The removal one of Poland's top doctors as director of Holy Family hospital in Warsaw for refusing to perform an abortion has drawn widespread criticism, with many stating the act violated legal grounds.
“The official council in his institution has not found any miscarrying of procedures or breaking of the rules within the hospital,” Catholic advocacy group member Professor Bogna Obidzinska told CNA July 23.
“His decision not to commit the abortion was perfectly within the law, and he had the right, according to the Freedom of Conscience Act,” to refuse.
“The only breech they found that he was guilty of was not referring the lady to another abortion clinic, which in fact was not among his obligations because he was not the leading doctor of this woman.”
A representative of Catholic Voices in Poland and professor at the local Jagiellonian University, Obidzinska offered her comments in wake of the July 23 dismissal of Doctor Bogdan Chazan from his position as director of Warsaw’s Holy Family Hospital. Chazan was fired after refusing to perform an abortion on a deformed baby who had been conceived through in vitro in a fertility clinic.
Catholic Voices is an international organization dedicated to improving Catholic media representation, and has supported numerous petitions advocating on the professor’s behalf, including one on CitizenGo that has obtained more than 85,000 signatures.
Although Polish law protects the right of mothers to abort babies conceived in rape and those who are fatally ill up to full term, under the country’s conscience clause no doctor is required to participate in or perform an abortion.
However following his refusal to perform the requested abortion, Chazan’s hospital was fined 70,000 zloty, roughly $23,000. Warsaw’s vice-mayor removed the physician on the grounds that he had not used the conscience clause correctly, which states that if a doctor refuses an abortion, they must refer their patient to another abortionist.
“In Poland, every pregnant woman has a doctor who looks after her throughout the pregnancy,” and for the woman in question “that was not professor Chazan,” Obidzinska stated.
“She actually had her doctor, and that doctor later on did provide her with the information she asked.”
Chazan has been given on a three month grace period – which took effect immediately after his July 23 dismissal – and he will be required to officially step down when the hospital appoints a new head.
The doctor, who is being represented by Polish organization “Ordo Iuris,” has said that he will launch an appeal, despite the fact that the Warsaw city council stated their ruling cannot be appealed.
“It’s very hard to say why all this is happening, because he’s a successful doctor and he wasn’t even responsible for the woman, she just consulted with him,” the media representative explained, stating that there could be “some kind of jealousy between clinics” due to Chazan's success.
Numbers found in the committee of the city of Warsaw's official report on the clinic “state that the number of patients who have used the clinic have doubled over the time when Professor Chazan was appointed, which is about 10 years.”
“There has been only one abortion carried out in this clinic over those last 12 years, and the number of caesarian sections has dropped (at least) by half, which means that the quality of the medical care in this hospital must be truly extraordinary.”
In light of this, the professor's dismissal “looks quite artificial, there really seem to be no reasons,” Obidzinska continued.
“The baby was born, the woman is healthy,” and although the baby died as expected a few days after birth, “Professor Chazan actually offered the woman full care in a special unit of the clinic with hospice and with special psychological care for her and for her husband, so she was not just left alone with the problem.”
Referring to how Chazan is being called a “hypocrite” by some due to a previous change in his stance on abortion, Obidzinska noted that “the hypocrisy of those criticizing Dr. Chazan is awful because he has been a well-known doctor for saving lives for at least 15 years now.”
“People, women in Warsaw know that if they want an abortion they simply don’t go to him. This is common knowledge as well,” she said.
“He is famous for doing extraordinary things in order to save life, and he's also known and famous for having saved life where other doctors had thought that pregnancies would naturally end in tragedy,” the media representative observed.
“He did save lots and lots of babies. If someone goes to ask him for an abortion that sounds like a provocation. I can’t believe that the woman wouldn’t know he would refuse.”