18/01/2012 13:16 GMT | Updated 18/01/2012 13:56 GMT

Abortion Objection: Catholic Midwives Mary Doogan And Concepta Wood Take NHS Board To Court

Two midwives at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde who refused to supervise staff involved with abortions, have taken their employers to court for refusing to recognise their conscientious objection to the procedure.

Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, objected to delegating, supervising or supporting staff in "the processes of medical termination of pregnancy."

Devout Roman Catholics, they are protesting against abortion on religious grounds, pointing to their belief that "all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offence against human life."

Despite seeking assurance to be excused from supervision of staff involved in abortions during a grievance procedure, their application was denied. The midwives' right not to actually take part in terminations was recognised by the NHS board.

They have now petitioned the Court of Session in Edinburgh, claiming that the 1967 Abortion Act allows them to also refuse to delegate staff to support patients who are having a termination. Doogan and Wood maintain that supervising staff taking part in terminations compromises their human rights.

The issue of supervising staff taking part in termination procedures only became an issue after a change of duties in 2007.

Both midwives work at Southern General Hospital, in Glasgow. However Doogan has been off work with ill health as a result of the ongoing dispute since 2010, while Wood has been doing maternity assessment work.

The hearing continues.