The article aims to elaborate on two recent European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions which have rejected, on grounds of non-admissibility, the appeals by two Swedish midwives who refused to carry out abortion-related services, basing their refusal on conscientious objection, and to expound upon the legal and ethical underpinnings and core standards applied to the framing process of such a ECtHR decision.

Materials and Methods

By drawing upon relevant recommendations from international institutions, the authors have aimed to assess how the ECtHR rationale could affect the balance between CO and patient rights; searches have been conducted up until December 2020.


In both decisions the European Court has asserted that the right to exercise conscientious objection must give way to the protection of the right to health of women seeking to have an abortion.


ECtHR judges concluded that the failure to provide for a right to conscientious objection does not constitute, in fact, a violation of the more general right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, if provided for by a state law to protect the right to health. The legal ethical and social ramifications of such a decision are of enormous magnitude.


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