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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Doctors’ abortion refusal a ‘joke’

Reports that all the gynecologists at a local hospital in Flekkefjord, south Norway, were refusing to give abortions for fear of reprisals was a joke that was then misreported by the head of the surgery department.

Marcus Gürgen, the head of surgery, told newspaper VG that he was “idiotic and mistaken” to have told the media about “a joke from a colleague about what would happen if we had carried out abortions in Flekkefjord.” He confirmed that “no doctor has used any right to reserve treatment since we do not offer abortion services here,” and stressed that “we have no foundation to believe that anyone could have been threatened.”

Gürgen replied “no comment” when asked by VG if he had informed Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), who carried out the original interview, that his report had been about a joke. The interview was reported widely in the media, and led to criticism from politicians and surprise from the Norwegian Gynecological Federation.

Gürgen had told NRK that one of the gynecologists at the hospital in particular did “not want to get stones through his windows at home if he decides to carry out an abortion.” Gürgen also suggested that the area around the hospital was very religious and that many women traveled farther a field to have abortions in any case in order to avoid others knowing. At the same time, the chief county medical officer of the Vest-Agder region in which Flekkefjord in based told NRK that no one has complained about the provision of induced abortion services in the area for 20 years, which had been centralized in larger city hospitals nearby. He also suggested that there was no legal obligation to decentralize abortion services to local hospitals.

Leif Halvorsen, medical director for Flekkefjord hospital, commented to VG that the case was “five feathers turned into five hens,” a Norwegian expression meaning that gossip has snowballed.

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