An undergraduate student in a midwife program was barred from placement in a British hospital, reportedly due to her pro-life beliefs. Source: CNA.
The decision was overturned last week, but free speech advocates say the case is troubling.
According to The Telegraph, Julia Rynkiewicz, a 24-year-old Catholic student at the University of Nottingham, was blocked from entering her program’s hospital placement phase after the university learned of her pro-life beliefs and her leadership in a pro-life student group.
Ms Rynkiewicz underwent a “fitness to practice” hearing by the school last week.
While the university overturned its decision and will allow Ms Rynkiewicz to continue as a midwife student, the investigation and temporary ban from the placement set her back a year in her studies.
Concerns were raised by school officials about Ms Rynkiewicz’s fitness to practice as a midwife after they saw her tending a booth at a school fair in her position as president for Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL).
Just days after the fair last September, Ms Rynkiewicz said she received a letter from officials at her midwifery school saying that a formal complaint had been filed against her due to her pro-life activities.
The complaint alleged that she had “provided reproductive health advice without the support of a registered midwife and ... expressed personal beliefs regarding reproductive sexual health in the public domain (including the press and social media) to the effect that it may create the perception of an impact on patient care,” The Telegraph reported.
“I think it’s important to remember that being pro-life isn't incompatible with being a midwife,” Ms Rynkiewicz said.
The Abortion Act of 1967 in the UK allows for conscientious objection to abortions for healthcare providers.
Pro-life advocacy and legal groups spoke out on behalf of Ms Rynkiewicz, arguing for her freedom of speech and right to conscientious objection.
Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom International, said the case “represents a very chilling prospect for freedom of speech on campus.”
A spokesperson for the university said it would consider ways to help Ms Rynkiewicz reconvene her studies without further delay.