The issue flared in October after the ministry issued a circular informing general physicians that they cannot under any circumstances decline to carry out or recommend treatments to which they are personally opposed for religious or ethical reasons. As examples, the ministry cited abortion, as well as fertility treatments for lesbian couples.
Some 170 physicians reacted by signing a petition protesting against the terms of the circular. They were joined in their objections by around 30 medical students and 60 other healthcare workers.
But the health ministry has vowed not to budge on the issue, Christian newspaper Vårt Land reports.
“Doctors have to be ready to do their duty. There are plenty of duties for physicians working in the municipalities and at hospitals that don’t involve abortion referrals,” said Robin Kåss (Labour Party), secretary of state at the health ministry.
Kåss told news agency NTB that the department had also occasionally encountered doctors who refused to prescribe contraceptive medicines.
“If you’re a pacifist, you can’t work as a police officer. If you refuse to perform a blood transfusion, you can’t be a surgeon. If you deny a patient contraception or a referral for an abortion, you can’t be a general physician,” said Kåss.