BY Ian Dunn | December 17 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

11 MIDWIVES 2014

Supreme Court rules against Glasgow midwives

Midwives, Archbishop of Glasgow and SPUC react to decision announced this morning that fails to protect their right to conscientiously object to supervising abortion

The Supreme Court has ruled two Glasgow Catholic midwives cannot conscientiously object to supervising abortions performed on labour wards.

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, the midwives in the case, commented on the ruling, releaed this morning to say the they were ‘saddened and extremely disappointed with the verdict’ and suggested it will have a substantial ‘detrimental effect’  on ‘staff of conscience throughout the UK.’

“Despite it having been recognised that the number of abortions on the labour ward at our hospital is in fact a tiny percentage of the workload, which in turn could allow the accommodation of conscientious objection with minimal effort, this judgment, with its constraints and narrow interpretation, has resulted in the provision of a conscience clause which now in practice is meaningless for senior midwives on a labour ward,” they said.

The two midwives have been in dispute with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for several years. The Supreme Court’s decision overturns the ruling of the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year to uphold the midwives’ right to conscientiously object to be involved in any way in the abortion process, including their right not to supervise other staff involved.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow told the SCO that the ruling set a deeply worrying precedent in restricting the rights of individuals to follow their conscience.

“I am dismayed and disappointed at this decision of the Supreme Court which fundamentally impacts on the right of every citizen in this country to follow their conscience in the workplace,” the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said. said. “This was never a case about the rights and wrongs of abortion. Nor was it a case about religion. Rather it was a case that centred on the right of ordinary citizens to have their conscience respected in society and at work. All of society is a poorer, less respectful and less tolerant place as a result of this decision.”

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, the pro-life group that has covered the midwives’ legal fees, said the breadth of the ruling could also make it impossible for doctors to object to overseeing abortions.

“The court has used the opportunity of this case to decide that the conscience clause in the Abortion Act does not apply to General Practitioners and that hospital doctors asked to prescribe abortion drugs will not be covered by the conscience clause,” he said. “We anticipate that this will lead to renewed efforts by health officials to force doctors who have a conscientious objection to abortion either to compromise their respect for human life or to leave the profession. SPUC will support and encourage doctors to resist any such bullying approach.”

—ian@sconews.co.uk

Pic: Paul McSherry

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