Polish Doctor Wins Freedom of Conscience Case — For Now

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by Rodney Pelletier  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 1, 2017   

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SKIEN, Norway (ChurchMilitant.com) - 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 Municipality, however, has appealed the ruling, moving it to the Supreme Court.

Jachimowocz tells Church Militant that after 20 years of being a medical practitioner she has had to go back to school to specialize in psychological counseling, adding "It’s very difficult to start everything all over again," because "it means lower earnings as a physician doing a specialization earns less than a specialist." 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.

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She notes that while her husband and children have supported her, changing specializations in order to survive has been a great burden to her, adding "This means additional costs connected with changing the job, I have to study, travel to courses, and for example now I have to commute almost two hours to a hospital to be able to serve a yearly internship necessary for my specialization." 

The court slapped the municipality 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."

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.

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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.

Jachimowicz tells other Catholics who are in similar situations to act with wisdom and prudence, saying "Seek God’s will first of all" adding "use as much common sense as possible — there is a difference between courage and bravado."

She further encourages people to get good spiritual guidance and to follow the advice of St. John Paul II, "Be not afraid." 


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