THE CASE OF LINDA STEEN

The case of Linda Steen v. Sweden in the European Court of Human Rights

Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers represent the midwife Linda Steen, who was denied work as a midwife at delivery clinics at several hospitals within the County of Sörmland, because she, due to her conscience and deep religious conviction, is unable to perform abortions or any act that in her view ends a human life.

Linda Steen worked as a nurse at a health care center within the County Council of Sörmland and was granted a so-called midwife contract / contract employment at Nyköping Women’s Clinic. According to the contract, she received holiday-based study salary during her studies as a midwife, if she promised to work for two years as a midwife at the women’s clinic after finalizing her studies. The County Counsil however broke the contract and denied her the opportunity to work. She then applied for a position at another hospital within the County, in order to fulfill her part of the contract. She received a positive response even after explaining her conscientious objections. However, the staff officer from Nyköping convinced Eskilstuna Hospital not to provide employment for Linda Steen.

Linda Steen has invoked freedom of conscience, ie. the freedom to follow one’s conscience, one’s moral conviction, in words, in action, or failure to act. Freedom of conscience is counted as a human right,along with the freedom of religion and thought in Article 9 of the European Convention.

Since Linda Steen has de facto been given a professional ban in Sweden, she works as a midwife in Norway, where health care staff is granted freedom of conscience. The majority of the Council of Europe’s member states, including the neighboring Scandinavian countries, Norway and Denmark, protect the right to freedom of conscience, and the Swedish County Council’s attitude to freedom ofconscience is unique in a European perspective.

Linda Steen, after losing in the domestic proceedings, has decided to file a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, since she believes that the Swedish state violated, and continues to violate, her right to freedom of religion and conscience under article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Convention).

The complaint also addresses violations of her right to freedom of thought pursuant to article 9, as well as her right to freedom of opinion and opinion, according to article 10, in the light of the treatment she has been subjected to by Swedish authorities. Finally, Linda Steen complains that she has been subjected to unlawful (direct or indirect) discrimination, according to article 14.

If the case is admissible, the European Court will examine whether Sweden, through the County Council’s actions, has violated the rights established by the European Convention. Such an examination means that the Court examines whether the restrictions have a legitimate purpose, if they have a legal foundation, are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.

Read the summary of the annex to the complaint in Swedish here:
RN Steen 10 mars 2020 Steen sammanfattning klagomål

Read the appendix to the complaint in English here:
Appendix Complaint Linda Steen vs Sweden

Press release 13 March 20. The European Court of Human Rights announces decisions regarding the midwife cases on freedom of conscience. Read here: https://humanrightslawyers.eu/the-european-court-of-human-rights-announces-decisions-regarding-the-midwife-cases-on-freedom-of-conscience/