April 25, 2014 (TSR) – Norway‘s health minister has dropped plans to allow the country’s doctors to refuse to refer women to have abortions on grounds of conscience, in a humiliating u-turn for the country’s right-wing government, The Local reported.
“It will not be possible for general practitioners to opt out,” Bent Høie said in a press conference on Friday morning. “There will be no possibility of opting out of referring for either abortion or other questions.”
Hoie said the government had decided to change its policy — a central part of its agreement with the country’s Christian Democratic party, after it generated strong opposition from women’s rights groups.
He said that the Christian Democrats also accepted this and had agreed to seek a new solution to the problem.
“I do not regret the agreements we entered into with the Christian Democrats,” Hoie said. “I am glad that the Christian Democrats also see that the proposal met with great popular resistance, and that the current proposal does not work.”
Christian Democratic leader Knut Arild Hareide on Thursday wrote in an article in Norwway’s Vårt Land newspaper that he would be willing to drop the proposal for doctors to be able to opt out of referring abortion patients if Christian doctors’ “consciences” were somehow “safeguarded.”
Susanne Kaluza, the editor of Norway’s parenting site Foreldre.no, who campaigned against the shelved policy, congratulated the two parties on “seeing sense”.
“I think it’s great that the Christian Democrats and the Conservatives did not get hung up on prestige in this case, but instead saw sense and turned around in time,” she said.
She said she would follow the development of alternative policies with an “eagle eye”.
“The most important thing for me is that not a single woman should suffer rejection when she comes to her GP with a difficult question,” she said. “That’s what I’m passionate about.”
Olav Fredheim, Chairman of the Norwegian Christian Medical Association said that he was “confident” that the alternative solution which the Christian Democrats were discussing with the Conservative-led government would not force GPs to refer their patients to have abortions.
“The fact that the Christian party is confident with the solution makes us quite confident that the solution will not force Christian doctors to refer patients for abortion,” he said.