Swedish court says Christian midwife ‘must do abortions’

A court in Sweden has ruled against a Christian midwife who was denied employment because she would not perform abortions.

In its ruling, the District Court of Jönköping reportedly stated that the issue of freedom of conscience should only be looked at when a person is not religious.

Ellinor Grimmark took legal action after three separate medical clinics refused her work because of her conscientious objection to carrying out abortions.

Public stand

In November 2013, a job offer from a women’s clinic was withdrawn after she told them her views, and the head of the maternity ward questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife”.

A few months later a similar incident occurred at a different clinic, and in 2014 a job offer at another hospital was withdrawn because Grimmark had filed a complaint against the first clinic.

The head of this hospital said that no employee was allowed to publicly stand against abortion.

The head of this hospital said that no employee was allowed to publicly stand against abortion.

Fundamental human right

Grimmark was represented in court by Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, which said the ruling is likely to be appealed.

Senior Legal Counsel Ruth Nordström pointed out that the court had not taken on board the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to freedom of conscience.

And fellow attorney Jörgen Olson commented: “Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.”

Democratic society

“To deny freedom of conscience to all health care workers in Sweden cannot be considered a measure necessary in a democratic society.

“Sweden has not shown in what way the country’s health care system is so unique compared to the rest of Europe and neighbouring countries that it is impossible to grant Ellinor Grimmark a right to conscience”, he added.

Religious liberty organisation Alliance Defending Freedom filed a brief in support of Grimmark, highlighting the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which affirms that no one should be forced to carry out abortions.

Desire to protect life

Responding to the ruling, ADF lawyer Robert Clarke said: “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.”

In the UK, the Abortion Act 1967 includes a conscientious objection clause allowing doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in abortions.

But last year, the UK Supreme Court ruled that two Roman Catholic midwives in Scotland did not have the right to avoid supervising staff involved in abortions.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh had ruled in favour of Mary Doogan and Connie Wood in 2013, but NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde appealed the decision.

Related Resources