Romania has one of the highest abortion rates in all of Europe, but a growing number of doctors in the country are refusing to abort unborn babies.
EU Observer reports 60 of the 189 hospitals in the country (about 30 percent) will not abort unborn babies because of their doctors’ moral or religious objections.
“The law does not oblige us to do this, as it is a service on request, and we can accept or not,” said Robert Danca, manager of Cuza Voda hospital.
Abortions are legal in Romania for any reason up to 14 weeks, without even required counseling or waiting periods, according to the report. While public hospitals must provide abortions by law, doctors may refuse under Romanian conscience protection laws.
Reporters with The Black Sea publication recently contacted all the public hospitals in the country to ask if they do abortions. The investigation found that 60 would not.
One doctor, Daniela Chiriac, told the news outlet that she quit doing abortions seven years ago at the Municipal Clinical Emergency Hospital in Timisoara because she now believes they are a sin.
“I thought that if I could avoid a sin, then I should do it,” she said. “There are many patients who ask me to recommend someone else and I refuse, because it is also a sin.”
According to the report:
Individual doctors in Romania have the right to refuse to perform abortions.
The 2016 professional code for medics outlines that any doctor can decline to provide services if it affects their professional independence or moral values, or contravenes their professional principles.
These “conscience-based refusal” laws are common in most European countries – but when every doctor in a hospital invokes them, women find their access to healthcare faces restrictions.
Human rights lawyer Iustina Ionescu argues that any woman refused an abortion by her local hospital could sue, drawing a distinction between individual doctors and the healthcare provided.
“The doctor might not be held responsible,” she says, “but ‘the unit’ is a service provider covered by the healthcare law, and does not have such an explicit provision. I would say it is illegal for the healthcare unit to refuse, but we would need [to bring] a case.”
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Abortion activists are pushing to overturn conscience protections for these reasons. Some now argue that doctors should be forced to abort unborn babies, even if it goes against their religious or moral beliefs. Earlier this week in America, Democrats in Congress voted against several measures to strengthen conscience protections for medical workers who oppose the killing of unborn babies.
In Romania, some politicians are working to combat the high abortion rate with pregnancy support programs. According to the report, MP Matei-Adrian Dobrovie proposed providing state funding to pregnancy resource centers that provide support to mothers and babies. He said Romania has the second highest rate of abortions per live birth in the European Union.
“These centers exist in other countries, such as the United States, and in Romanian legislation they are not regulated,” Dobrovie said. “I proposed to the ministry of labour that these centers should be included and the occupation of assistant and counselor in the pregnancy crisis to be included in the social services.”