Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Glasgow nurses lose their “conscientious objection” court case

Image The two nurses who took their employer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to court over abortion supervision have lost their case. (07/03/12)

The judge who heard the case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that the pair do not have direct involvement in terminations. Therefore, the duties they were expected to carry out as senior nurses – namely, assigning duties to other NHS staff, and other supervisory tasks – did not breach their right to conscientious objection to carrying out abortions.  

Lady Smith said in the judgement: “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 [Roman Catholic] beliefs.”  

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, welcoming the decision, said that the ruling reflected efforts made to accommodate the nurses’ beliefs. A spokeswoman commented:  

“We are fully supportive of staff who hold a position of conscientious objection and make every effort to accommodate them, however at the same time we have an unequivocal duty of care to ensure the safety of our patients and as such we must balance this responsibility with the rights of the conscientious objector.”  

The nurses had brought a claim under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers freedom of religion. However, Lady Smith said that the nurses had agreed to take on the positions of labour ward co-ordinators, with responsibility for delegating, supervising and supporting staff, and had not objected to the “job content”.  

The nurses, Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, have indicated that they may appeal against the ruling. They were supported in preparing and bringing their claim by anti-choice pressure group SPUC.