By Gudrun Schultz

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, October 2, 2006 ( – A South African nurse who says she was forced to resign from a senior position at a Vereeniging hospital after refusing to participate in abortions was granted leave to take her case against the Health Department to the Labour Appeals Court, IOL news reported Friday, with files from SABC news.

Wilhemien Charles, together with Doctors for Life, in 2004 charged the Kopanong hospital and the health department with having “discriminated against her Christian beliefs” after she refused to participate in abortions because of her religious beliefs. She said she had performed abortions twice before, under pressure, but the third time she refused. Following her refusal, Charles said she was forced to resign from the hospital.

Her case has been delayed two years. Receiving permission to take the case to the Appeals Court should speed up the process—if the Court agrees with the complainants, the case will then move to the Constitutional Court, SABC reported.

“If this case is a success, there’s a lot of nursing sisters and even doctors that will benefit from this because then they will finally have a right to say no without being victimized…pressurized,” Charles said.

The health department has defended current policies that require health care professionals to assist with abortions in emergency situations, regardless of their conscience.

“But under normal circumstances where services rendered to a stable patient, then arrangements can be made for that health professional to work in a different section and not to participate in that,” said department spokesperson Sibani Mngadi.

Just two months ago South Africa’s Constitutional Court struck down legislation that permitted nurses to perform abortions, an attempt to increase abortion access in the country.

Efforts by Doctors for Life convinced the Court that the Abortion Amendment Act and the Traditional Health Practitioners Act were enacted without fulfilling the constitutional obligation to solicit public opinion on the passage of the bills. The bills have been suspended for a period of 18 months.

Abortion was made legal in South Africa in 1997, with the passage of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act which permitted abortions at any point during the nine months of pregnancy. Abortions committed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are funded by the government.

In 2005 the official death count of South African babies to abortion was listed as 350,000.

See related LifeSiteNews coverage:

Nurse in South Africa Barred from Operating Room for Refusing to Commit Abortions

South Africa Official Abortion Count Reveals 350,000 Killed Since 1997

Pro-Life Victory in South Africa as Court Strikes Law Allowing Nurses to Perform Abortion