Swedish midwife Linda Steen objected to assist with abortions for reasons of conscience. As a consequence hospitals denied her employment. ADF International supports her case. Our allied attorney Ruth Nordström represents Ms. Steen and filed a claim with the district court of Nyköping in Sweden. Listen to the full podcast here.
No Intention to Leave Room for Conscience
In March 2015, after explaining her position to the nursing unit manager, the Women’s Clinic of Nyköping refused to hire Ms. Steen. She received a letter from the management stating: ‘It is not our policy or our approach to leave any opening for a conscience clause. We have neither the ability nor intention to work with such exceptions.’ The manager went even further by contacting another potential employer about Ms. Steen’s convictions. As a result, her interview was cancelled.
Not the Only Case
Similar arguments barred Ellinor Grimmark from employment with three different clinics in 2013 and 2014. Again, allied attorney Ruth Nordström represented her in a claim at the district court of Jönköping in Sweden. The court agreed that the midwife’s rights had been infringed. However, it concluded that forcing her to participate in abortions would be of greater importance.
The court’s ruling also implied that Ms. Grimmark and her family ought to pay more than EUR 100.000 in legal costs. This is a phenomenal amount considering the wider public significance of a case like this. Also, taking into account a medical worker’s salary, these kind of fees could easily scare a person away from pursuing their rights.
Punished for Their Beliefs
Midwives are trained to bring life into the world. Now they are being punished because they refuse to do something they believe to be morally wrong. At the same time, freedom of conscience is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Sweden has agreed to adhere. It is the only country of the 28 in the European Union that does not have either a general conscience provision or specific laws protecting medical staff.
Midwives are being punished because they refuse to do something they believe to be morally wrong
In the expert brief filed in Ms. Steen’s case, ADF International highlighted the Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.
Desire to Protect Life
Being pro-abortion should not be a requirement for employment as a midwife. The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Medical centers should respect that desire and conviction.
ADF International supports the cases of Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen financially and with legal expertise. Their case is likely to impact all European medical workers.
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