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Swedish Midwives file case before the European Court of Human Rights

On 14 June two Swedish midwives together with the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers will file a complaint against Sweden to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violations of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom and speech under the European Convention on Human Rights.

A background/press briefing will be held at the Hilton Hotel Strasbourg and the midwives, Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen, will give statements concerning their case together with legal counsels. There will be time afforded for questions and interviews during and after the briefing.

A light lunch will be served the attendants.

1 pm -1.30 pm, Wednesday June 14

The Hilton Hotel, 1 Avenue Herrenschmidt, 67000 Strasbourg, France

Midwife Ellinor Grimmark, midwife Linda Steen, Senior legal counsels Ruth Nordström and Jörgen Olson

For questions or interview booking, please contact info@shrl.eu

”Sweden should protect human rights for health care workers”

During an acute midwife shortage in Sweden, where over eighty percent of the County councils that run local hospitals have reported having trouble recruiting midwives, Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen have been denied the right to work within their profession, because of their conscientious objection to abortion.

Both Ms. Grimmark and Linda Steen are Christians and they knew that some midwives participate in abortions, but they assumed that the hospitals would offer them work within delivery care and postnatal care.

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”. Ms Grimmark was offered counseling to help her come to terms with abortions and change her mind.

The case of Ellinor Grimmark has been hugely debated in Sweden and speaking at a panel on Islamist extremism in 2015, Mona Sahlin, a prominent politician and former Swedish government antiterrorism coordinator, argued that “those who refuse to perform abortions are in my opinion extreme religious practitioners, not unlike jihadists”.

The other Applicant, Linda Steen had a contractual employment with Sörmland County council, which was broken by the County council. She was also exposed to several offensive statements about her beliefs.

- Ellinor Grimmark and Ellinor Grimmark have been unjustly denied employment by four different hospitals because of their conscientious objection to abortion and Ms Grimmark has also lost a job because she expressed her opinion publicly in the media. Sweden is required to safeguard the right to freedom of expression and freedom of conscience under the European Convention on Human Rights, said Senior Legal Counsel, Ruth Nordström.

- There has been and still is a major crisis within delivery care because of the huge shortage of midwives and Sweden should, just like our neighboring countries Norway and Denmark, protect the human rights of health care workers. There is a wide consensus among the European states to protect health care worker´s right to freedom of conscience, said Legal Counsel Rebecca Ahlstrand.

- Linda Steens and Ellinor Grimmarks right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion has been violated through the actions of Swedish authorities and through the systematical and ongoing prohibition for them and others likeminded to be employed as midwives within Swedish healthcare, said Jörgen Olson, Senior Legal Counsel.