Catholic midwives appeal over forced supervision of abortions
Two Glasgow midwives who were told in February that they had to supervise abortions in spite of their conscientious objections have launched an appeal against the decision.
Lady Smith, the Scottish Court of Session judge who found against them, told Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood that the conscience clause in the Abortion Act would exempt them from hands-on involvement in abortions. However, she qualified this by saying that, as senior midwives, they had to accept management instructions to oversee abortions performed by other midwives on the labour ward.
A small but increasing number of abortions are being transferred to labour wards in line with national policies against disability. Screening and offering abortion for disabled babies is regarded as a cost-effective measure, and hospitals are encouraged to offer tests for disability.
Miss Doogan said at the time that neither she nor Mrs Wood, both both labour ward sisters who are Catholic, stand in ‘judgement of any woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy,’ adding that, as the court ruling would have a ‘significant impact on pro-life doctors and nurses across the country,’ they would have to consider continuing their fight. Their decision to appeal was announced today.
After the ruling, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said he viewed the judgement with ‘deep concern.’
“It is fundamental to the functioning of society that all citizens act in accordance with an informed conscience,” the archbishop said. “Any law or judgement which fails to recognise this contradicts that most basic freedom and duty which we all have as human beings, namely to follow our conscience and act accordingly. Any assault on this principle undermines the very basis of the law itself and society’s moral cohesion, which the law should seek to guarantee.”
Miss Doogan has been absent from work due to ill health for almost two years and Mrs Wood has been transferred to other duties.
The costs of Glasgow midwives’ legal action are being underwritten by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). People wishing to make donations towards the midwives’ legal costs should telephone SPUC on 020 7091 7091.