Conscientious objection rights ‘vital for medics’

Medical professionals who conscientiously object to participating in abortions need better legal protection, said the midwife whose pro-life stand led to a high-profile legal case.

In 2014, the UK Supreme Court ruled against Mary Doogan and fellow midwife Connie Wood, by requiring them to supervise staff involved in abortions.

Doogan is now calling for the protections under the Abortion Act 1967 to be better applied.

Conscience clause

She said: “In 1967, the Act was passed. It was recognised at the time there needed to be a conscience clause for those who would have a moral issue. But this gradual change of watering down happened.”

“The conscience clause was there so that no one would have any obligation to participate”, she added.

Doogan said she was told by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde that she was “morally responsible” for abortions being done, but she does not believe any midwife “should be put in that position”.

‘Bring life’

“It goes against why I went into midwifery in the first place. My role was to bring life into the world. My patients were the woman and the baby. I have always felt a professional duty to both.”

She raised her concerns as she pledged her support for a Private Members’ Bill designed to afford better protections for medical professionals who conscientiously object to abortion.

Doogan said the issue is “not only about midwives” and “will become even more important with things like end-of-life care. We need to tackle it now.”


It is almost totalitarian.

Lord Alton

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill, sponsored by Baroness O’Loan, passed its second reading in the House of Lords last month.

Lord Alton, who also backs the Bill, wrote in the Daily Mail: “To put a midwife — or any other healthcare professional — in that invidious position is to me wholly unacceptable. It is almost totalitarian.

“What sort of society are we creating, if we tell a midwife that she (or he) must facilitate abortions, however strong their objections, or face the end of their career?”

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