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Scottish midwives lose legal battle not to assist in abortions

Two senior midwives from Glasgow have lost their battle not to assist in abortions following a court ruling.

In a judgment handed down today from the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lady Smith ruled that the midwives must accept the decision of their hospital management to oversee other midwives who are performing abortions on the labour ward.

The midwives in the case, Miss Mary Doogan and Mrs Connie Wood, argued that they had never been required to supervise abortion procedures in the past, and that the hospital was asking them to be morally, medically and legally responsible for abortions.

Although they said that this conflicted with their profound objection to abortions, Lady Smith said that the midwives involved were not protected by the conscience clause of the Abortion Act.

Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said he was “deeply concerned” by today’s Court of Session ruling. He said: “I view this judgement with deep concern. I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience. It is fundamental to the functioning of society that all citizens act in accordance with an informed conscience.

“Any law or judgement which fails to recognise this contradicts that most basic freedom and duty which we all have as human beings, namely to follow our conscience and act accordingly.” He said that any “assault on this principle undermines the very basis of the law itself and society’s moral cohesion, which the law should seek to guarantee.”

The Society for Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) also expressed their disappointment with the decision.

Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC said: “We are very disappointed by the judgment. SPUC has supported the midwives in bringing their case, and will now be considering their further legal options with them.”

Commenting on the ruling by the Edinburgh Court of Session in the case of Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood, Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said: “The case is yet another example of the way in which the UK Courts are interpreting s9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Religion) in the most limited and restrictive way possible.

“The courts have not hesitated to use the convention to protect murderous terrorists but have refused to use it two midwives who do not want to kill unborn children.

“What is more surprising is the extremely restrictive interpretation the judge has put on the Conscientious Objection clause in s4 of the Abortion Act.

“As the judge has interpreted it believing Catholics, Muslims and others will ever be able to take any form of supervisory or management role as midwives or nurses unless they are willing to be complicit in the provision of abortions.

“This decision is in stark contrast to recent decisions in the United States’ courts which have applied the American First Amendment to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists who refused to dispense the morning-after pill.”