Wistrand International Law Office
Sweden is one of the most secular countries in the world with full freedom of religion. Further, freedom of conscience is a right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, domestic law recognises no right to conscientious objection. In this respect, Sweden differs from most other European countries.
In 2017 the Labour Court clarified from an employment law perspective whether freedom of conscience gives healthcare professionals a right to conscientious objection.
A midwife expressed that her religious beliefs forbid her from performing abortion services. When she expressed her opinion, three different healthcare regions in Sweden refused to employ her. The midwife brought the case to the Equality Ombudsman, which found that her refusal to perform abortion services was a manifestation of her religious beliefs and was thus protected by Article 9 of the ECHR. The Equality Ombudsman also found that the healthcare regions’ requirement that the midwife perform abortion services was reasonable and motivated by social interests in order to secure women’s effective access to abortion services. Therefore, the midwife’s freedom of religion had not been violated. . . . Full Text
Nurses say proposed abortion legislation could mean nurses giving up jobs on conscience grounds
The Irish Times
Proposed abortion legislation could force nurses and midwives out of a job, it has been claimed.
Campaigners for a No vote in the referendum on the Eight Amendment say the conscience clause promised by the Government in legislation if the measure passes is inadequate.
“We are concerned about freedom of conscience and have seen how Scottish midwives lost their case in the UK not to be involved in abortions,” said Mary Kelly Fitzgibbon, of Nurses for Life, a nurse, midwife and a lecturer. . . [Full Text]
Nurses and midwives could strike if their pay demands are not met with salary increases in 2019, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
Speaking at its annual conference in Cork, General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that the union is awaiting publication of a Public Service Pay Commission review of staff shortages among nurses and midwives, which is due next month.
Within the following month, the INMO is due to meet the Government to discuss implementation of the PSPC recommendations to address the difficulties with recruitment and retention.
However, Ms Ní Sheaghdha warned that, if members rejected proposals emanating from those negotiations, the INMO will ballot them for industrial action – “up to and including the withdrawal of their labour”.
An emergency motion to that effect will be debated at the conference tomorrow. . . [Full Text]
Nurses union has had no discussions to date with HSE about the implications of repeal
The Irish times
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation expects the same conscientious objection protections that exist for nurses under the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act to be afforded to nurses and midwives in any forthcoming legislation in the event of the Eighth Amendment being repealed.
INMO director of social policy and regulation Edward Matthews said that nurses and midwives are afforded the same protections as medical practitioners when it comes to conscientious objection to carrying out a termination of pregnancy. . . [Full Text]
Valerie Fleming Lucy Frith, Ans Luyben, Beate Ramsayer
Freedom of conscience is a core element of human rights respected by most European countries. It allows abortion through the inclusion of a conscience clause, which permits opting out of providing such services. However, the grounds for invoking conscientious objection lack clarity. Our aim in this paper is to take a step in this direction by carrying out a systematic review of reasons by midwives and nurses for declining, on conscience grounds, to participate in abortion.
We conducted a systematic review of ethical arguments asking, “What reasons have been reported in the argument based literature for or against conscientious objection to abortion provision by nurses or midwives?” We particularly wanted to identify any discussion of the responsibilities of midwives and nurses in this area. Search terms were conscientious objection and abortion or termination and nurse or midwife or midwives or physicians or doctors or medics within the dates 2000–2016 on: HEIN legal, Medline, CINAHL, Psychinfo, Academic Search Complete, Web of Science including publications in English, German and Dutch. Final articles were subjected to a rigorous analysis, coding and classifying each line into reason mentions, narrow and broad reasons for or against conscientious objection.
Of an initial 1085 articles, 10 were included. We identified 23 broad reasons, containing 116narrow reasons and 269 reason mentions. Eighty one (81) narrow reasons argued in favour of and 35 against conscientious objection. Using predetermined categories of moral, practical, religious or legal reasons, “moral reasons” contained the largest number of narrow reasons (n = 58). The reasons and their associated mentions in this category outnumber those in the sum of the other three categories.
We identified no absolute argument either for or against conscientious objection by midwives or nurses. An invisibility of midwives and nurses exists in the whole debate concerning conscientious objection reflecting a gap between literature and practice, as it is they whom WHO recommend as providers of this service. While the arguments in the literature emphasize the need for provision of conscientious objection, a balanced debate is necessary in this field, which includes all relevant health professionals.
Catholic Universe-The Catholic Times
Pro-life groups have claimed that the recent drop in applications to midwifery courses could be rectified by enshrining conscientious objection.
Recent figures show that there has been a 35 per cent drop in the number of applicants to midwifery courses since 2013. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which analysed the latest Ucas data for England, said the biggest reduction was in those aged 21 or over.
In 2013, more than 12,000 people aged over 21 applied for a midwifery course in England, but by 2017 that figure had dropped to just 6,700 – a decrease of 45 per cent. . . [Full text]
Pro-choice groups have condemned an attempt to create new laws that would allow doctors and nurses to refuse to take part in abortions on moral grounds.
A private bill going through the House of Lords that would expand rights of conscientious objection for healthcare professionals has been dismissed as unnecessary by abortion providers and campaigners.
Those in favour of the bill, sponsored by the Northern Irish crossbench peer Nuala O’Loan, insisted their aim was not to restrict abortion but to uphold freedom of belief and religion they claim is under threat in hospitals since a contentious supreme court ruling in 2014. . . [Full text]
Is it really such a radical idea to think healthcare professionals should not be forced to help in procedures to which they morally object?
Prof. Andrew Tettenborn
Just over three years ago, two devout Catholic midwives lost an important claim in the courts. Disciplined for declining to make arrangements for abortions in a Glasgow maternity ward, they sued, saying that the Abortion Act’s conscience clause allowed them to refuse to participate in the procedure. The Supreme Court, combining an impressive capacity for casuistry with a matching unconcern for moral consistency, chose to define “participation” as meaning carrying out the abortion, and nothing more. Organising, managing and aiding other people to do it was quite different; there was no right to refuse to do it.
The point matters a great deal. Many NHS hospitals now put abortion and other controversial procedures out to tender (a matter itself a cause for concern, though not here), and so organisation rather than participation is increasingly what will be demanded from often unwilling staff. . . [Full Text]
Call The Midwife has become a national institution, and is the BBC’s most popular drama.
Up to ten million people tune in to this heart-warming serial, and its stars, such as Jenny Agutter and Helen George, have reminded people what a high calling it is to bring children into the world.
Yet I think that many viewers would be horrified to realise that today, in 21st century Britain, midwives can lose their jobs unless they are willing to facilitate abortions – even though, in ending the life of an unborn child, they must do something that is instinctively the opposite of their calling.
To put a midwife – or any other healthcare professional – in that invidious position is to me wholly unacceptable. It is almost totalitarian. . .[Full Text]
Mary Doogan sees herself like the driver of the getaway car in an armed robbery.
‘Would the police say that because he wasn’t actually in the bank, brandishing the gun, he isn’t guilty? Of course, they wouldn’t.’
This retired midwife, demurely dressed in a coral cardigan and smart court shoes, is the least likely of criminals, and it is sad that she carries even a hint of guilt about her ‘crime’.
After all, it was committed only in her own eyes (and God’s, she would say) and was a matter of conscience.
In the course of her duties in an NHS hospital, Mary, a devout Catholic, supervised colleagues as they participated in abortions. Although never hands-on herself, she admits she always felt implicated.
‘It’s why I later took the stance I did,’ she says, referring to the court case that ultimately cost her job as a labour ward co-ordinator at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. . . [Full Text]