Polish Doctor Fired After Denying Woman an Abortion Due to His Catholic Beliefs

(Photo: Reuters/Agencja Gazeta)Polish prime minister Donald Tusk smiles at his supporters during election rally in Krakow.

A Polish doctor who refused a woman's request for an abortion procedure because of a "conflict of conscience" with his Roman Catholic beliefs has been fired from the hospital he works at.

The case, which sparked a nationwide abortion debate and prompted Prime Minister Donald Tusk to tell Warsaw obstetrician Bogdan Chazan that he must choose the law over his faith, began in April when the doctor refused a pregnant woman an abortion at Warsaw's Holy Family Hospital.

The woman had came to Chazan to ask for an abortion because her own physician had diagnosed her unborn child with grave health problems, Reuters reported. The obstetrician, however, told the woman that he could not agree to such an abortion in his hospital, and referred the woman to a hospice where the child could get palliative care once born.

Abortion is legal only in certain cases in Poland, such as when the mother's life is in grave danger and before 25 weeks of pregnancy; if the fetus is known to have severe birth defects, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.

The child at the center of the debate was later born at a different hospital, but with severe head and facial deformities and a brain that was not viable.

BBC News reported that the baby is currently in intensive care. Professor Romuald Debski of the Bielanski hospital, where the child was born, said that doctors should be guided by their oath, and not by their religious principles.

"If Professor Chazan saw the life that he saved, he would have a different attitude," Debski said earlier this month. He also said that the baby would be "dying for a month or two" thanks to the doctor.

Although legally Chazan had the right to refuse the abortion due to his faith, he was legally obliged to refer the woman to another doctor who could carry out the procedure.

Back in June, Tusk said in a statement: "Regardless of what his conscience is telling him, [a doctor] must carry out the law. Every patient must be sure that […] the doctor will perform all procedures in accordance with the law and in accordance with his duties."

Chazan has criticized the decision to fire him, however, and called it "the start of an attack on the conscience of doctors and people in management positions in the health service."

He added: "Abiding by the laws of nature, and first and foremost by the law that prohibits killing a person, will probably become a reason for eliminating these people from management positions."

The doctor was one of 3,000 other practitioners in the predominantly Catholic nation to sign a "Declaration of Faith," vowing that their religious conscience will guide their professional life and that they are opposed to practices like abortion and euthanasia that serve as "imposed, anti-human ideologies of contemporary civilization."

Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, Warsaw's Roman Catholic Archbishop, added that the dismissal was a "dangerous precedent that violates the rights not just of Catholics but of everyone."