Christian Medical Fellowship Blogs
Fallout from the Glasgow Midwives case continues to roll out. This month the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) released (rather quietly) their new position statement on abortion. The case of Doogan & Wood highlighted an issue with the conscientious objection clause in the 1967 Abortion Act. Specifically this was around what constituted actually being involved in an abortion procedure.
The two senior midwives at a Glaswegian maternity unit made it clear that they did not wish to be responsible for supervising junior staff involved in termination of pregnancy procedures on the basis of a conscientious objection to abortion.
Although the Scottish Court of Appeal upheld their claim, The Supreme Court eventually ruled that they had no right to opt out of supervision, delegation or support of junior staff, as the right to conscientious objection only applied to those involved in direct, clinical procedures. Supervisory roles or other areas of care could not be subject to the right to conscientious objection in the Abortion Act. . . [Full Text]
Catholic midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood lose case against being made to supervise other staff carrying out abortions
Two Catholic midwives who refused to take part in any abortion procedures have lost their legal battle to be treated as ‘conscientious objectors’.
The UK’s highest court overturned a previous ruling made in favour of the two midwives, after a Scottish health authority urged it to overturn last year’s decision of the Court of Session, in Edinburgh, in the case of Mary Doogan and Connie Wood.
The ruling is likely to mean that Ms Doogan and Ms Wood will now have to supervise abortions carried out by other staff, as part of their terms of employment, although they will still be free to refuse to carry out the terminations themselves.
The case centres on the scope of the right to conscientious objection under the Abortion Act 1967, which provides that “no person shall be under any duty … to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection”. . . [Full text]
Landmark decision ‘could have severe impact on women’s care’, experts warn
Midwives who object to abortions could be allowed to opt out of any involvement with women who choose to terminate their unborn babies.
The UK’s Supreme Court will today hear an appeal after two Catholic midwives won a landmark case for the right to refuse any involvement in abortion procedures in 2013.
Mary Doogan, 58, and Connie Wood, 52, argued that being required to supervise staff involved in abortions was a violation of their human rights.
The women had no direct role in pregnancy terminations, but claimed they should also be able to refuse to support staff taking part in the procedures.
If the court upholds that decision it could set a legal precedent, allowing other midwives who object to abortions to take the same stance.
But the Royal College of Midwives and the women’s charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) warned today that such a ruling could have severe implications for the care of women choosing abortions.
Ms Doogan and Ms Wood took their case against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to the Court of Session in Edinburgh in 2012, but lost.
But in April last year, three appeal judges at the same court ruled their appeal should succeed.
Judges at the court will tomorrow hear an appeal by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
A spokesman for the RCM and bpas said the two bodies are ‘deeply concerned’ that the judgement ‘extends the right of conscientious objection beyond the provisions intended by the Abortion Act’. . . . [Full text]
The Greater Glasgow Health Board has appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom to overturn a ruling that two midwives cannot be compelled to participate in abortions by delegating, supervising and supporting those involved in the procedures. The case is to be heard 11 November, 2014.
The midwives’ legal costs have been in excess of £250,000 ($396,758 USD) to date. The appeal is expected to cost them a further £130,000 ($206,314 USD). The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children is assisting with their legal costs and has appealed for donations.
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Greater Glasgow Health Board (Appellant) v Doogan and another (Respondents) (Scotland)
Case ID: UKSC 2013/0124
Judicial Review – Abortion – Conscientious objection – Midwives
Does s.4(1) of the Abortion Act 1967, which provides that “no person shall be under any duty… to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection”, entitle a Labour Ward Co-ordinator to refuse to delegate to, supervise and/or support midwives providing care to patients undergoing termination procedures?
From the outset of their employment with the appellant health board, the respondent senior midwives, both Roman Catholics, objected to and were exempted from directly participating in the treatment of patients undergoing terminations. Following a service reorganisation, the numbers of abortions performed at the hospital where they worked increased. They sought confirmation from the appellant that they would not be required to delegate to, supervise or support other midwives providing care to such patients. The appellant declined to give this assurance, rejecting the respondents’ grievance and subsequent appeal. The respondents challenged the latter decision by way of judicial review, contending that it contravened s.4(1) of the Abortion Act 1967. They were unsuccessful at first instance but succeeded on appeal to the Inner House.
 CSIH 36
Greater Glasgow Health Board
- Mary Teresa Doogan
- Concepta Wood
- Royal College of Midwives
- British Pregnancy Advisory Service
In a column published in The Independent, Ann Furedi, CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, argues that the existing English abortion law should be scrapped because abortion is simply another form of birth control.
Today, abortion is understood to be a fact of life. We expect to plan our families using the contraception that is freely available cost-free on the NHS. But we know that contraception is not infallible, and nor are we. We draw comfort from knowing that abortion is available as a back up to our chosen method of birth control. The existing laws are not fit for purpose – and the way abortion is provided today begs a simple question: why have a law at all?
This is consistent with earlier statements she has made. In 2010 she told New Zealanders that abortion is required as a part of family planning programmes because contraception is not always effective. She noted that abortion rates do not drop when more effective means of contraception are available because women are no longer willing to tolerate the consequences of contraceptive failure.[TVNZ]
Furedi’s comments indicate that pressure to provide abortion is likely to increase even where contraception is readily available, thus increasing potential for conflicts of conscience among health care workers who do not wish to be involved with the procedure. They also demonstrate a categorical refusal to acknowledge a critical factual distinction: that preventing the conception of an infant by contraception is not the same as killing an infant by abortion. This distinction central to the reasoning of health care workers and others who refuse to participate in abortion, though they may have no objection to contraception.