Two Scottish midwives won an appeal on April 24 against a court's decision forcing them to indirectly take part in abortions against their will.
“Connie and I are absolutely delighted with today's judgment,” said midwife Mary Doogan in a statement Wednesday.
Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital placed Doogan, 58, and Concepta Wood, 52, in charge of delegating and supporting staff who performed abortions.
Although they objected, the hospital’s management argued that a conscientious objection clause in the 1967 Abortion Act applied only to those directly performing abortions.
The Catholic women then filed a case – with the financial help of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board – but lost it on Feb. 29, 2012.
Local judge Lady Anne Smith had argued that the 1967 Act allowed only qualified conscientious objection and noted that they were “being protected from having any direct involvement with the procedure to which they object.”
“Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy,” Lady Smith had said last year.
The midwives then appealed the court’s decision and won. Both called the ruling “a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from the practice that would violate the conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession.”
The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children's general secretary, Paul Tully, underscored that “the result is a tremendous victory for these devoted and caring professional women.”
“This outcome will be a great relief to all midwives, nurses and doctors who may be under pressure to supervise abortion procedures and who are wondering whether the law protects their right to opt out,” said Tully in a statement released today by Britain’s largest pro-life organization.
The midwives maintained that their right to opt-out of providing abortions for reasons of conscience was upheld by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 4(1) of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act.
Both Doogan and Wood had worked for over 20 years at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and had always openly stated their conscientious objection to abortion.
Hospital management told midwives employed as “labor ward co-ordinators” that they had to oversee abortion procedures when the hospital transferred late abortion patients to the labor ward instead of the gynecology ward.
But three appeal court judges, Lord Donald Mackay, Lady Leonna Dorrian and Lord Robin McEwan, ruled in their favor.
They said the women can exercise their right to conscientious exemption by “refusing to delegate, supervise or support staff in charge of women undergoing abortions.”