Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues officials in job claim

A Swedish midwife who refuses to carry out abortions is appealing to a labour tribunal after being turned down for jobs at local clinics three times. Ellinor Grimmark objects to abortions because of her Christian beliefs. It is seen as a test case, partly because a big US Christian group is backing her. The US Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a partner of her legal team – Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers. In 2015 a district court rejected her discrimination complaint. Ms Grimmark is suing the Joenkoeping regional health authority. The appeal hearing is still under way, and the verdict is expected in a few weeks’ time. Under the 2015 court ruling, she was ordered to pay the authorities’ legal costs.  Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman also ruled against her.  According to UN data, Sweden has one of the highest abortion rates in Europe – it was 20.8 per 1,000 women in 2011. The UK figure in 2012 was 16.6, and among the other figures for 2012 was: Norway (15.5), Russia (34.2), Estonia (23.7 – the highest rate in the EU) and Bulgaria (21.5).  Among the lowest in Europe in 2012 were Italy (9.4) and Portugal (9).  Her lawyers argue that it is discriminatory on human rights grounds to refuse her a job as a midwife.  Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers say that the EU and Europe’s main human rights watchdog – the Council of Europe – call for “freedom of conscience for healthcare professionals” concerning abortions. Sweden’s neighbours Norway and Denmark have specific clauses covering that in their healthcare systems. Abortions are only “a very limited part of the work” of a Swedish midwife, the lawyers also point out. Article nine of the European Convention on Human Rights, cited by the lawyers, requires states to safeguard “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. But it also allows restrictions for certain cases, including “for the protection of health” of other citizens. The convention is part of Swedish law. A Council of Europe resolution adopted in 2010 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.

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