An appeal by two Catholic midwives who lost a legal battle over their role in abortion procedures has got under way at Scotland's highest civil court.
Midwifery sisters Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood maintained that being required to supervise staff involved in abortions was a violation of their human rights.
They claimed that, as conscientious objectors to the process, they should be entitled to refuse to delegate, supervise and support staff taking part in pregnancy terminations or providing care to patients during the process.
The midwives took their case against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to the Court of Session in Edinburgh but lost last year. In February, a judge ruled that the midwifery sisters did not have direct involvement in the procedure to which they object and dismissed the action.
Lady Smith found that the women were sufficiently removed from involvement in pregnancy terminations to afford them appropriate respect for their beliefs. The women said at the time that they were "very disappointed and greatly saddened" by the decision, and later began moves to appeal against the ruling.
That appeal is being heard by Lord Mackay, Lady Dorrian and Lord McEwan at the Court of Session. The court heard claims that it should be up to an individual's conscience, and not officials, to determine what amounts to "participation" in the abortion process.
Ms Doogan, 58, and Ms Wood, 52, were employed as labour ward co-ordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. They said the supervision and support of staff providing care to women having an abortion amounted to "participation in treatment" and breached their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. They raised a judicial review at the court which was ultimately dismissed.
The health board said it recognised the midwives' right not to participate in abortions but argued that the Act did not give them the right to refuse to work with staff providing care to such women.
Lawyers representing the midwives returned to court on Tuesday as the full appeal against the original decision began. Gerry Moynihan QC, representing the women, suggested that their consciences should determine what tasks they undertake. He said the 1967 Abortion Act sought to balance two objectives, "the interests of those who wished to liberalise the treatment while respecting the right of conscientious objection".
The midwives' appeal is being supported by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). A representative of the body, who was present in court on Tuesday, declined to comment at this stage. The hearing continues.