For religious freedom—and freedom in general—the Scandinavian countries are becoming terrible places to live. Some of you may have watched or listened to my recent shows on what is going on in Norway, where children are being taken away from their parents at a shocking and disturbing rate. (My conversation with a Christian mother who had not seen her children in months was particularly moving—I cannot imagine that sort of desperation.) Denmark has become so stifling that my friend Iben Thranholm, a journalist from Copenhagen, told me that she regularly leaves the country in order to feel as if she can breathe. And now there’s this, from The Guardian:
Two nurses denied midwife jobs as midwives for refusing to carry out abortions have lost their legal bid to take Sweden to a top European court for violating their religious beliefs. Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen had told the European court of human rights (ECHR) that being denied employment due to their beliefs against abortion was an illegal breach of their rights to freedom of religion and conscience.
Instead of ruling one way or the other, the court declined to take up the case, with a panel finding that Swedish authorities had acted lawfully. Thursday’s decision was described as “disappointing” but “quite expected” by Steen, while Grimmark said there should be room for all opinions in a democratic society.
The ruling was applauded by a sexual health organisation, which said the case had attempted to “chip away” at abortion rights.
“It is not a human right for nursing staff to refuse to provide care,” said Hans Linde of the Swedish non-profit sex education organisation RFSU. “This is an important decision that in the long term will help to protect women’s health, the right to good-quality care and to be treated with respect when seeking an abortion.“
The case is the latest in a series of lawsuits around the world over the scope of religious rights at work, from a baker who refused to make a cake with a gay rights message through to clashes over prayer breaks and the wearing of religious symbols.
Both Grimmark and Steen initially worked as nurses then retrained as midwives, but were rejected for jobs after saying their religious beliefs prevented them carrying out abortions. They launched cases against Sweden at the ECHR, claiming authorities fell foul of the European convention on human rights.
The court found both cases were inadmissible to be heard by the EHRC. There is no procedure for an appeal against the decision. ADF International, the international arm of a US-based Christian group that campaigns for religious freedom, said the outcome had disparaged the women’s religious beliefs.
“Medical professionals should be able to work without being forced to choose between their deeply held convictions and their careers,” said its deputy director, Robert Clarke. “A positive judgment from the court would have been an important step in the protection of the right to freedom of conscience.”
As I noted in my 2016 book The Culture War, we are not simply seeing religious liberties and freedom of conscience get eradicated, we are seeing those rights get replaced. The fictitious right to have your pre-born child killed thus becomes, in our post-Sexual Revolution world, a right so inviolable that it eliminates the right of a medical professional not to participate in this killing—because that right might interfere with the ability to get the child killed promptly. Your rights end where a woman’s right to kill her pre-born child begins, so to speak.
I agree that these cases centre around freedom of conscience, but they represent even more than that. Abortion is an intentional act of violence that ends the life of a human being, and the fact that we refer to the procedure primarily with euphemisms should not distract us from that fact. If one needs to be religious to believe that killing other human beings is wrong, (and one evolution professor has complained that Christianity is holding us back from legalizing infanticide) we are going to see dark days head indeed.