Swedish tribunal rules midwives cannot refuse abortions

BJORN LARSSON ROSVALL SWEDEN OUT

A nurse leaving the emergency room at Oestra Hospital in Gothenburg, 21 April 2008. own.

Swedish tribunal rules midwives cannot refuse abortions


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A Swedish labour tribunal ruled on Thursday that midwives do not have the right to refuse to carry out abortions on religious grounds.

The case

Ellinor Grimmark, a Christian midwife, sued her county council for refusing her employment; she was demanding €30,000 in damages.

Apparently, the woman believes life begins at conception. She was initially hired as an intern by a clinic in Jönköping, but her contract was canceled in 2015 when she refused to carry out abortions on three occasions.

The court ruled that performing abortions is part of her job description and was asked to pay approximately €96,000 in legal fees. She is appealing. But, even if she loses the case Grimmark is determined to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The politics

Her legal fees are paid by the US Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which partners the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

Her team is arguing the case on the grounds of “freedom of conscience,” protected under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights. That right is limited by a provision that stipulates that freedom of conscience cannot be expressed to the detriment of another individual’s health. However, a 2010 Council of Europe resolution protects the “right of conscientious objection” for medical professionals in cases of abortion.

That is not the first time the same US organization with the same legal team sponsor a legal case against abortion. In 2015, another Swedish midwife sued her health authorities, but this time on the grounds of discrimination.

Swedish Midwives

Speaking to Swedish Radio, a member of the Midwives Association Board of Ethics said she was pleased with the verdict.  “This will help clarify that you can’t choose what tasks you want to do and what tasks you don’t want to do,” Catharina Zätterström said.

The President of the Swedish Association of Midwives, Mia Ahlberg, told the BBC that Swedish abortion law follows the principle that “always the need of the patient comes first.” If the precedent was set on abortion, then a nurse who is a Jehovah’s Witness might refuse blood transfusion.

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