South Africa Nurse’s Lawsuit Over Mandate to Do Abortions Moves Ahead

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 29, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Africa Nurse’s Lawsuit Over Mandate to Do Abortions Moves Ahead Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 29
, 2006

Johannesburg, South Africa ( — A South African nurse who was discriminated against for refusing to perform abortions has had a lower court move her case ahead to the Labour Appeals Court in an attempt to speed up the case. The woman filed suit in August 2004 after refusing a local hospital’s orders to participate in abortions.

Doctors for Life International helped Sister Wilhelmien Charles take her case to Equity court, after months of letter-writing proved fruitless.

Charles sued the Hospital in Vereeniging because she did not want to be required to do abortions. The suit, filed against Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the Gauteng hospital seeks immediate reinstatement, 50,000 Rand (over $7,400 U.S. dollars, and unconditional apology.

Twice Charles did assisted in doing abortions but on the third occasion she refused and said her Christian beliefs compelled her to not be involved.

The case had languished for over two years in courts until the recent action sending it to a three judge panel of the appeals court.

"If this case is a success, there’s a lot of nursing sisters, doctors even that’s going to benefit from this, because then they finally have right to say no without being victimized," she told SABC News.

John Smyth, a legal advisor for Doctors for Life, spoke with the South African news agency and said, "If they come up with an answer that agrees with this judge, we shall go to the constitutional court, because it’s of that importance."

Sibani Mngadi, a health department official, told the news agency that, in emergency situations, health care workers are required to participate in abortions.

"But under normal circumstances where services rendered to a stable patient, then arrangements can be made for that health professional to work in a different section and not to participate that," Mngadi said.

Charles now works at Vereeniging Medi Clinic where she says she is not forced to participate in abortions.

The ruling to move the case ahead comes just one month after the Constitutional Court in South Africa invalidated two bills including one that allows nurses to do abortions. Doctors for Life challenged the laws saying the nation’s parliament had not allowed enough public participation before adopting the legislation.

Parliament now has 18 months to give public input and re-approve the bills.

Related web sites:
Doctors for Life International-