A Christian woman suspended from the U.K. National Health Service for voicing her opposition to abortion has filed a lawsuit against the government body, claiming it violated her rights to free speech and religion.
Margaret Forrester, working as a "psychological wellbeing practitioner" for the National Health Service, was suspended in Nov. 2010 after she privately told colleagues she was concerned women receiving abortions were not adequately educated on the negative effects of the procedure.
Forrester then gave a pro-life, charity-sponsored booklet entitled "Forsaken" to one of her colleagues, which featured stories of women who had dealt with post-abortion syndrome, in the hopes of better educating women facing unplanned pregnancies. It was shortly after that encounter that the mental health practitioner was suspended for "gross professional misconduct."
Forrester, 40, has chosen to take up her grievances regarding her suspension with England's High Court, where she filed a lawsuit Monday. She is being represented by the Thomas Moore Legal Center, a conservative religious freedom charity, and is arguing that the handling of her religious expression by the Central and North West London NHS Trust was a human rights violation.
During disciplinary proceedings, Forrester, a Roman Catholic, was told that the "Forsaken" abortion-awareness pamphlet was "religious in tone" and therefore may be offensive to some nonreligious colleagues, the Telegraph reported.
"If employees of the NHS cannot even discuss the subject of abortion with their colleagues then this means that the NHS has become a dangerously totalitarian organization with no regard for freedom or diversity," a representative for the Thomas Moore Legal Society told the publication.
As The Daily Mail reported in Jan. 2011, Forrester was eventually offered "a better role" in a different location working for the NHS trust, which she accepted.
The former NHS employee later left this new position due to stress. Her lawyers are now arguing that the new position given to her by the NHS trust involved "demeaning tasks," according to court papers cited by the Telegraph.
A spokesperson for the NHS told the Telegraph: "The Trust thoroughly disputes these allegations and will continue to defend its position vigorously. We are confident that we will be able to successfully defend these claims."