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The European Court of Human Rights announces decisions regarding the midwife cases on freedom of conscience

The European Court of Human Rights announces admissibility decisions regarding the midwife cases on freedom of conscience

March 12, 2020

The European Court of Human Rights today, on March 12, 2020, announced it’s decisions in the cases of the midwives Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen.

Read about the background of the case of Ellinor Grimmark here: https://humanrightslawyers.eu/human-rights/our-cases/the-case-of-ellinor-grimmark/

Read about the background of the case of Linda Steen here: https://humanrightslawyers.eu/human-rights/our-cases/the-case-of-linda-steen/

Read the decision in Ellinor Grimmark's case: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-201915#{"itemid":["001-201915"]}

Read the decision in Linda Steen's case: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#%7B%22itemid%22:%5B%22001-201732%22%5D%7D

- I have worked as a midwife in Norway for five years and will continue to work there with delivering children and caring for mothers after childbirth. What I am worried about is when you neglect a basic human right. Freedom of conscience is an important right in a democracy; it should be okay to act based on one's conscience, says midwife Linda Steen

- I am able to work as a midwife in Norway, where freedom of conscience works so well. It is a pity that Sweden, which needs all the midwives it could possible get, now excludes competent midwives from delivery care. This means that delivery care and patient safety are affected negatively. There should be room for all opinions in a democratic society, says midwife Ellinor Grimmark.

- We note that the court has chosen to give a relatively comprehensive motivation for the decision. However, basic human rights issues are very incompletely addressed and some are not touch upon at all. We will now take time to analyze the decision in more detail, says Ruth Nordström, Chief Lawyer Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers

- Midwives Linda Steen and Ellinor Grimmark cannot perform abortions due to a deep religious conviction. The investigation into the cases shows that Linda Steen and Ellinor Grimmark were prevented from working as midwives primarily because the County Council's representatives did not want to have employees with their view on abortion, working within health care. Accepting such an attitude means a very limited space for individuals with different beliefs in public service, says Ruth Nordström

- The European Court finds that Sweden has a positive obligation to organize it’s health care system in a way that ensures the effective exercise of freedom of conscience for health care professionals in the professional context does not prevent the provision of such services. It is regrettable that midwives who invoke freedom of conscience are in principle barred from practicing their profession in Sweden, says Ruth Nordström

- All EU countries and virtually all Member States of the Council of Europe, including Norway and Denmark, have a general provision on freedom of conscience or specific regulation concerning the freedom of conscience for healthcare professionals. Against this background, it is very regrettable that Swedish authorities claim that it is not possible to grant the right freedom of conscience in Swedish health care, says Rebecca Ahlstrand

- It can neither be considered proportionate nor necessary to prohibit a midwife from working on delivery and maternity care while there is such a great shortage on midwives throughout Sweden. It is women in delivery care who will suffer out of patient safety risks due to this shortage, says Rebecca Ahlstrand

- Freedom of conscience is one of the most fundamental human rights and is about a deep fundamental conviction that no one should be forced to renounce in their service, says Attorney Jörgen Olson

For more information contact:

Chief Lawyer Ruth Nordström
Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers AB
Axel Johanssons gata 6
754 50 Uppsala
Phone: +46 (0)70 725 19 17
Email: ruth.nordstrom@shrl.eu
Web: https://humanrightslawyers.eu

Lawyer Rebecca Ahlstrand
Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers AB
Axel Johanssons gata 6
754 50 Uppsala
Phone: +46 (0)70 725 19 17
Email: rebecca.ahlstrand@shrl.eu
Web: https://humanrightslawyers.eu

Attorney Percy Bratt
Advokatbyrån Bratt Feinsilber Harling AB
Box 24164, SE - 104 51 Stockholm.
Phone: +46 (0)8-667 40 01
Web: www.bfhlaw.se

Attorney Jörgen Olson
Advokatbyrå Jörgen Olson AB
Allégatan 20
503 32 BORÅS
Phone: +46 (0)33-10 70 60
E-mail: info@advokatolson.se

Skandinaviska Människorättsjuristerna (SHRL) är en skandinavisk juristorganisation som arbetar med att främja mänskliga rättigheter i Europa. SHRL är medlem i EU:s plattform för mänskliga rättigheter, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights http://fra.europa.eu/en)

SHRL arbetar via internationella nätverk och organ och som styrdokument finns FN:s deklaration om mänskliga rättigheter, Barnkonventionen, Europakonventionen om de mänskliga rättigheterna och Europarådets konvention om bekämpande av människohandel. SHRL och Scandinavian Human Rights Committee delar årligen ut priset Scandinavian Human Dignity Award.