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Swedish Midwife Case to the European Court of Human Rights

Swedish Labour Court on April 12, 2017. Photo: Abraham Engelmark

Uppsala, Sweden:
On April 12 the Swedish Labour Court ruled against midwife Ellinor Grimmark who was unjustly denied employment by three different hospitals because of her conscientious objection to abortion and because she expressed her opinion publicly in the media.

– The Labour Court did not examine the right of freedom of conscience or freedom of speech according to international law or the European Convention on Human Rights. We have now decided to take the case further to the European Court of Human Rights, says attorney Ruth Nordström, Senior Legal Counsel of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

– The majority of the countries in Europe, protect the right to freedom of conscience in their Constitution, law or practice. In addition, health professionals right to conscience is recognized in international ethical codes. According to Council of Europe Resolution 1763, health care professionals shall not be coerced or discriminated upon because of refusal to perform or assist in abortions, says Legal Counsel Rebecca  Ahlstrand.

The background of the case is that Ellinor Grimmark has sued the County Council of Jönköping for violation of her freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as her freedom of opinion and expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.

In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic withdrew 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 Grimmark “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 2014, Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic offered Grimmark a job within the delivery ward, but then withdrew employment because she had expressed her opinion in the media regarding abortion. The head of the hospital told Grimmark that no employee was allowed to “publicly take a stand against abortion”.