Jönköping – Should a midwife have to choose between following her conscience or pursuing her career? On 12 April 2017 the Swedish Labour Court of Appeal, in refusing to protect freedom of conscience, found that midwives could be asked to make that choice. The judgment contradicts international law protecting conscientious objection. Ellinor Grimmark, a Swedish midwife who filed the appeal, must now decide whether to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“The Court has failed to protect Ellinor Grimmark’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience despite the clear legal protections that exist in international law. Some have attempted to frame this case as one that pits one human right against another. However, the only person whose rights have been violated is Ellinor Grimmark,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.
A high price to pay
Three different medical clinics in the district of Jönköping had refused to employ Ms. Grimmark because she would not assist with abortions in light of her convictions about the dignity of all human life. However, in November 2015, a district court found that Ms. Grimmark’s right to freedom of conscience had not been violated. It required her to pay the local government’s legal costs, amounting to 100,000 EUR. ADF International filed an expert brief in support of her case, highlighting the protection for freedom of conscience that exists under international law.
“The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Instead of forcing desperately needed midwives out of a profession, states should look to safeguard the moral convictions of their staff. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has affirmed 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,’” added Clarke.