Two British nurses have won their bid by successfully suing to say that the Equality Act made it so they should not have been forced to work one day a week at a local abortion business.
The London Telegraph newspaper reports the nurses, both from overseas and who were not identified, were transferred from their typical duties at a London hospital in order to work at an abortion facility. There, they were required to administer the mifepristone and misoprostol drugs that combine to form the RU 486 abortion pill that has killed dozens of women around the world and injured more than 2,200 in the United States alone.
The nurses objected but were told by a supervisor that they must dispense the abortion drugs and one administrator went as far as telling them, “What would happen if we allowed all the Christian nurses to refuse?” according to the newspaper.
The hospital later backed down from putting the nurses in the abortion facility after the Thomas More Law Center took up their case and sent a letter defending their conscience rights. However, backing down merely meant the nurses would have to work at the abortion center, though without dispensing the dangerous abortion drug. hearing that, Neil Addison of the legal center wrote again and said the nurses would still be “morally complicit in abortion” if they were forced to work at an abortion clinic against their will.
The hospital eventually relented and allowed the nurses to engage in duties elsewhere, but Addison said the hospital violated the 1967 Abortion Act legalizing abortion in England but allowing for conscience rights for those not wanting to be involved in abortions. He also raised the Equality Act 2010 by claiming that the nurses’ pro-life views constituted a “protected philosophical belief” under the law — making it so pressuring them to be involved in abortions would have constituted an illegal act entitling them to legal protection from harassment and potential hearings on the matter.
“This particular interpretation of the Equality Act has never, to my knowledge, been argued before,” Addison told the paper. “However since the courts have accepted that the philosophical 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.”
“Taking the stand they did took immense moral courage and I am delighted that they have been successful,” he said.
The victory comes on the heels of a new poll of British medical students that finds them strongly supporting the conscience rights of physicians and medical professionals who don’t want to be involved in doing or referring for abortions.
The new survey, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics finds students agreeing that doctors should be allowed to object to any procedure that conflicts with their personal, moral, or religious beliefs. Nearly half of respondents believed in the right of doctors to conscientiously object and refuse to treat a patient who wanted an abortion.
The author contacted 1437 medical students at medical schools in Cardiff, London, and Leeds, and asked them to complete an anonymous questionnaire to canvass their views on conscientious objection to medical practices in 2008. The students were also asked about their religious beliefs, their gender, ethnic origin and the type of medical degree they were taking. In all, 733 responded, giving a response rate of 51%. One in three was male, and three out of four respondents were taking a five year degree.