Two nurses who were denied employment as midwives in Sweden because of their refusal to perform abortions have failed in their legal action at the European Court of Human Rights. Michael Robinson SPUC Director of Communications said: “Midwives cannot be forced to kill unborn children. This case is a further erosion of freedom of conscience.”
Pro-life nurses Linda Steen and Ellinor Grimmark were refused employment as midwives because they would not take part in performing abortions - something which Swedish law requires of midwives.
Ms Steen and Ms Grimmark object to abortion due to their Christian faith and stated that their freedom of conscience had been violated and that they were subject to discrimination.
Several Swedish courts ruled against the two nurses before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declined to hear their case, citing the findings of the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman, which found that religious belief was not an issue, since “another midwife refusing a part of the work other than on religious grounds would not have been treated any differently from the applicant”.
Steen described the ECHR’s decision as “disappointing,” and Grimmark stated that in a democratic society people should be entitled to their beliefs.
Culture of death infecting medical professionals
Mr Robinson, of SPUC, commented on the case, calling it “deeply troubling.”
Mr Robinson said: “The situation in Sweden is alarming. Healthcare professionals work to care for and protect patients, not to kill them. The creeping culture of death is infecting many medical professionals and we must work vigorously to defend those affected by it.
“Asking a Christian, or any reasonable person to play a role in violating the dignity of human life is abhorrent. At SPUC we have been at the forefront of protecting freedom of conscience, most notably when Scottish midwives, Mary Doogan and Connie Wood were subject to discrimination. SPUC fought their case to the highest UK court, the Supreme Court.”
Freedom of conscience and religious freedom in healthcare
In 2014, Scottish midwives, Mary Doogan and Connie Woods, went to the Supreme Court to fight for consciousness objection and uphold their right not to supervise abortions performed on a labour ward.
SPUC backed the midwives in their 7-year-long struggle before losing the case. The pro-life midwives helped deliver over 10,000 babies during their 25 years of service.
The issue of conscientious objection has also arisen within the field of palliative care in recent years.
In 2019, SPUC reported on how a Catholic Colorado hospital faced a legal challenge after firing an employee who planned to kill a patient by assisted suicide. The dismissed employee asked a state state court to declare that Centura Health’s faith-based policy was in violation of the Colorado state law which allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients in order to end their life.