Two Roman Catholic midwives with conscientious objections to abortion have won their case against the NHS and say they are “absolutely delighted” at the result.
Judges at Edinburgh’s Court of Session ruled Mary Doogan and Connie Wood’s right to conscientious objection means they do not have to delegate, supervise or support staff involved in abortions.
A pro-life group which has been backing the case said the result “will be a great relief to all midwives, nurses and doctors who may be under pressure to supervise abortion procedures”.
The ruling came from three judges at the Court of Session – Scotland’s supreme civil court – and overturned a previous judgment.
Judge Lady Dorrian said: “In our view the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose.”
She added: “The right is given because it is recognised that the process of abortion is felt by many people to be morally repugnant.”
Conscientious objection is recognised in the 1967 Abortion Act.
Gerry Moynihan QC, the midwives’ lawyer, said that because they had told the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board of their objection in advance, it could manage its staff accordingly.
The board said it would be “considering our options with our legal advisers”.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, which has been backing the midwives, said: “The result is a tremendous victory for these devoted and caring professional women.”
In a statement the midwives said: “In holding all life to be sacred from conception to natural death, as midwives we have always worked in the knowledge we have two lives to care for throughout labour; a mother and that of her unborn child.”
“Today’s judgement is a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would violate their conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession.”