Polish [Catholic] Doctor Wins [Norwegian] Freedom of Conscience Case — For Now

by Rodney Pelletier • ChurchMilitant • December 1, 2017

SKIEN, Norway (ChurchMilitant) – Although a Norwegian court has ruled favorably for a Polish doctor who refused to prescribe contraceptives to patients, a Supreme Court may still rule against her.

On November 24, an appeals court ruled the Norwegian municipality of Sauherad, about 80 miles south-west of Oslo, had violated the rights of Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz when it removed her from her practice because she refused to prescribe contraceptives to patients.

The ruling, however, is only binding if the Supreme Court chooses to let the appeals court decision to stand.

The court slapped Sauherad with a $73,000 judgment to repay Jachimowicz for a portion of her court costs. But in a seemingly contradictory move, it ruled the municipality didn’t have to pay it because the claim was “based on the legal opinion of the Norwegian Ministry of Health.”

Although she has continued to work in Norway as a physician since being fired in 2015, Jachimowicz has instead focused on psychiatry. Even if the courts ultimately rule in her favor, it would be difficult for her to return as a family physician in Sauherad because all her patients have since gone to other doctors.

Jachimowicz, a Polish national working in Norway, was hired at a taxpayer-funded family clinic in the municipality of Sauherad in 2010. Upon accepting the job, she made it clear to her employers she would not refer patients for abortions or contraceptives — something to which her employers agreed.

After garnering media attention in 2014, however, her employer began to demand that she insert intrauterine devices. After she refused citing her Catholic beliefs, she was fired in December 2015.

In June 2016, she filed a lawsuit against her employers, asserting they broke the law by firing her. Her lawyer argued during the last three days of the hearing on January 16–18 that her employers violated Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which reads:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief, and one has the freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

He further affirmed that the municipality’s interpretation of the law forces Catholic doctors to violate their beliefs which he calls “discrimination,” noting that if Jachimowicz merely lied and claimed she didn’t know how or wasn’t qualified to do the procedure, she would still be working.

The appeals court agrees that her firing was a violation of her religious rights. The municipality has 30 days to appeal the decision to the high court or else the appeals court decision stands.

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