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22 / 12 / 2010 - Christian health worker faces sack over anti-abortion booklet
Health Worker Margaret Forester
A Christian mental health worker is facing the sack after giving two colleagues a leaflet warning of the physical and psychological damage some women suffer after having an abortion.
Margaret Forester passed the booklet to family planning staff at the health centre where she works because she felt that the NHS was not offering patients enough information about the risks associated with terminating a pregnancy.
But Ms Forester, 39, said she was suspended from her job as a psychological wellbeing practitioner based in Westminster because managers at Central North West London Mental Health Trust disagreed with her personal beliefs.
She will appear in front of an internal disciplinary committee on Wednesday, charged with “distributing materials some people may find offensive”. Her supporters fear that she could lose her job.
The case represents the latest example of Christians who have come into conflict with state employers after expressing their religious views at work.
In Ms Forester’s case, she said she was merely having an informal conversation with colleagues in her office and had at not attempted to influence patients directly.
But she told The Daily Telegraph: “I was treated like a criminal. I was bullied to the point of being physically sick. How can this go on in a civilised country? It’s crazy.
“Why is it that if you are pro-life you can’t work with patients?”
Ms Forester, a Roman Catholic, came across the booklet, Forsaken, during a political rally outside Parliament. She became concerned that the NHS was failing to provide women with adequate information about the consequences of abortion for their future health. As a mental health worker, she has seen patients suffering psychological damage after opting for abortions.
The booklet tells the stories of five women who have experienced what it calls “post abortion syndrome”, which describes a range of symptoms including long term depression, relationship difficulties, suicidal feelings and physical complications, such as infection and fertility problems.
Ms Forester said she would have no hesitation in recommending the booklet to a colleague – where no patients were present – in future.
“I don’t think I have done anything wrong, personally or professionally,” she said.
“If they are offended that I am pro-life, I guess that is discrimination. Their suspicions about how I might affect a patient are based on the assumption that my pro-life beliefs would affect someone adversely.”
She said the disciplinary procedures could result in her being given a warning and a new job in administration, away from patients, or even dismissal.
Her case is being backed by the Christian Legal Centre, which has instructed Paul Diamond, the religious rights barrister, to act on her behalf.
Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, promised to “stand by” Ms Forester. “We believe that family planning advisers should have access to all information about abortion,” she said. Local government bodies should not suppress the full range of information, some of which gives the devastating and long-term impact of abortion and real alternatives to it.”
NHS advice states that “repeated abortions” can cause damage to the womb and fertility problems as a result. Emotionally, women “vary greatly” in their response, according to the NHS web site.
“Research suggests that having an abortion does not lead to long-term emotional or psychological problems,” it says. “However, some women can feel sad or guilty after an abortion, and post-abortion counselling services are widely available.”
Central North West London Mental Health Trust could not be reached for a comment.
Source: Tim Ross - The Telegraph