On 11 May 2011 the Swedish Parliament or Riksdag overwhelmingly voted 271:20 against accepting an EU resolution supporting conscience rights for doctors across the European Union. This means that Swedish doctors and nurses still do not have the right to refuse to perform abortions on religious, ethical or personal grounds. Indeed, since 1973, a doctor or nurse can be imprisoned for refusing to perform an abortion in Sweden.
Though I personally have very strong views about the abortion question, this is not what this essay is primarily about. What I want to discuss are far larger issues about freedom and human rights in general.
John Smeaton, head of Britain's Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, has commented:
"There are no international conventions which recognise a right to abortion, whereas conscientious objection is a basic principle of human rights law."
Conscientious objection of course includes the right for pacifists not to take up arms and to refuse combat service in a conscript army. They can usually opt for some other kind of military service such as clerical or medical. If a conscript is acknowledged as having the right to conscientious objection to killing the born because he feels it is wrong to take human life under war conditions, then why should a doctor or a nurse be refused the right to abstain from taking part in the destruction of an unborn child? How such a person views a foetus is entirely immaterial - whether as a living human being or just a mass of impersonal cells - the issue is what the individual feels about this. Likewise, at state schools in Sweden, a pupil can conscientiously object to eating certain kinds of food on either religious or ethical grounds - thus a Muslim or Jew can refuse to eat pork and a vegetarian or vegan can refuse meat. Once you remove the right to conscientious objection there is nothing to prevent a state from forcing a vegetarian child to eat meat, a Muslim child to eat pork or a pacifist to bear arms and kill combattants.
Let us take this one stage further. The pro-abortion lobby makes no secret of the fact that it wants abortion to become a human right. Once something becomes a 'right' there can be no conscientious objection to it. For example, one human right is free speech. It would be absurd if I tried to conscientiously object to free speech for others though there is nothing stopping me from gagging myself. But let's take this even one step further - and a frightening step it is. Worse, this step has already been taken in Sweden.
In my article, Child's Right, or State's Right? (please take a look at this before reading further), I point out the double-talk that is used when it comes to education rights in Sweden. In Sweden the law states that every child has the right to schooling. Putting aside the debate on the difference between 'schooling' and 'education', what the Swedish government actually means is not that a child has the right to be schooled but that the state has the 'right' to force a child to be state schooled against its will or its parents' will. It isn't actually a 'child's right' at all - the child cannot say: "I do not want to go to school" because he has to - so when they say it is, they're lying. It is no more a 'child's right' to attend a Swedish state school than it was a 'child's right' to attend a Russian communist state school or a German nazi state school. So let's stop pretending otherwise.
Let us imagine that the pro-abortion lobby succeeds in making abortion a human right. A pregnant woman could then declare: "I have the human right to have an abortion". What is frightening about this is the government then applying the logic it uses in 'schooling rights' to then force a woman to have an abortion against her will. She would not be able to conscientiously object, would she? The government could then argue: "A child has 'schooling rights'. This means we can force a child to go to school. You have abortion rights. This means we can force you to have an abortion'".
Now were abortion to become a 'human right' and were the government to then argue that they could force a woman to have an abortion against her will (for example, because some psychiatrist felt that she was mentally ill), there would be a public outcry, not least from women! They would protest vehemently: "This is my body, you have no right to demand that I terminate my pregnancy!"
And yet this is EXACTLY what the Swedish government is doing when it comes to education! It is saying that a child has a 'right' when in reality it has none, for by a twisting of language, it is saying that the government has the 'right' to force a child to go to one of its schools and (since the banning of homeschooling) to deny it any form of alternative education. The truth is the child has NO rights at all.
Now I am all in favour of making education an obligation as in Great Britain and elsewhere, as readers of this website know. I totally believe in education! I am, after all, a professional educator. My objection is the government making state schooling an obligation and then pretending it is a 'child's right'. Neither parents nor children can 'consciously object'. And there you have the main issue because the state philosophy and wisdom is that people have no conscience any more - the state has assumed that rôle almost entirely. Sweden is rapidly becoming a giant mechanised beehive or ants nest of forced compliancy to some grey uniform Marxist utopian ideal.
The rationale and justification for this vehemently anti-libertarian government behaviour is 'democracy' - it has been decided 'democratically'. This is the logic that today's Swedish Left or Vänstra (Communist) Party uses. Hans Linde used this line to justify crushing yet more human rights when he said three days ago in the Swedish Parliament:
"What's called 'freedom of conscience' I would like to call 'refusal of conscience', meaning that single individuals get the right to put themselves above democratically made decisions..."
The problem with this kind of mentality is that it opens the way to the complete denial of human rights so long as they are democratically denied. In other words, if the Swedish parliament should one day deny individual citizens the right to free speech this would be 'OK' because the decision is arrived at democratically. And this is the great flaw in the Swedish system - for whilst Sweden is a signatory to the UN Charter on Human Rights and bound by EU human rights laws, it chooses to ignore them so long as its parliament has decided to 'democratically' do so. Taken to an extreme, this would mean that the Swedish parliament could 'democratically' legalise murder, and it would legitimise itself based on its claim that it has the people's mandate at the polling booths.
I want to suggest that the democratic process alone guarantees no protection against totalitarianism - as Sweden is today demonstrating - unless there is a National Charter of Human Rights like the British Magna Carta (1215) or the American Constitution. Democracy, after all, allowed Hitler to be voted into power. Murderous Stalinist dictatorships like today's North Korea (which calls itself a 'People's Democracy'), the former 'German Democratic Republic' (DDR) and Zimbabwe have totally ignored human rights in the name of 'democracy' and the mythical, faceless, unaccountable entitity called 'the state'. When a government votes away human rights, as Sweden is now doing, then it is no longer a Western-style Liberal Democracy but a totalitarian one. It's what the Swedish Liberal Democrats call 'Social Fascism'.
If Sweden isn't going to slide into dictatorship is must acquire a proper Constitution protecting inalienable human rights that includes the right to conscientious objection and the right of parents to educate the children in accordance with their own philosophical or religious views. In short, Sweden needs a Freedom Charter and Swedes need freedom from statecraft! The current Swedish parliament may believe in democracy but unless it incorporates a charter of inalienable human rights to liberty it is doomed to repeat the same mistakes that led to the despotisms of the 20th century. Whatever Sweden currently is, it is not an enlightened democracy - it is slipping dangerously fast into social fascism.
15 May 2011