Christian Midwife Denied Right to Work Unless She Performs Abortions, Swedish Court Rules

Midwives use medical models during a training at Central Women's Hospital in Yangon, Myanmar, March 17, 2017. | (Photo: Reuters/Pyay Kyaw Aung)

A Christian midwife in Sweden who had contract offers at several hospitals rescinded for refusing to perform abortions lost her years-long legal battle on Wednesday, with a Swedish Labor Court ruling that she had not been discriminated against.

The Local reported yesterday that Ellinor Grimmark was told "there had not been any violation" of her freedom of expression and opinion, despite the practice of abortion going directly against her religious beliefs.

The court also found that Jönköping County was within its rights to refuse Grimmark employment, as it has a requirement that all midwives working at women's clinics carry out assigned duties, including abortion.

"Obviously I'm disappointed about the ruling. It was expected so it's something we prepared for," Grimmark said following the decision.

"I've spoken about it with my lawyers and I'm going to take it further to the European Court of Human Rights," she added.

In November 2015 a district court also found that Grimmark's right to freedom of conscience had not been violated, making her pay the local government's legal costs of more than $100,000.

Sweden's Health Minister Gabriel Wikström backed the court's decision, news agency TT reported, stating that "in principle I think that healthcare should be based in science and proven experience, not an individual person's opinions and thoughts."

"Refusal to carry out abortions, give out contraception and the like is a refusal to care," Wikström argued.

Pro-choice and sexual education campaign organization RFSU also supported the verdict.

"It's very important that the Labor Court establishes that abortion is included in midwifery. A patient's care needs and wishes should not be steered by medical staff's refusal to perform certain tasks," RFSU chairperson Kristina Ljungros argued.

ADF International, which fights for the right of people to freely live out their faith, commented that Grimmark's "fundamental right to freedom of conscience" has not been protected by the Court, however.

"Some have attempted to frame this case as one that pits one human right against another  — however, the only person whose rights have been violated is Ellinor Grimmark," said Robert Clark, director of European Advocacy for ADF International, according to Fox News.

ADF said that as many as three different medical clinics in Jönköping had refused to employ the Christian midwife because of her stance against carying out abortions, which led to her suing the county.

Grimmark, who first saw a job offer withdrawn at Höglandssjukhuset women's clinic in 2013 after she explained she cannot carry out abortions, said that she was directly told in one instance that "a person who refuses to perform abortions doesn't belong at a women's clinic."

The Labor Court has now asked Grimmark to pay the other party's legal costs, stating that "some of the demands are too old, have exceeded the statute of limitations, and the midwife had failed to prove certain claims."

Back in January, Clarke said ADF will continue to push for justice in the case.

"People should not be punished for making decisions in line with their conscience. ADF International will stand with her until her right to freedom of conscience is properly protected, in accordance with both Swedish and international law," he said back then.

As The Local reports, the European Court of Human Rights does not have the power to override Sweden's courts, but it may award compensation and ask the State to refund expenses if it finds that there has been a violation.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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