Right of nurse not to carry out abortion acknowledgedThursday, April 5th, 2012
A Catholic nurse in Britain, who was threatened with the sack for refusing to work on an abortion ward, has won her case without having to go to court.
The nurse, who does not wish to be named, managed to persuade her employers that her right to refuse to carry out, or assist in, abortions was protected under the 1967 Act which liberalised the abortion law in Britain, according to The Daily Telegraph. The woman said she should not be forced to work in an abortion clinic attached to her hospital.
Neil Addison, a barrister specialising in religious freedom cases who represented the nurse, told the NHS trust employing the nurse that her right to conscientiously object was protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. Mr Addison told the trust, which is based in the Midlands, that attempts to pressure the nurse to change her position or to warn her that her career might suffer on the basis of her stance, would be in breach of anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws.
The trust, having taken legal advice on the issue, agreed to reassign the nurse to alternative duties and dropped its threat of dismissal.
The nurse said that she had increased her working hours at the hospital, but had not been told that this would require her to fill in at the hospital's abortion clinic when other staff were on holiday. Her name was added to the clinic's rota, but she told her employers that she could not, in good conscience, work there.
“I said, 'I am not happy to do it and I'm standing by my principles',” she said.
In February, two Scottish nurses were found not to have the right to refuse to oversee staff involved in abortions at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. Mary Doogan and Concepta Woods, both in their fifties, were told they could not invoke the conscience clause of the1967 Act because they were not directly involved in carrying out the abortions themselves.
by Tom O'Gorman