A new report released on Tuesday highlighted concerns that the right to conscientious objection is threatened in France, Spain and Sweden.
The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) published the 71-page report examining freedom of expression, parental rights and freedom of conscience in five European countries: France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom
During an online press conference on December 7, Madeleine Enzlberger, executive director of OIDAC, said there had been constant pressure in some countries in Europe to eliminate conscientious objection, in particular regarding abortion.
The report said that changing a conscientious objection clause in Sweden had already affected Christian professionals, and that “similar developments in France and Spain could lead to the complete exclusion of Christians from certain professions.”
In Sweden, Christians working in the health care system can be dismissed for exercising their freedom of conscience. The European Court of Human Rights in 2020 refused to consider the case of two midwives, Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen, who were refused a job because of their refusal to perform abortions.
The European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, voted in June in favor of a report calling abortion “essential health care” and seeking to redefine conscientious objection as “denial of care. medical ”.
In Spain, the Ministry of Equality presented in September a project to create a register of doctors, nurses and staff who oppose abortion with the aim of guaranteeing the “right to terminate a pregnancy. »In public hospitals.
Spanish Bishop Luis Argüello of Valladolid responded to the plans by asking: “If the intention is to guarantee access to this service, why don’t those who wish to perform an abortion register?
Spain’s Equality Minister Irene Montero said on July 8 that “the right of doctors to conscientious objection cannot be greater than the right of women to decide”, prompting a group of 52 local medical schools to qualify its proposed changes “unacceptable, illegal and unfair”.
“With freedom of conscience (…) we are constantly being pushed by rather ideological movements to get rid of the conscientious objection clause for medical personnel, in particular with regard to abortion procedures”, said declared Enzlberger.
“There is a push for that now, especially in Spain, but there was also a push in France. “
Enzlberger shared the example of Julia Rynkiewicz, a midwifery student in the UK who was placed under a four month suspension and was the subject of a ‘fitness to practice’ investigation due to his involvement in the Nottingham Students for Life society of his university.
The Vienna-based OIDAC has documented 4,000 cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe over the past 10 years, over 70% of which are hate crimes committed with an anti-Christian motive.
Its work contributes to and builds on the annual data published by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on hate crimes in Europe.
The most recent OSCE data, released on November 16, documented 980 incidents against Christians in 2020, including arson attacks on Catholic churches, desecration and robbery of Eucharistic hosts, assaults on priests and anti-Catholic graffiti on Church property by abortion activists.
“French government statistics from 2019 indicate that on average, almost three cases of vandalism against a church or Christian building occurred each day,” Enzlberger said.
“The public visibility of violence against churches somehow normalizes violence against Christians in the public sphere. And hate crime monitoring is an important barometer of the social climate in a given country, ”she said.