A Swedish midwife who objects to abortion because of her Christian beliefs is appealing to a labor tribunal after being turned down for jobs at three local clinics.
The woman, Ellinor Grimmark, is suing the Joenkoeping regional health authority on grounds of discrimination.
Grimmark had her discrimination claim rejected by a district court in 2015, and was ordered to pay for legal costs of the authorities. Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman also ruled against her.
She has since appealed to a labor tribunal, and secured the backing of the U.S.-based Alliance Defending Freedom group as part of her legal team, along with Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.
The Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers argued in a briefing on the case that Grimmark is being discriminated against on grounds of human rights, since the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been Swedish law since 1995, grants the right to freedom of conscience.
They also point out that the Council of Europe “stipulates that medical personnel are entitled to freedom of conscience in matters relating to termination of human life. Resolutions are not binding upon member states but give guidance to the European Court when it is examining a case.”
A 201 Council of Europe resolution also defends “the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care”.
“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,” it says.
Furthermore, abortion comprises “a very limited part of the work” of a midwife, and other midwives could perform abortions in the cases when Grimmark cannot, the lawyers said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom argued in its brief on the case that, based on the European Court of Human Rights’ guaranteed freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, “where necessity and proportionality are lacking, a State must seek to accommodate religious and moral beliefs no matter how irksome it finds them.”
“This notion stems from the reluctance of European civilization – born of decency, forbearance, and tolerance – to compel our fellow citizens to humiliate themselves by betraying their own consciences.”
ADF’s chief European lobbyist, Robert Clarke, said “nobody should be forced to choose between following their conscience and pursuing their profession,” according to the BBC.
Grimmark’s lawyers also argue in favor of allowing her to practice because of the lack of midwives in Sweden.
However, Mia Ahlberg, president of the Swedish Association of Midwives, told the BBC that Swedish policy on abortion stipulates that “always the need of the patient comes first.”
Despite the lack of midwives in Sweden, Ahlberg stressed to the BBC that women’s rights and the integrity of midwifery were paramount in the case. She argued that Grimmark should be in a different profession if she opposes abortion, since the procedure comprises part of the training of a midwife.
The appeal is underway, and a ruling is expected in the next several weeks.