THE CASE OF LINDA STEEN
LINDA STEEN WORKED as a nurse at a healthcare center in Sörmland County and was granted a so called midwife contract/contract employment at Nyköping women’s clinic, which means she would receive salary during her studies and holidays. In exchange she would have to work two years as a midwife at the women’s clinic after the end of her studies, otherwise the salary would have to be refunded. Linda Steen had intended to work with childbirth and postnatal care and this was all that was discussed during the job interview.
DURING THE STUDIES Linda Steen understood that one percent of the late term abortions, are performed at the maternity ward. She could not herself take part in the actual abortion procedures, but as she new that these abortions are always planned ahead she assumed the situation could be resolved in the workplace. Prior to completing her studies, Linda Steen announced to the women’s clinic that she could not perform abortions, and was then told that she could not keep her midwifery contract.
SHE WAS DISMISSED from service immediately, but to fulfill her part of the contract, she sought a position at another hospital within the County. She received a positive response from the Eskilstuna hospital even after she had shared her conscientious objections. The personnel officer from Nykoping however, contacted the person in charge at the Eskilstuna Hospital and told them not to give Linda Steen the position.
LINDA STEEN HAS filed a lawsuit against Sörmland county counsel for violation of her freedom of conscience and her freedom of religion under the European Convention on Human Rights and has claimed damages for those violations. The European Convention, which is Swedish law since 1995, gives everyone, according to article 9, the right to freedom of conscience. This article may only be restricted if it is supported by law and if it is necessary in a democratic society.
Is there any support in Swedish law for restricting Linda Steens’s right to work within her profession in midwifery?
Is it necessary in a democratic society to deprive Linda Steen her opportunity to work as a midwife in Sweden ?
TODAY LINDA STEEN is forced to commute to Norway, where midwives and doctors who wish, are granted freedom of conscience. This is a waste of resources and a shortage in a democracy.