The hospital management changed its approach to conscientious objectors when it started allotting more late abortion cases to the labour ward instead of the gynaecology department. The management now says that all sister midwives must oversee midwives performing abortions as well as those delivering babies. This can entail having to assist with the abortion procedure. The petitioners believe this is profoundly wrong and in the past their right to avoid becoming involved had always been respected. They are bringing the case to enforce the protection of conscience afforded to all health care staff in the Abortion Act.
The midwives bringing this case have helped many thousands of mothers to deliver their babies safely over the past 20 years, contributing to the Southern General’s outstanding reputation as a maternity hospital.
The case follows a lengthy grievance procedure that has failed to resolve the matter. Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media today:
“SPUC has been in touch with the midwives over the long course of the grievance procedure. We would emphasise that there is no suggestion that these midwives had ever treated any woman unkindly, despite what some pro-abortion groups might say about pro-life health care staff. The petitioners' approach is one of professional and ethical integrity. SPUC Pro-life is supporting the midwives' stance and is underwriting their legal costs."The solicitors acting for the midwives are Brodies LLP. They are represented in court by David Johnston QC of Axiom Advocates.
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