Catholic Church in Scotland calls for conscientious objection to abortion to be enshrined in law

Baroness O’Loan

The Catholic Church in Scotland has called for legislation in Scotland recognising “conscience rights” for health workers who do not wish to support abortion services following the introduction of such legislation south of the border.

The Conscientious Objection (Medical Activities) Bill, introduced by Baroness O’Loan (pictured), received a second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.

The director of the Church’s Parliamentary Office called for similar legislation in Scotland.

The bill clarifies the law to ensure conscience protections are in place for all medical professionals to “protect them from discrimination”, enabling them to fully participate in their chosen professions and care for patients to the best of their ability.

Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said: “This bill could restore the fuller right of conscientious objection that was lost when the UK Supreme Court ruled that Glasgow midwives Mary Doogan and Connie Wood did not have a legal right to object to involvement in the abortion process.

“It is quite astonishing that anybody would deny another this basic right of conscience, a denial which flies in the face of article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights which protects the ‘right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.”

Mr Horan added: “While the bill only applies to England and Wales, its progress should be of interest to people in Scotland, where hopefully a similar bill could be presented to the Scottish Parliament.

“Conscientious objection is a widely respected concept with considerable international and national laws, guidance, and conventions protecting the right, a Scottish Bill would bring Scotland into line with international norms.”

Mary Doogan, one of the two midwives in the Greater Glasgow Health Board case, said: “I am very glad to see that there is finally parliamentary action taking place to restore the conscience rights of those who work tirelessly day in and day out to serve and care for others.

“As medical professionals, we owe patients not only our efforts but also our best moral judgement, and this bill would allow us once again to practise with the greatest integrity. I fully support this important legislation and commend it to Parliament and the wider public”.

Dr Mary Neal, senior lecturer in law at Strathclyde University, said: “There is a pressing need for statutory conscience rights which actually protect those who need protection.

“The current law fails to do this, so this bill is a necessary and timely step. I am heartened to see our legislators turning their attention to this issue, and I welcome this bill as a necessary and timely step.”