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Norwegian bishop hails ‘victory for freedom of conscience’ as pro-life doctor wins appeal

Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo and Trondheim (Getty)

A Norwegian court has upheld the conscience rights of a doctor who objects to abortion.

Katarzyna Jachimowicz, who is originally from Poland, was working at a family clinic in the Sauerhad municipality. She was fired after refusing to provide intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can cause the death of unborn children. A Sauerhad court originally upheld the local health authority’s decision to dismiss her.

But this week the appeal court of Agder ruled that Jachimowicz’s conscience rights under the European Convention on Human RIghts had been infringed.

The judge said that since a patient could easily obtain an IUD from another medical professional, there was insufficient reason to fire her.

Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo and Trondheim said the decision was “a victory for freedom of conscience”.

Norway passed a law in 2015 which prevents doctors from refusing to provide birth control. But the law does not cover abortifacients, 

Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for ADF International, said in a statement: “This judgment sends a clear message to the Norwegian authorities that conscience is a fundamental right under the European Convention on Human Rights, which must be protected.”

The case had attracted international publicity, with 65,000 people signing a petition in protest.

Clarke pointed out that the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, of which Norway is a member, has affirmed that “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion.”

Last year Jachimowicz told a Polish newspaper that she had not wanted the publicity, but felt it was an important case to fight for the sake of doctors’ rights. She said she was concerned that doctors might in future be asked to carry out euthanasia.