What’s at Stake
Freedom of conscience
Ellinor Grimmark is a Christian midwife with a life-long passion to bring life into the world. However, she has been refused employment by a number of medical clinics in Sweden because she refuses to participate in abortions.
Ellinor applied for a position as a midwife at Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic in 2013. After initially offering her the job, the clinic then withdrew the job offer because Ellinor had explained that she couldn’t, in good conscience, participate in abortions. As a midwife and a devout Christian she intended for her work to be about saving lives, not taking them. When she applied to Ryhoys women’s clinic a few months later, she was met with a similar response. The clinic told her that a person who refuses to perform abortions doesn’t belong at a women’s clinic.
Ellinor at last found a job at Värnamo Hospital, but before she was even able to start the job, the hospital withdrew the job offer upon learning that she had filed a complaint against the first clinic. Ellinor was back where she started. Recognizing that her experiences raised important questions about the protection of conscience in the medical profession, Ellinor decided to pursue legal action. ADF International filed an expert brief in the case, assisting allied lawyer Ruth Nordström of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers in taking Ellinor’s case to court.
Swedish law claims to recognize freedom of conscience, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has passed a resolution on ‘the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care’. However the district court of Jönköping County Council ruled against her, and to make matters worse, the court ordered that she pay costs of more than SKr 1m (USD 109,000). On 12 April 2017 her appeal to the Swedish Labour Court was denied. Ellinor Grimmark must now decide whether to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
‘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,’ said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy.
Our Role in the Case
In partnership with allied lawyers at Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, ADF International filed an expert brief in Grimmark v. Jönköping County Council on behalf of the midwife, Ellinor Grimmark.