the women have the right not to actively participate in terminations, they can still be required to provide supervision and support to staff undertaking terminations.
A series of hearings and appeals have failed to resolve the matter, which is now to be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
The issue arose after a rise in the number of women undergoing terminations in Southern General Hospital Labour Ward, when another local Maternity hospital closed.
Miss Doogan and Mrs Wood, who both work as part time Midwifery sisters and Labour Ward co-ordinators, sought confirmation they were not required to delegate, supervise or support staff conducting a termination following.
Both had many years’ service, and from the outset each had declared a conscientious objection to termination work, as provided for under the 1967 Abortion Act.
But management rejected their claims, leading to a dispute which has now seen Miss Doogan off work through ill health for more than a year, and Mrs Wood transferred to alternative work.
Now the pair hope to have their right to conscientious objection to any involvement in terminations upheld by a judicial review.
Drawing on Human Rights legislation, Miss Doogan and Mrs Wood, say they should have the freedom to abstain from involvement in abortions, because it contravenes their religious beliefs.
Article Nine of the European Convention on Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.’
The women claim the refusal to recognise their entitlement to conscientious objection violates these rights, as they “hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offence against human life”.
According to their beliefs any involvement would be “an offence against God”.
The hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh is expected to last several days.
January 18th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross