Swedish Court Rules Medical Facilities Have Right to Require Midwives to Perform Abortions

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JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – A Swedish court has ruled against a woman who was denied employment by three medical facilities over her convictions not to assist with abortion procedures, declaring that facilities have a right to require midwives to perform abortions.

In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic rescinded a job offer to new midwifery graduate Ellinor Grimmark after she explained her beliefs, allegedly telling Grimmark that they questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife.”

She filed a complaint with the Swedish discrimination ombudsman and continued looking for employment, but as a result, Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic withdrew a job offer to Grimmark, stating that employees are not permitted to publicly take a stand against abortion.

Ryhovs Women’s Clinic also denied Grimmark employment, stating that those who oppose abortion should not work at women’s medical facilities.

In April of last year, the ombudsman concluded that Grimmark did not have a case because she was rejected not “because of her religion, but because she was not prepared to perform duties that were part of the job description.” She appealed the decision to the district court of Jonkoping County Council.

The religious liberties group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) assisted with Grimmark’s case, filing an expert brief that noted that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has agreed that “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, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia, or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”

But on Nov. 12, a Swedish court ruled that medical facilities have a right to require employees to fulfill all of their job descriptions, and stated that it was proper for clinics to require midwives to assist with abortions as “the region has an obligation to ensure that women have effective access to abortion.”

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“As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost,” Grimmark told the Swedish publication Afton Bladet. “Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life.”

“A midwife described to me how she had held an aborted baby in her arms, still alive, and cried desperately for an hour while the baby struggled to breathe. These children do not even have a right to pain relief. I cannot take part in this,” she said.

Grimmark has since found a job in Norway. She plans to file an appeal with Sweden’s Göta Court of Appeals.

“Being pro-abortion should not be a requirement for employment as a midwife,” said ADF International Legal Counsel Robert Clarke. “The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Medical centers should respect that desire and conviction.”

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