The case hinges on the extent to which the law protects the right of conscientious objection to abortions performed on labour wards. The hospital accepts that midwives may opt-out of hands-on involvement in the procedures, but holds that midwifery sisters cannot opt-out of their role of “delegation, supervision and support” of midwives carrying out the abortion procedures.
SPUC supports the right of the midwives to opt-out, and is underwriting their legal costs in the case.
The hospital was successful in arguing for this legal position when the case first went to court last year. The case in the appeal court was concerned with the scope of the conscience clause in the Abortion Act 1967.
Brian Napier QC, for Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board, told three judges of the Inner House of the Court of Session that the Board expected midwives to act in accordance with guidance from the Royal College of Midwives.
The Royal College of Midwives is a trade union for midwives. (Not all midwives are members of the union.) The RCM guidance says:
"The RCM believes that the interpretation of the conscientious objection clause should only include direct involvement in the procedure of terminating pregnancy. Thus all midwives should be prepared to care for women before, during and after a termination in a maternity unit under obstetric care."Counsel for the midwives, Gerry Moynihan QC, argued that the right of conscientious objection encompassed all those who would be part of the team with responsibility for treatment under the Abortion Act.
Judgment is expected in the spring.
People wishing to make donations towards the midwives' legal costs should telephone SPUC on +44 (0)20 7091 7091 or donate online.
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