Swedish appeals court fails to protect freedom for health professionals

Court says medical staff can’t abide by their consciences, midwife considers appeal to European Court of Human Rights
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – The Swedish Appeals Court decided Wednesday that the government can force medical professionals to perform abortions, or else be forced out of their profession. Because the ruling in Grimmark v. Landstinget i Jönköpings Län contradicts international law protecting conscientious objection, Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife, is now considering whether to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Three different medical clinics unjustly denied Grimmark employment because she will not assist with abortions. In Sweden, midwives are essentially nurses who specialize in pregnancy and child birth.

“Participation in abortions should not be a requirement for employment as a medical professional. In accordance with international law, the court should have protected Ellinor’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke. “For that reason, Ellinor is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.”

Three different medical clinics in the district of Jönköping refused to employ Grimmark because she would not assist with abortions in light of her convictions about the dignity of all human life. Despite this, in November 2015, a district court found that her right to freedom of conscience had not been violated. That court required her to pay the local government’s legal costs, amounting to 100,000 euros (the equivalent of nearly $106,000). ADF International filed an expert brief in support of her case, highlighting international protections for freedom of conscience.

“The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place,” Clarke said. “Instead of forcing desperately needed midwives out of their profession, governments should safeguard the moral convictions of medical staff. 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.’ As a member state, Sweden must be held to its obligation to respect this freedom.”

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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