JÖNKÖPING, Sweden – A Swedish labor court has upheld a ruling against a midwife who filed suit after being denied employment by several medical facilities because of her convictions not to assist with performing abortions.
The court ruled on Wednesday that there is no reason to believe that Ellinor Grimmark’s “freedom of opinion and expression had been violated” or that she had been discriminated against because of her pro-life principles. It also found that “some of the demands are too old [and] have exceeded the statute of limitations.”
As previously reported, in November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic rescinded a job offer to Grimmark—a new midwifery graduate looking for employment—after she explained her beliefs, allegedly telling her that they questioned “whether a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 her job search, but as a result, Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic also withdrew an offer to Grimmark, stating that employees are not permitted to publicly take a stand against abortion.
Ryhovs Women’s Clinic likewise denied Grimmark employment, stating that those who oppose abortion should not work at women’s medical facilities.
In April 2014, 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) then 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 in November 2015, 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.”
Grimmark was also ordered to pay the equivalent of $105,000 in legal fees and over $67,000 in damages to the Jonkoping City Council, which she had sued over the matter.
She appealed to the Swedish Labor Court, which came to a similar conclusion on Wednesday.
The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education applauded the ruling.
“It’s very important that the labor 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,” Chairperson Kristina Ljungros said in a statement.
But ADF says that it is unacceptable that participation in abortion procedures is a prerequisite for employment, and that there is no allowance for pro-life Christians who would like to work as midwives.
“Participation in abortions should not be a requirement for employment as a medical professional. In accordance with international law, the court should have protected Ellinor’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience,” Robert Clarke, the international director of European advocacy, remarked in a statement. “For that reason, Ellinor is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.”
According to reports, Sweden has one of the highest abortion rates in Europe—20.8 per 1,000 women, as per data collected in 2011.