Neil Addison reports on his Religion Law Blog about a new use of the Religion and Belief provisions in the Equality Act 2010.
…From the facts it was clear that the Hospital had not recognised or accepted that the Nurses had a legal right to refuse to participate. EMA has been held by the High Court, in the BPAS case mentioned, to be an Abortion procedure under the Abortion Act 1967 and as such the Nurses had an absolute right to refuse to participate under the conscientious objection provisions of s4 of the Abortion Act.
Abortion Act 1967 – 4. Conscientious objection to participation in treatment
(1) Subject to sub-section (2) of this section, no person shall be under any duty whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection
TMLC wrote to the hospital stating that the Nurses were refusing to work in the Clinic and quoting their rights under s4 Abortion Act. The letter also stated that their belief in the sanctity of life from conception onwards was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act and therefore any attempt to pressure them into participating in the Abortion Clinic or to suggest that their refusal would affect their career would be illegal under the Equality Act 2010.
This particular interpretation of the Equality Act has never, to my knowledge, been argued before however since the Courts have accepted that the philosophical belief in Global warming is protected under Equality legislation, see Grainger Plc & Ors v. Nicholson  UKEAT 0219_09_0311 I could see no reason why belief that human life begins at conception should not be equally protected.
The reason for including the Equality Act in the letters to the Hospital was in order to provide the Nurses with additional protections. Section 4 of the Abortion Act though it is clear does not provide any enforcement mechanism and also does not protect a conscientious objector from being pressurised to participate in Abortion, held back in their career due to their pro-life belief or indeed not employed in the first place. However using the Equality Act as well as s4 of the Abortion Act meant that the Nurses would be able to claim Harassment, Victimisation or Discrimination in an Employment Tribunal if they were put under pressure at work because of their reliance on the conscientious objection protection in s4…
Gavin Drake has some further comments on this.