OSLO –On 18 January 2017, the first hearings in the case of Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz against the Norwegian Health Board concluded. In 2015, Dr. Jachimowicz lost her employment with a Family Clinic in the municipality of Sauherad. She had refused to insert intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can act as abortifacients. Administering a procedure that could result in abortion contradicted her Christian faith. International law grants medical staff the right to conscientious objection. Still, her superiors fired Dr. Jachimowicz because she failed to comply with an instruction that she considered to be morally wrong.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between following their conscience or pursuing their profession. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 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.’ Norway is a member state of the Council of Europe and should take human rights seriously,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.
First case to challenge Norwegian conscience legislation
Dr. Jachimowicz, who is originally from Poland, has 23 years of experience as a doctor. Together with her husband, she came to Norway in 2010. Before starting her work at the Family Clinic, she clearly stated her objection to the use of the intrauterine coil, which did not present a problem to her employer at that time. Intrauterine devices prevent the implantation of the fertilized embryo into the womb and, as a result, can cause the death of an unborn child.
Although Norwegian law allows doctors to conscientiously object to abortion, in January 2015 the country introduced a new rule that prohibits doctors from refusing to provide any method of birth control requested by their patients. Doctors are therefore able to object to abortion, while being forced to do something which can have the same result.
“Dr. Jachimowicz proved to be a reliable, professional practitioner for the many patients under her care. The notion that her employer could not accommodate her deeply held convictions seems absurd, especially since there is a lack of medical doctors in Norway. As well as being bad policy, this case reveals a violation of international law and an infringement of fundamental human rights,” said Clarke.
ADF International is an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.