Abortion Rights Blog

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‘Conscientious objection’ nurses launch appeal


gavel 210.01.13, Joanna Tacon

Two Catholic nurses are appealing a court decision which found that they were in breach of their contract terms when they refused to “delegate, supervise or support staff looking after women undergoing terminations”.

Midwives Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood suffered a comprehensive defeat in the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year, with Lady Smith finding that the right to conscientious objection with regard to providing abortions did not cover the tasks they were expected to perform as labour ward supervisors, such as drawing up timetables, and supervising staff who did provide terminations.

Lady Smith said in her judgement: “They are not being asked to play any direct role in bringing about terminations of pregnancy. Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy. They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs.”

The midwives’ QC Gerry Moynihan said in his opening remarks at the appeal hearing that whichever side lost the appeal, the case would more than likely end up at the Supreme Court in London for a final ruling.

Doogan and Wood, who work at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, received financial support for their case from anti-abortion group SPUC.

Whatever the outcome of this case, the eventual ruling will affect hospitals all over the UK.