A Roman Catholic mental health worker who was sacked after expressing concern about the impact of abortion on women is suing the NHS.
Margaret Forrester’s lawyers say that restricting debate about abortions would “mean that the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organisation with no regard for freedom or diversity”.
The row erupted after Mrs Forrester gave her colleague a booklet in which women who have had abortions talk about their experiences and regrets.
The colleague did not object to being given the booklet, entitled Forsaken, and never complained about Mrs Forrester’s actions.
But following a complaint from a manager from the NHS abortion service Mrs Forrester was found guilty of distributing “materials that individuals may find offensive”. She was transferred to a different mental health team as a disciplinary measure.
The ultimate reason for Mrs Forrester’s dismissal was her refusal to work in the new role, which her lawyers say involved demeaning tasks.
Now the 40-year-old, who worked for the NHS as a psychological wellbeing practitioner, is suing her former employer, Central and North West London NHS Trust.
A spokesman for the Thomas More Legal Centre, the religious freedom charity representing her, said: “By limiting free discussion of the experiences of patients who have had abortions or any other type of medical treatment the NHS is harming the interests of patients.
“If abortion is as problem-free as the NHS claims then there should be no objection to the subject being discussed amongst Health Service professionals.”
He added: “If employees of the NHS cannot even discuss the subject of abortion with their colleagues then this means that the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organisation with no regard for freedom or diversity.”
A spokesperson for the NHS Trust said: “Given the existence of ongoing proceedings it is not appropriate for us to comment in detail.
“The Trust thoroughly disputes these allegations and will continue to defend its position vigorously. We are confident that we will be able to successfully defend these claims.”