Norway Supreme Court upholds doctor’s conscience rights

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court in Norway ruled in favor of Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz, who refused to participate in a medical procedure that could have resulted in abortion.

This is a significant victory in Europe, a region of the world where the life of the unborn is routinely denied in practice and in law. Just last year, Iceland, Norway’s neighbor to the east, boasted a complete “eradication” of Down Syndrome as they had aborted every child with an extra 21st chromosome. And in May of this year, Ireland, one of the last remaining European holdouts that protected the life of the unborn, voted to overturn a decades-old abortion ban.  

But this month, the Supreme Court in Norway’s decision provides some encouraging momentum for pro-life medical professionals.

In 2015, Dr. Jachimowicz lost her job in a medical clinic because her Christian faith prompted her to refuse to administer a procedure that could have resulted in abortion. Her superiors fired her because of her moral objection.

Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for ADF International, Alliance Defending Freedom’s international office that supported Dr. Jachimowicz’s case, explained why this decision is so important:

Nobody should be forced to choose between following their conscience or pursuing their profession. We welcome this ruling from the Norwegian Supreme Court. It will set new standards for the protection of fundamental conscience rights in Norway and beyond. The court’s findings recognise the fundamental right to conscientious objection for medical staff, as protected by international law. This win comes at a time when medical professionals across Europe are feeling increasingly threatened in their positions by a pressure to do things they believe to be morally wrong and unethical. As such, it provides a valuable legal precedent in protecting this inherent freedom across the continent. 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.

This is a significant victory in Europe for religious liberty and conscience rights. Although this is a pro-life victory for members of the medical community who believe that their faith and science shows that new life begins at conception, this also provides broader legal protection for all conscience rights in Norway and throughout Europe.

Religious liberty and conscience rights for people of all faiths and all professions are vital to a free and flourishing society, especially when human lives are on the line. The ERLC is committed to standing up for these fundamental freedoms on Capitol Hill and internationally.