Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Judge rules midwives must cooperate with abortions

News is out today about two Scottish midwives who have just lost their legal battle to opt out of supervising other midwives who are performing abortions.  The Catholic Herald reports on it here.

The midwives "argued that they had never been required to supervise abortion procedures in the past, and that the hospital was asking them to be morally, medically and legally responsible for abortions".  Despite the fact that the Abortion Act 1967 allows for opt-out in the case of conscientious objection - "no person shall be under any legal duty, whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement, to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection" (Section 4(1)), this being only subject to the subsection 4(2) which maintains the person's duty to participate in treatment necessary to save life or prevent grave permanent injury to the pregnant woman's physical or mental health - Lady Smith ruled at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that the midwives' supervisory role was not covered by this clause.

It is difficult to see how overseeing a midwife performing an abortion is not participating in the abortion, which presumably would not go ahead without the correct supervision.  It is surely material cooperation.  Where does such a judgement logically leave a number of other medical personnel with peripheral or facilitatory roles in the abortion process?  There are several roles involving promoting, condoning or cooperating in the abortion other than that of the person who actually performs the act itself.

SPUC have been supporting the women in their case and Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, said “We are very disappointed by the judgment. SPUC has supported the midwives in bringing their case, and will now be considering their further legal options with them."

Is the law really an ass, or just prepared to ignore the safeguards it has itself put in place?  The Guild of Catholic Doctors (UK) suggests, "The reality is that there is little any law framed like the Act can do to provide significant safeguards once the concept of abortion becomes acceptable".  Scary stuff.  Please pray for these brave ladies and their battle to uphold the right to follow one's conscience.  It is especially poignant that this judgement is affecting midwives, whose primary role is to help bring new life into the world, not snuff it out.

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