STOCKHOLM, May 15, 2012 ( – A general practitioner has been censured by the Swedish health authorities after saying no to an abortion, The Local, an English language Swedish newspaper reports.

In 2010, a woman went to the doctor, who with her patient is not named in the papers, asking for an abortion at her local gynecology clinic. The doctor reportedly began to have second thoughts after the woman’s husband asked the day before the scheduled abortion if there were any alternatives. The doctor reportedly cancelled the abortion appointment, saying the woman “didn’t seem to be mentally balanced and in a condition to make well-reasoned decisions.”

The National Board of Health and Welfare told the physician that her only task is to carry out the wishes of the patient, regardless of her estimation of the patient’s mental state. She was also criticised for having breached patient confidentiality by discussing the case with the woman’s husband.

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The incident occurred one year after Swedish parliamentarians voted 271 to 20 against accepting a resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe supporting conscience rights for doctors across the European Union. Since a 1973 law, in fact, doctors can be jailed in Sweden for refusing to participate in abortion.

At the time of the conscience vote, Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius warned that Sweden’s government was sliding into a totalitarian mindset.

“From abroad, I have received responses that express disappointment and incomprehension related this parliamentary resolution, which contributes to the decline of Sweden’s reputation as a democratic society committed to the protection of minority rights,” said Bishop Arborelius said.

“Unfortunately, this decision confirms the dark tradition that also exists in our country, that of forced sterilization, which was allowed to continue almost without resistance for some time.”

Sweden has one of the oldest and most unrestricted abortion laws in Europe, having allowed abortion legally since 1938 for eugenic reasons. The law was expanded in 1946 to include socio-medical grounds, and again in 1963. In 1974 the requirement for abortion to be approved by a medical committee was abolished and abortion is allowed for any or no reason on request up to the 18th week of pregnancy. From 18 to 22 weeks, permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare is required.


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