School of Law

After Doogan and Wood: Conscientious objection and abortion services

13 March 2015 | 10:00-17:00 | Workshop
G.32, The Liberty Building


In December the Supreme Court deliver its judgement in the case of Doogan and Woods v Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board [2014] UKSC 68. The case concerned two midwives working as Labour Ward Co-ordinators. The midwives wished to invoke the right of conscientious objection in accordance with section 4 of the Abortion Act 1967 which provides that ‘no person shall be under any duty… to participate in any treatment… to which he has a conscientious objection’. The Health Board objected to the midwives’ claim, stating that their activities were not proximate enough to the termination procedure to qualify under section 4. Whilst the appeal to the Inner Court had seen the midwives claims accepted, the Supreme Court restated the test of proximity that preceding case law had developed and accepted. Nevertheless, Doogan and Woods has refocused attention on the question of conscientious objection in the provision of abortion services and health care more generally. Responding to this, this workshop provides the opportunity to consider a number of questions:

  • What is the place of conscientious objection in abortion services after the Supreme Court decision?
  • How does section 4 sit with wider claims to conscience in health care and other services?
  • Do we need section 4 or should claims of conscience be considered through other legal and extra-legal means?
  • What claims to conscience should be respected and what frameworks do we have to determine this?
  • What is the relationship between personal morality and professional standards and obligations?


Abigail Fitzgibbon (British Pregnancy Advisory Service)

Ruth Fletcher (School of Law, Queen Mary University London)

Sara Fovargue (Law School, University of Lancaster)

Lucy Frith (Institute of Psychology Health and Soceity, University of Liverpool)

Sheelagh McGuinness (Law School, University of Birmingham)

Jonathan Montgomery (Faculty of Laws, Univesity College London)

Mary Neal (School of Law, University of Strathclyde)

Nicky Priaulx (Law School, University of Cardiff)

Michael Thomson (School of Law, University of Leeds)

Ilias Trispiotis (School of Law, University of Leeds) 


This is a free workshop but registration is required in advance. Please book online.

Location Details

School of Law
The Liberty Building
University of Leeds

(Please use postcode LS6 1AN for Sat Nav's)

The Liberty Building is number 16 on the campus map.

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