Swedish court rules midwife must assist with abortions to be employed

Court ignores intl law protecting freedom of conscience in workplace
Thursday, November 12, 2015

Attorney sound bite:  Roger Kiska

JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – The district court of Jönköping County Council in Sweden ruled Thursday against a midwife who was unjustly denied employment by three different medical clinics because she will not assist with abortions. In Sweden, midwives are similar to nurses in other countries.

In July 2014, ADF International filed an expert brief in Grimmark v. Landstinget i Jönköpings Län on behalf of the midwife, Ellinor Grimmark, who plans to appeal the decision. The court agreed with the reasoning of the Swedish discrimination ombudsman, who found that the midwife’s rights had been infringed but erroneously concluded that forcing her to participate in abortions that others demand is more important.

“No one deserves to suffer discrimination and be denied employment because their conscience does not allow them to perform abortions,” said ADF International Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “We are disappointed the court did not affirm Swedish law and international law to which Sweden is obligated and that both recognize freedom of conscience in the workplace. Medical facilities should not force midwives to violate their conscience by requiring them to assist in abortion.”

In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic rescinded a job offer as a midwife from Grimmark after she explained that she could not perform abortions because of her conscientious objection and her Christian faith. The head of the maternity ward said that “she was no longer welcome to work with them” and questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife.” A few months later, Grimmark tried to obtain employment with Ryhovs women’s clinic, which told her that a person who refuses to perform abortions does not belong at a women’s clinic.

In January, Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic offered Grimmark a job but then withdrew employment because of the complaint she filed against Höglandssjukhuset in April. The head of the hospital told Grimmark that no employee was allowed to publicly take a stand against abortion. The group Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers represents Grimmark in court.

The ADF International brief filed in the case explained that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has affirmed that “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 performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason.”

“Being pro-abortion should not be a requirement for employment as a midwife,” added ADF International Legal Counsel Robert Clarke. “The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Medical centers should respect that desire and conviction.”

Grimmark is currently working as a midwife with maternity care in Norway, where her freedom of conscience is being respected.
  • Pronunciation guide: Kiska (KISH’-kuh)

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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