By David Kerr
Two Catholic midwifes are testifying before Scotland’s highest civil court that they are being forced to participate in abortions against both their consciences and the law.
Mary Doogan and Connie Wood have been told by the state-run National Health Service in Glasgow that they are expected to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions.
As senior staff, the two midwives were expected to be on standby to help in abortion procedures in certain medical emergencies.
In their Jan. 17 petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the women explained that “they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination or pregnancy is a grave offence against human life.”
The midwives maintain that their right to opt-out of providing abortions for reasons of conscience is upheld by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Section 4(1) of the U.K.’s 1967 Abortion Act.
But the National Health Service in Glasgow has previously rejected their appeals, claiming that their rights are being respected because the midwives are not compelled to administer abortion-inducing drugs. Doogan and Wood have argued in response that existing legislation allows staff to opt-out of the entire abortion process.
The court heard on Jan. 17 how both Doogan and Wood have worked for over 20 years at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital and that throughout that time they have always made clear their conscientious objection to abortion.
In 2007, however, the National Health Service in Glasgow decided to send more women undergoing late-term abortions to labor wards, instead of admitting them to gynecological departments. This change in policy led to the current dispute between the health service and the midwives.
Doogan, who comes from Glasgow, has been absent from work because of poor health since 2010, as a result of the ongoing situation. Meanwhile, Wood has been transferred to other duties.
The case is currently being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.