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Midwives 'forced to leave profession because they refuse to partake in abortions'

The UK’s highest court ruled on the matter this morning.

Pro-life march in Dublin, July 2013
Pro-life march in Dublin, July 2013
Image: AP/Press Association Images

TWO MIDWIVES WHO do not want to partake in any abortion services in the UK have been told they must still delegate, supervise and support other staff.

The ruling was made by the UK’s highest court today, overruling a previous judgement that found in favour of the nurses.

Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan are both conscientious objectors and have been labelled in the British media as “Catholic midwives” since they began their legal challenge seven years ago.

They were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at a hospital in Glasgow and had won a court case in Edinburgh (after an initial appeal).

But in its own appeal, the health board in the UK argued that the women only had the right to refuse to take part in activities that directly end a pregnancy. NHS

Four judges of the Supreme Court in London unanimously agreed with that argument today, saying they are not entitled to refuse to delegate, supervise and support staff involved in the treatment and care to patients undergoing abortions.

The decision has been condemned by pro-life group SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) which paid for the midwives’ legal costs.

“We are both saddened and extremely disappointed with today’s verdict from the Supreme Court and can only imagine the subsequent detrimental consequences that will result from today’s decision on staff of conscience throughout the UK,” the organisation said.

“Despite it having been recognised that the number of abortions on the labour ward at our hospital is in fact a tiny percentage of the workload, which in turn could allow the accommodation of conscientious objection with minimal effort, this judgment, with its constraints and narrow interpretation, has resulted in the provision of a conscience clause which now in practice is meaningless for senior midwives on a labour ward.”

General secretary Paul Tully added that midwives with conscientious objections are forced to leave the professions and their careers.

FULL SPEECH: Minister for Health on what is wrong with Ireland’s abortion laws

Read: Health Minister called ‘impressive’ and ‘offensive’: The abortion debate is reignited

Poll: Do you agree that our abortion laws are too restrictive?

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