A London hospital recognized two Catholic nurses’ right not to work in an abortion clinic after their lawyer argued that the pro-life position is a philosophical belief legally protected against discrimination and that conscientious objectors have the right not to take part in an abortion under British law.
“Taking the stand they did took immense moral courage and I am delighted that they have been successful,” said the nurses’ attorney Neil Addison, director of the Thomas More Legal Centre.
The two nurses are both from overseas and do not wish to be identified. They were moved from their normal nursing duties at a London hospital to work once a week at an abortion clinic, the British newspaper The Telegraph reports.
They were required to administer to pregnant women two drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, to induce a miscarriage. The process is known as an “early medical abortion” and is an increasingly common non-surgical abortion method.
When the nurses discovered they were participating in abortions they objected. However, hospital managers told them that they must continue with the work.
“What would happen if we allowed all the Christian nurses to refuse?” one manager allegedly told them.
The hospital conceded the nurses’ case after action from the Thomas More Legal Centre, which specializes in religious discrimination cases.
After an initial letter from the center, the hospital told the nurses that they would be excused from administering the abortion drugs but they would have to remain working at the clinic.
Addison again wrote to the hospital, explaining that the nurses would still be “morally complicit in abortion” if they continued to work in the clinic. The nurses were then assigned to other duties.
He said that the right to object to taking part in abortions is set out in the 1967 Abortion Act. He also cited the Equality Act of 2010, possibly the first time the law has been invoked to protect pro-life adherents.
“This particular interpretation of the Equality Act has never, to my knowledge, been argued before,” Addison told The Telegraph.
However, since the courts have accepted that belief in global warming is protected under equality legislation, “there seems no reason why belief that human life begins at conception should not be equally protected.”
Though the dispute did not involve court action, the nurses’ success is a rare occasion where U.K. equality laws have protected Christians rather than restrict their freedom.
Homosexual activists and their supporters have used the Equality Act to close Catholic adoption and foster agencies because they could not in good conscience place children with homosexual couples.
In February two British judges ruled that a Christian couple should be barred from participating in the foster care of children because of their conviction that a homosexual lifestyle is immoral. Social workers raised concerns that the couple’s attitudes would conflict with the Equality Act.
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