A Norwegian court has ruled in favor of a pro-life doctor who sued the health authority in the municipality of Sauerhad after she was fired for refusing to prescribe contraceptives to patients.
Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz, who is originally from Poland, worked at a family clinic in the Sauerhad municipality before she was terminated for refusing to provide intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can cause the death of unborn children.
A court in Sauerhad previously upheld the local health authority's decision to terminate Jachimowicz, but in late November, an appellate court in Notodden reversed the ruling and contended that the municipality had violated the doctor's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The judge contended that there was insufficient reason to fire Jachimowicz as the patient can easily obtain IUD from another medical professional.
According to Catholic Herald, Norway had passed a law in 2015 that prohibited doctors from refusing to provide birth control, but the law does not cover abortifacients. The Norwegian government however, does not consider IUDs to be an abortifacient.
Jachimowicz noted that family doctors could refuse to provide IUDs by claiming a lack of skill to insert the device into the patients, but she said she did not want to resort to this loophole.
The doctor was then asked to either comply or voluntarily leave, but she was fired in 2015 after she refused to resign.
Jachimowicz moved to Norway in 2010 to respond to the country's shortage of medical professionals. Upon accepting her job at the municipality, she reportedly told her employers that she would not refer patients for abortions or contraceptives, something to which her employers agreed.
In 2015, she became the first medical professional in the country to be sacked for exercising her conscience rights.
The appellate court had ordered the municipality to pay 600,000 Norwegian Krone (about US$73,000) to Jachimowicz to cover a portion of her court costs.
The ruling has been hailed by Bishop Bernt Eidsvig of Oslo and Trondheim as a "victory for freedom of conscience."
Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for ADF International, issued a statement saying, "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."
Jachimowicz's case had attracted international attention, with 65,000 people signing a petition in protest to her dismissal.
The doctor had told a Polish newspaper last year that she did not want the publicity, but she felt that she had to fight the case for the sake of doctor's rights. She had expressed concern that doctors might be forced to carry out euthanasia in the future.
The municipality has reportedly decided to appeal the decision, and the case may be brought all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.