Court finds doctor who invoked conscientious objections to abortion discriminated against

Ljubljana – The Ljubljana Local Court has ruled that a candidate for specialisation in gynaecology was discriminated against by the Medical Chamber after she voiced her conscientious objections to abortion and intrauterine contraception (IUD). The ruling is final.

The court found that in 2017 the Medical Chamber acted against the protection against discrimination act because it gave fewer points to a candidate for specialisation in gynaecology who voiced her conscientious objections to abortion and IUDs.

The candidate told a three-member commission interviewing candidates for specialisation she had personal and religious objections to preforming abortion seeing it as an execution of a living being, and IUDs as a form of contraception preventing an inseminated egg from evolving, thus effectively resulting in an abortion.

She expressed the desire for working at a gynaecological clinic, where abortions are not performed, and said she would propose other forms of contraception to patients who would express the wish for a IUDs or refer them to another gynaecologist.

The candidate received the lowest score of all eight candidates at the interview and was not among the six picked for specialisation.

The chamber argued this was not the reason for her receiving a lower score as candidates had the right to voice conscientious objections while IUDs were not even in the programme.

It noted that the candidate had indeed got the lowest score at the interview but that she had also scored poorer than other candidates in all other criteria.

In February 2018, the Slovenian Medical Association decided that a candidate for specialisation in gynaecology voicing conscientious objections to abortion cannot take the final exam after specialisation.

According to the Ljubljana court, the Medical Chamber gave the candidate the lowest score at the interview to reduce her chances of being picked for specialisation due to her conscientious objections.

It noted that such discrimination was a violation of the protection against discrimination act and a violation of the right to conscientious objections, which is protected by the Constitution, the medical services act, health services act and the code of medical ethics.

The court also found that the candidate’s conscientious objections would not affect the constitutional right to freedom in deciding on the birth of children.

Following an appeal, a higher court confirmed the ruling of the first-instance court, so the decision is now final.

The Medical Chamber told the STA that there were 173 doctors in Slovenia who had voiced conscientious objections, mostly to performing abortion or assisting in abortion, and to a lesser extent to prescribing contraception, IUDs and sterilization.

Data from the registry of doctors show that 10 gynaecologists voiced conscientious objections to abortion but none for prescribing contraceptives. “This shows that such conscientious objections is very rare among gynaecologists or non existent,” it said.