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article imageCatholic UK midwives lose abortion participation case

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By Sean Fraser     Mar 2, 2012 in Religion
Glasgow - The judge at the Scottish Court of Session ruled against two Catholic midwives who claimed their "conscientious objections" went unheeded and were forced to participate in abortions, which the pair claimed violated their human rights.
The Freethinker reports that midwives Mary Doogan and Concepta Ward were employed as labor ward coordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. One of the duties of a labor ward coordinator is to assist in abortions, and both Doogan and Ward knew of this but still "conscientiously objected" to fulfilling their duties and claimed their rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human rights were being violated.
Judge Lady Smith, the judge presiding over the case, noted that their objections were not unqualified, but both ladies did agree to the terms of their occupations when hired, saying, "In any event, the nature of their duties does not in fact require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly." She also said she was "not satisfied" that their Article 9 rights were being denied.
According to the BBC, both Doogan and Ward had stated their issues with the practice of abortion many years ago, and that up until 2007 when abortions were relegated to the labor ward, their positions did not deal with assisting in abortions. The health board for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS heard the women's objections and ruled that the Abortion Act of 1967 "did not confer on the midwives any right to refuse to delegate, support or supervise staff providing nursing care for women going through abortions."
A spokeswoman for the health board was quoted as saying:
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.
Both Doogan and Ward had the support of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, and the general secretary of the SPUC stated that "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."
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