Ellinor Grimmark, above, has been refused permission to sue a local authority for denying her employment when she refused to carry out abortions due to her religious beliefs.
According to this report, the Swedish Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) ruled today (Wednesday) that Grimmark had not been discriminated against by Jönköping County Council because the county had the right to require midwives working at women’s clinics to carry out all of their duties, including abortions.
The court also judged that:
There had not been any violation of the midwife’s freedom of expression and opinion.
Grimmark first made headlines in January 2014 after a contract offer at a hospital in Eksjö was rescinded when she said she would not perform abortions on the grounds of her Christian faith.
She launched a complaint with Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (Disrkimineringsombudsmannen) but it judged she had not been discriminated against, as the county had refused her the position on the basis that she was not prepared to perform duties that were part of the job description – not on the basis of her religion.
Jönköping District Court then reached a similar conclusion when the case was taken to them, ruling against claims of discrimination.
Grimmark then took her appeal to the Labour Court, with the help of US-based Christian anti-abortion organisation Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) , insisting she had been discriminated against and her freedom of religion and freedom of expression had been breached.
Said Robert Clarke, ADF’s Director of European Advocacy:
People should not be punished for making decisions in line with their conscience. ADF International will stand with her until her right to freedom of conscience is properly protected, in accordance with both Swedish and international law.
Obviously I’m disappointed about the ruling. It was expected so it’s something we prepared for. I’ve spoken about it with my lawyers and I’m going to take it further to the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Court of Human Rights cannot overrule Sweden’s courts, but if it finds that there has been a violation in a case, it may award compensation and ask the State concerned to refund expenses incurred in presenting it.
The verdict was welcomed by Swedish sexual education campaign organisation RFSU. It’s chairperson Kristina Ljungros said in a statement.:
It’s very important that the Labour Court establishes that abortion is included in midwifery. A patient’s care needs and wishes should not be steered by medical staff’s refusal to perform certain tasks.
Earlier this year Mia Ahlberg, President of the Swedish Association of Midwives said that Grimmark should choose another profession if she is unwilling to perform abortions.
Ahlberg added that if Grimmark wins the case, it would have consequences for the whole Swedish health care system.
For example, a nurse who is a Jehovah’s Witness might refuse to perform a blood transfusion. It’s part of our professional competence – so the employer had a right to say ‘you cannot work here’.
Sweden’s Health Minister Gabriel Wikström did not want to comment on the specific case, but said that he believes that Swedish healthcare should be science-based.
In principle I think that healthcare should be based in science and proven experience, not an individual person’s opinions and thoughts. Refusal to carry out abortions, give out contraception and the like is a refusal to care.