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Midwives in Scotland face six-figure legal bill over abortions case

06 February 2015 | by Joanna Moorhead

A pro-life charity said this week it plans to raise funds to help two Catholic midwives now facing a six-figure bill for costs following a recent unsuccessful legal battle over their being forced to supervise nurses involved with abortion procedures.

“Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan have been extremely courageous in taking on this battle, and there is no way we would put them in the position of having to face these costs on their own,” said Paul Tully of Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

He said legal precedent suggested that costs would be awarded against the women, and that those costs could run to as much as £300,000, adding: “We will raise it through fundraising, and we will focus on these midwives and their struggle.”

If the costs were very high, Mr Tully said there might need to be a separate appeal in addition to the annual White Flower appeal in Catholic churches across Britain. “It all depends on how much we need to raise,” he said.

The midwives had argued that their conscientious objection to abortion meant they should not have to be involved in any part of the process or treatment connected with pregnancy terminations. They were fighting for the right not to have to manage junior staff treating women having terminations.

Their employer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, argued that this would make staffing a hospital impossible, and that it was not unreasonable to ask them to carry out managerial duties.

In December last year the Supreme Court decided in the employers’ favour, reiterating the view that the conscientious objection clause in the 1967 Abortion Act related solely to the actual medical or surgical procedure.

However, said Mr Tully, there was second point of principle to the midwives’ objection that was still awaiting a legal ruling.

“The other part of their case was that the hospital had accommodated their position for many years, and were now suddenly saying they would not, which they argue is a discrimination issue,” said Mr Tully, adding that lawyers were still negotiating over this aspect of the case, and it was not clear whether an out-of-court agreement could be reached or not.

But he said it was not clear that Mrs Wood and Ms Doogan would have the stomach for another court fight.

“It has taken a heavy toll on them, including on Mary’s health,” he said. “Mary might want to retire, but Connie might want to continue in employment and that would mean she would have to find a role where she had no involvement at all in abortions, for example in community midwifery.”



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