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British applaud 'historic' ruling for midwives who refuse to participate in abortion

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Editor’s note: Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, two Roman Catholic midwives, have won what the Scotsman newspaper called “a historic ruling from appeal judges in Edinburgh to avoid any participation in abortions.”

The dispute arose when Doogan’s and Wood’s employers–National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde–reorganized abortion services  in 2007. Mid-term and late-term abortions would be performed on the labor ward rather than on the gynecology ward and the midwives were told they had to oversee abortion procedures.

Central to Doogan’s and Wood’s defense was that previously they were not called on to delegate, supervise or support staff engaged in the care of patients undergoing abortions.

The Abortion Act of 1967 states that no one with a conscientious objection can be obliged to participate in abortion procedures. “However, the hospital management insisted that a conscientious objection clause in the 1967 Abortion Act applied only to active participation in a termination and did not cover the women’s duties to delegate, supervise and support staff,” The Scotsman reported.

 The appeal judges ruled otherwise.

The following comes from SPUC.

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The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) welcomed today’s verdict in the appeal by two Glasgow midwives fighting for their right to opt out of abortion.

Connie Wood and Mary Doogan, who won their appeal against the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board, are senior midwives each with more than 20 years’ experience and had the role of Labour Ward Co-ordinators.

SPUC has given the midwives its backing throughout the case. Responding to the judgment, Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media earlier today:

“Today’s verdict is very welcome and we congratulate Connie and Mary on their tenacity and deep sense of professionalism. We hope that the Health Board will abide by this verdict and enable life to return to normal for Connie and Mary. The result is a tremendous victory for these devoted and caring professional women. This outcome will be a great relief to all midwives, nurses and doctors who may be under pressure to supervise abortion procedures and who are wondering whether the law protects their right to opt out.  

The difference this judgment makes is that hospital managers must recognise that the legal right to opt out of abortion goes beyond those who directly undertake abortions. For the sake of good morale and good relations with all members of staff, it is important that the Board move to re-establish normal working relations straight away. The mothers and babies depending on the Southern General Hospital deserve no less.

“Mary Doogan and Connie Wood deserve the fullest support and gratitude of their medical colleagues for resisting the pressure to give up their legal protections. It is important to recognise that their stand applies to people of all faiths and none: the right to refuse to participate in abortion is based on conscientious objection, whether religious or purely moral, so it applies to everyone.

They are anxious to get back to normal after the protracted internal grievance procedure and legal action. This dispute has seriously disrupted their professional lives over the past 4 years and more.”

Statement by Connie Wood and Mary Doogan:

“Connie and I are absolutely delighted with today’s judgement from the Court of Session, which recognises and upholds our rights of conscientious objection as labour ward midwifery sisters to withdraw from participating in any treatment that would result in medical termination of pregnancy.

In holding all life to be sacred from conception to natural death, as midwives we have always worked in the knowledge we have two lives to care for throughout labour; a mother and that of her unborn child.

Today’s judgement is a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would violate their conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession. We hope that GG&CHB will respect the court’s decision so that we can return to considerations that are all to do with child birth and midwifery practice and less to do with legal matters.

We wish to thank the many individuals the length and breadth of Britain and, indeed, further afield, who have given us great help and support throughout the duration of our dispute with GG&CHB. Though too numerous to individually highlight, special mention has to be given to both sets of family,  without whose support we could not have taken on this case, to SPUC and to  our very talented legal team whose expertise and support we could not have done without. Thank you to each and everyone.”

Reprinted from National Right to Life News.

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