Doctor Sacked for Pro-Life Stance Wins Major Legal Battle in Norway
A Polish Catholic doctor who refused to compromise her pro-life beliefs and subsequently lost her job has had her case upheld by a court in Norway. Experienced family doctor, Katarzyna Jachimowicz, was sacked for refusing to insert abortifacient devices. Dr Jachimowicz moved from Poland to the municipality of Sauherad with her family in 2010 in response to the country’s shortage of medical professionals. She became the first medical professional in Norway to be sacked for exercising her conscience rights.
The case represented a blatant trampling of conscience rights; according to LifeSiteNews, her employers initially accepted her conditions, that she would not refer women for abortions or insert intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can act as abortifacients, before giving her the position. Her ethical stance resulted in no issues for the four years she worked in the clinic, but in 2015, the Norwegian Government eliminated conscience rights for family doctors. This made it illegal for doctors to refuse any form of birth control, including the insertion of IUDs, which are not considered abortifacients by the government.
Dr Jachimowicz was aware that family doctors could alternatively refuse to insert IUDs by claiming a lack of skill, but she did not wish to resort to this loophole seeing as her objection was based on conscience. She was asked to either comply or leave her position. After refusing to resign, she was sacked in 2015.
A legal saga was to ensue for Dr Jachimowicz. Her first legal battle was lost back in February – during this initial case, she argued that her conscience rights had been violated and that her dismissal by the state-run health care system was illegal. Now however, in a triumphant victory for conscience rights, the court of appeals in Skien has upheld her case and reversed the previous decision by the court in Notodden. The appellate court ruled that her employer, the municipality of Sauherad, has to pay Dr Jachimowicz 600,000 Norwegian Krone (an estimated £53,000) in legal fees.
The historic case marks the very first legal victory for freedom of conscience in Norway. However, a Polish news source claims that the municipality of Sauherad has decided to appeal the decision, and that the case may wind up in the European Court of Human Rights.
It is not the first time a case like this has garnered international media attention, and is reminiscent of the 2014 case in Scotland where two Scottish midwives lost the fight for their right to work in the NHS without being involved in abortions.