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Supreme Court of the United States

Around The World, A Sea Of Legal Challenges

By Alan Sears posted on:
October 17, 2017

 Alliance Defending Freedom watches (and engages) in legal activity in other parts of the world for the same reasons people watch the weather on the ocean:

  1. because our brothers and sisters are in trouble out there, and we’ve been called to help them (see the new movie, The Finest Hours, for one vivid example); and
  1. because the seas are where most of our own weather comes from.

Three recent events from around the globe illustrate how important – for both reasons – it is that we watch and remain involved in these overseas cases:

In Nyköping, Sweden, ADF International has filed an expert brief with a district court in support of Swedish midwife Linda Steen, who has repeatedly been denied employment because she declines – for reasons of conscience – to participate in abortions.

“It is not our policy or our approach to leave any opening for a conscience clause,” one clinic’s manager told Linda, after hearing of her convictions. “We have neither the ability nor intention to work with such exceptions.” The manager then decided to contact another potential employer of Linda’s, who promptly cancelled her job interview.

The case is very similar to that of Ellinor Grimmark, another Swedish midwife who has likewise lost several employment opportunities because of her personal commitment to the sanctity of life. Last November, a Swedish court ruled against Ellinor.

“Sweden is facing a serious human rights issue,” says Robert Clarke, a British human rights expert and Director of European Advocacy with ADF International. “These midwives trained to bring life into the world. Now they are being punished because they refuse to do something they [regard as] morally wrong.”

“Freedom of conscience is protected by the European Convention of Human Rights, to which Sweden has agreed to adhere,” Clarke says. “[Yet] Sweden is the only country of the 28 in the European Union that does not have either a general conscience provision or specific laws protecting medical staff.”

ADF International is asking the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to weigh in on the case of a Romanian mother who last year lost custody of her 15-month-old daughter to the sperm donor and his same-sex partner.

A judge in Great Britain (where the woman is living) ordered the child removed from the mother, awarding full parental responsibility and custody to the same-sex couple, granting the mother only two hours of supervised contact every two weeks on the basis that anything more might confuse the child as to who the main caretakers of the baby are.

“Every mother has a right to family life,” says Clarke. “Separating a mother from her daughter is one of the most extreme interferences with that right imaginable, and that’s why this case is important even beyond this particular instance. Granting the child less than two hours every other week to see her mother and then only under supervision is just not right, especially since the court held that the mother was able to care well for her daughter.”

The news is better in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where that nation’s Constitutional Tribunal recently published a landmark decision declaring recent legal revisions designed to weaken pro-life public policies unconstitutional.

Those revisions – if enacted – would have allowed children to be aborted for something as simple as developmental disabilities, or for having illnesses or disabilities doctors might consider “incompatible with life.” The court concluded that the law, which contradicts the country’s pro-life constitution, was enacted illegally by President Danilo Medina, who pushed the measure through without the constitutionally required approval of the nation’s Senate.

“Every innocent life deserves to be protected,” says ADF International Legal Counsel Sofia Martinez, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “Ignoring the clear requirements of the Dominican Republic’s constitution to push through a law that would have allowed children to be killed in the womb just because they aren’t perfectly healthy is inappropriate, inhumane, and incompatible with the will of the people.”

“In Latin America, we have seen an ongoing political push against life and family over the last couple of years,” Martinez says. “In countries like Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile, well-funded pro-abortion advocates have resorted to doing whatever it takes to advance their agenda, even if that means, in some cases, ignoring or flouting the law. The Dominican Republic court’s decision makes a strong statement that this won’t be tolerated in that country.”

Rights of conscience … the nature of family … the sanctity of life: the moral and legal questions now dominating American courtrooms are engaging courts all over the world. Please be in prayer for our ADF International attorneys and all of our allies as they work to defend life, families, and religious freedom for those in trouble overseas – even as we stand on behalf of those facing the rising waves of these challenges in our own United States.

Alan Sears

Alan Sears


Alan Sears served as founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, building on his experience as longtime leader of the organization to strengthen alliances, forge new relationships, and develop ADF resources.

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