Two Catholic midwives who brought suit against National Health Services Greater Glasgow and Clyde have lost the case in the Court of Session. The judge ruled that midwives, while expected to supervise and direct staff providing abortions, were not required to directly participate in the procedure, and were “sufficiently removed” from the procedures that their beliefs had been appropriately accommodated. Nonetheless, the judge did acknowledge that they were causally connected, but ruled that the protection of conscience clause in the Abortion Act (1967) must be interpreted to refer only to direct participation.
29 February 2012, 17:15
The two Glasgow midwives at the centre of today’s court judgment on conscientious objection to abortion have made the following statement:
Miss Mary Doogan said:
“Connie [Wood] and I are both very disappointed and greatly saddened by today’s verdict.
“For most of our 20-plus years of employment as midwifery sisters at the Southern General Hospital we have been proud to be associated with a maternity unit in which the right of all midwifery staff to freedom of conscience has been acknowledged, protected and upheld with no detrimental outcome to any mother whatsoever.
“Neither Connie nor I stand in judgement of any woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy for whatever reasons. We are more than aware of the difficult choices that some expectant mothers may be faced with in a crisis pregnancy.
“However, in holding to the view that life should be protected from conception to natural death, neither do we wish to be judged for exercising what is our legal right to refuse to participate in the process of medical termination of pregnancy.
“We wish now to take some time to consider all options that are available to us (including appeal) before making any further comment.”
Notes for editors:
Since both women remain employees of the health board they are not in a position to make further comment or give interviews.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has supported the midwives in bringing their case, underwriting their legal costs, and will now be considering their further legal options with them. Please see SPUC’s release of earlier today and of 17 January.SPUC’s communications department can be contacted on:
- mobile: 07939 177683
- direct dial: 020 7820 3129
- email: email@example.com
- Twitter: @spucprolife
Is religious freedom being curtailed in pursuit of equality, and the outlawing of discrimination? Is enough effort made to accommodate those motivated by a religious conscience? All rights matter but at times the right to put religious beliefs into practice increasingly takes second place in the law of different countries to the pursuit of other social priorities. The right to freedom of belief and to manifest belief is written into all human rights charters. In the United States religious freedom is sometimes seen as ‘the first freedom’. Yet increasingly in many jurisdictions in Europe and North America, religious freedom can all too easily be ‘trumped’ by other rights.
Wesley J. Smith has critized the wording of New Hampshire bill HB1653 because it “obliterates the fiduciary nature of the doctor’s role by allowing medical professionals to abandon patients for virtually any reason.” He urges that the bill be revised.[Second Hand Smoke] New Hampshire currently has no protection of conscience legislation.
A 1994 bill introduced in the US Senate by Democratic Party Senator Daniel Moynihan included the kind of protection of conscience provision now being denied to religious employers by President Obama, also a Democrat. [See 1994 provision]
A study by Dr. Sandra S. Hapenney has revealed that almost half the Catholic hospitals surveyed in seven states performed over 20,000 surgical sterilizations and billed them as “sterilization for contraceptive management.” The results of the study are disputed by Catholic Health Association of the United States, which, despite not having reviewed it, has stated that it contains “gross errors.”
Dr. Hapenney has demanded that the CHAUSA identify the errors. “Until they establish facts contrary to the findings of my research, they should avoid inaccurate and uniformed disparaging characterizations. Such attacks are as unjust and unwarranted as they are unworthy of the Catholic heritage these institutions represent.” [Daily Record]
An on-line letter to President Obama, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and members of Congress posted about 17 February has been signed by about 2,500 women, mainly Catholics, but from other denominations as well. “No one speaks for all women” on issues related to contraception and abortion, it states.
Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. . . . We call on President Obama and our Representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions and individuals to continue to witness to their faiths in all their fullness.
Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and Texas have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and the U.S. Department of Labor and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The suit alleges violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act through the HHS birth control mandate that will force insurance coverage for surgical sterilization, contraceptives and embryocides.[CNN]
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptists has issued a fact sheet warning that the Obama administration’s birth control mandate “tramples religious freedom,” and has alerted church members to contact their senators to support proposed protection of conscience legislation. [Baptist Press]