Sweden's Aggressive Attack on Conscience Challenged Before the Council of Europe

Midwife Asked to Perform Abortions or Lose Her Job, Or Receive Re-education on ‘Rights’

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By Roger Kiska of Alliance Defending Freedom

Sweden, a nation often associated with human rights protection, has in recent years become one of the globe’s most aggressive violators of rights of conscience for medical personnel who wish not to assist in performing abortions. Take for example, the recent case of midwife Ellinor Grimmark who was not only fired from her position as a midwife for asking not to have to perform abortions because of her belief that human life begins from conception, but who was offered her position back under the condition that she agree to psychological counseling to coerce her into accepting abortion as a “right.” Alliance Defending Freedom has assisted Mrs. Grimmark’s legal team in Sweden in defending her right of conscience in one of the very few nations in Europe without explicit protection in such employment settings. As Mrs. Grimmark has noted, she became a midwife because she loves children; she wants to bring them into the world rather than prevent them from entering the world.

As a result of the systematic denial of rights of conscience for medical staff, as evidenced by Mrs. Grimmark’s case, a collective complaint has been brought against Sweden by the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations before the European Committee of Social Rights. The Committee, a body of the Council of Europe, is charged with the task of supervising national commitments to the European Social Charter, to which Sweden is a party. Among the provisions of the European Social Charter are articles dealing with health and employment rights, including those associated with rights of conscience. Alliance Defending Freedom is a third party to the complaint, which was recently admitted by the Committee and will be ruled upon in the coming weeks.

Sweden’s utter contempt for life shone through in its written response to the Committee, where in paragraph 93 of their Written Observations, they stated that fetal viability could not be determined until a live birth and that even where a late-term abortion causes the child to gasp for breath or perform reflexive movements (i.e. defensive movements) that the unborn child should still not be considered as being viable.

The case has garnered widespread media attention in Sweden. And in the weeks leading up to the Committee’s ruling, the fact cannot be ignored that rights of conscience are recognized internationally as a fundamental human right. No one should be forced against their will to perform a procedure which they view as tantamount to murder. And no one should be forced to choose between their faith and their profession. We also cannot forget the patients themselves, pregnant women who may wish to have a caregiver who shares their values regarding life. To allow an entire country to legally withhold rights of conscience to medical staff based on their moral beliefs would empty an entire medical system of caring and competent doctors who only seek to protect life. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to stand.

Roger Kiska is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom in Vienna, Austria.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an international alliance-building legal organization that advocates for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and the family. Alliance Defending Freedom is at the forefront of legal battles in these areas, with more cases before the European Court of Human Rights than any other faith-based legal organization, and involvement in numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Alliance Defending Freedom has an alliance of nearly 2,300 attorneys worldwide.  ADF is also accredited with the European Parliament, EU Fundamental Rights Agency, Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, and Organization for American States, and has consultative status with the United Nations.

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