What’s at Stake
Freedom of conscience
As a midwife, Linda Steen has been trained to bring life into the world. She was hoping to use her skills in delivering babies at Nyköping Women’s Clinic in Sweden. However, the clinic told her that if she wasn’t willing to take babies’ lives as well deliver them, there was no job available to her.
Linda had explained to the nursing unit manager that she would not be prepared to assist with abortions for reasons of conscience, founded on her Christian faith. As a result, the clinic refused to hire her and sent a letter that was deeply dismissive of the need for conscience protection. It simply stated: ‘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.’ Linda was left to look for a job elsewhere.
Just as she was preparing for a job interview at another clinic, it was cancelled. The manager at the Nyköping clinic had been in touch with this potential employer to warn them about Linda’s convictions. Her experience began to mirror that of Ellinor Grimmark, another Swedish midwife who was refused employment for the same reasons.
ADF International allied lawyer Ruth Nordström with Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers represents Linda and has filed a claim with the District Court of Nyköping. ADF International filed an expert brief in Linda’s case, which raised a Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on ‘the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care’ and highlighted the mandate for protecting freedom of conscience under international law.
Sweden now faces a serious human rights issue. ‘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,’ said Robert Clarke, ADF International Director of European Advocacy. ‘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 centres should respect that desire and conviction.’
Our Role in the Case
In partnership with allied lawyers at Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, ADF International filed an expert brief with the District Court of Nyköping on behalf of the midwife, Linda Steen.