SWEDEN – Midwife denied work for refusing to carry out abortions
Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife who objects to abortion because of her Christian beliefs, is appealing to a labor tribunal after being turned down for jobs at three local clinics. Grimmark, is suing the Joenkoeping regional health authority on grounds of discrimination. Her discrimination claim was rejected by a district court in 2015 and she was ordered to pay the authorities’ legal costs.
Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman also ruled against her. She has since appealed to a labor tribunal, and secured the backing of the U.S.-based Alliance Defending Freedom group (ADF) as part of her legal team, along with Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers. Robert Clarke, ADF’s chief European lobbyist, said “nobody should be forced to choose between following their conscience and pursuing their profession.
” The Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers maintain that Grimmark is being discriminated against on grounds of human rights, since the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been Swedish law since 1995, grants the right to freedom of conscience. They also point out that the Council of Europe “stipulates that medical personnel are entitled to freedom of conscience in matters relating to termination of human life. Resolutions are not binding upon member states but give guidance to the European Court when it is examining a case.”
The Council of Europe Resolution 1763 (2010) also defends “the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care”. The Resolution states “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion.
” The Alliance Defending Freedom argued that, based on the European Court of Human Rights’ guaranteed freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, “where necessity and proportionality are lacking, a State must seek to accommodate religious and moral beliefs no matter how irksome it finds them.”
“This notion stems from the reluctance of European civilization – born of decency, forbearance, and tolerance – to compel our fellow citizens to humiliate themselves by betraying their own consciences.”
Grimmark’s lawyers added that abortion comprises “a very limited part of the work” of a midwife, and other midwives could perform abortions instead. The shortage of midwives in Sweden is another reason why Grimmark should be allowed to practise. However, Mia Ahlberg, president of the Swedish Association of Midwives, stressed that women’s rights were paramount and that Swedish policy on abortion stipulates that “always the need of the patient comes first.” She argued that Grimmark should be in a different profession if she opposes abortion, since midwifes are trained to carry out the procedure.