Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen are two Swedish midwives. Since they refused to perform abortions, they were denied employment in Sweden.
In particular, Ellinor Grimmark asked for summer employment at the hospitals of Högland e di Ryhov in 2013. Even though both of the facilities were lacking midwives, Grimmark was denied employment since she had previously declared that she was not going to perform abortions because of her conscience and religious convictions.
After she was denied unemployment, she appealed to the Swedish authority on discriminations, Diskrimineringsombudsmannen. Her appeal was rejected based on the fact that in Sweden, the performing of abortions is part of the midwives' tasks, so there would be no discrimination in denying a job if a midwife refuses to perform them.
Linda Steen's case was similar: in 2015, she informed her employer of the women's clinic in Nyköping that she would be unable to assist in committing abortions and failed to be employed anymore.
Both of them applied to the European Court for Human Rights.
A 3-judge commission declared the applications "inadmissible" on the basis of Article 9 of the European Convention for the Safeguarding of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
“The Court notes that the applicant's refusal to assist in abortions due to her religious faith and conscience constitutes such a manifestation of her religion,” the decisions read, “which is protected under Article 9 of the Convention. There was thus interference with her freedom of religion under Article 9 § 1 of the Convention.”
The sentence continued that the interference was “prescribed by law since, under the Swedish law, an employee is under a duty to perform all work duties given to him or her.”
The decision went on to say, “Sweden provides nationwide abortion services and therefore has a positive obligation to organize its health system in a way as to ensure that the effective exercise of freedom of conscience of health professionals in the professional context does not prevent the provision of such services.”
In the end, the court decision might lead to the notion that performing an abortion is part of the job description of a midwife. This ruling jeopardizes the right to work of all the European midwives who refuse to perform abortions because of their conscience.
There is a possibility that the decision might be overturned in the future by decisions made by the Court in a higher chamber, composed of 7 or 17 justices.
Robert Clarke, deputy director of ADF International, said right after the decision to be “very disappointed” because “a positive judgment from the Court would have been an important step in the protection of the right to freedom of conscience. Medical professionals should be able to work without being forced to choose between their deeply held convictions and careers.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
“International law clearly protects the right to freedom of conscience. Nobody should be forced to decide between their profession and their conscience. Rather than forcing midwives and other medical professionals out of their profession, Sweden should look to safeguard their moral convictions,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.
Freedom of expression
Päivi Räsänen, a member of the Finnish Parliament, faces four police investigations because of her position on homosexual relations.
The first investigation started because of a tweet she posted in June 2019. In the tweet, Räsänen questioned the official sponsorship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland to the LGBT event, Pride 2019. Räsänen attached to the tweet the image of the Bible passage Romans 1:24-27.
The passage reads: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.”
After the tweet, Räsänen was subjected to a police interview in November 2019.