BY Ian Dunn | January 11 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Catholic midwives appeal decision

— Midwifery sisters Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood’s case over abortion is back in court

The appeal of the two Scottish Catholic midwives, who last year lost their court case against supervising abortion procedures, was heard in Edinburgh this week.

The appeal against the controversial decision—heard by Lord Mackay, Lady Dorrian and Lord McEwan in the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh (right)—started on Tuesday and was due to last two days. No ruling had been made as the SCO went to press, but the midwives counsel Gerry Moynihan QC told the court that the case is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Midwifery sisters Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, claim that being forced by their employer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to supervise staff taking part in abortions violated their human rights. However, last February, Judge Lady Smith at the Court of Session, Edinburgh, ruled against the midwives.

Lady Smith told the midwives 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.

On Tuesday, Mr Moynihan QC argued this had been an error as there was clear legal authority that the right to conscientious objection was intended to apply to the whole team whose involvement was necessary to achieve the procedure.

Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, and Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, launched the court case as they both object on religious grounds to participating in abortions and took their employer to court over the issue. Midwifery sisters have a right of conscientious objection and the duo challenged whether the health board was entitled to require them to delegate, supervise and support staff involved in abortion work.

After the 2012 ruling, Ms Doogan said she and Mrs Wood were ‘very disappointed’ with the verdict, which she said would have ‘very grave consequences for anyone of conscience who wishes to choose midwifery as a career.’

The costs of the midwives’ legal action are being underwritten by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), members of which have indicated they will take the appeal to the highest possible courts. People wishing to make donations towards the midwives’ legal costs should telephone SPUC on 020 7091 7091.



—     This story was reported in full in the January 11 print edition of the SCO

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