Court hears Glasgow abortion midwife appeals

Published 14 January 2013

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has held appeal hearings on the case of two midwives seeking to uphold the right of conscience objection to abortion.

Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, both Roman Catholics, were responsible for supervising staff taking part in abortions in the labour ward at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

The hospital accepts that midwives have a right to opt out of direct involvement in an abortion, but not to refuse to delegate, supervise or support staff involved in the procedure or before and after care for women who have terminated pregnancies in the ward.

The midwives, who are being supported by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, claim that this is a violation of their human rights.

They lost their conscientious objection case last year after the judge ruled that their right to religious freedom under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights was not being contravened.

At the appeal hearings last week, the court deliberated the scope of the conscience clause in the Abortion Act 1967.

Counsel for the midwives, Gerry Moynihan QC, argued that the right of conscientious objection encompassed all those who would be part of the team with responsibility for treatment under the Abortion Act.

Judgment is expected in the spring.

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