South African Nurse Files Lawsuit, Says She Refused to Perform Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 25, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South African Nurse Files Lawsuit, Says She Refused to Perform Abortion Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 25, 2004

Johannesburg, South Africa ( — A South African nurse who was discriminated against for refusing to perform abortions has filed suit, seeking damages, reinstatement, and an apology.

Doctors for Life International announced Monday that it was taking the case of Sister Wilhelmien Charles to Equity court, after months of letter-writing proved fruitless. Her nursing duties have been restricted since she returned from maternity leave May 2.

"A Chief Professional Nurse with special qualifications in [nursing] work has been barred from working in theatre at the Kopanong Hospital in Vereeniging because she has taken a stand on her constitutional right not to do abortion cases on the ground of her Christian beliefs," explained Doctors for Life in a statement.

The suit, filed against Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the Gauteng hospital seeks immediate reinstatement, "an unconditional apology," 50,000 Rand (over $7,400 U.S. dollars) in damages, and "Orders directing the Gauteng Health Department and the National Minister of Health to restrain unfair discriminatory practices on the ground of religion, conscience or belief at the Kopanong Hospital and at Health facilities nation-wide."

Gauteng health department spokesperson Popo Maja told the Independent Online that the incident had not been brought to their attention.

"No one made any presentations to us about this incident. It is really a policy issue and we respect the individual’s right to reject taking part in abortions," said Maja. "Nobody is forced to perform abortions."

The announcement of the suit follows last week’s passage of the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment by the South African legislature, which allowed nurses and midwives as well as doctors to perform abortions, without the approval of health officials.

Opponents of the measure have expressed fears that the new law could lead to medical professionals being forced to perform abortions against their will.

The South African Catholic Bishops Conference addressed that very fear in their statement about the new law.

"The Catholic Church calls on all catholic medical personnel to insist on their constitutional rights, respecting their freedom of conscience and to refuse to cooperate in the performance of abortions," the Bishops said in a statement earlier this month.

Related web sites:
Doctors for Life International-