A Christian who was denied employment by several medical clinics in Sweden because she would not assist with abortions is taking her lawsuit for her conscience rights to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ellinor Grimmark, a midwife, sued in Sweden after she repeatedly had job offers withdrawn because she would not facilitate abortion procedures in violation of her faith.
“The desire to help bring life into this world is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place,” said Robert Clarke, the director of European Advocacy for the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“Elinor’s case would determine whether people who value life at all stages of development will be able to pursue a medical career in the future,” Clarke said. “Sweden has failed to protect this midwife’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience guaranteed by international law.”
ADF said Grimmark filed her application with the international court after she was forced to seek work in another country.
The international legal team explained businesses in Sweden reneged on job offers to Grimmark, “because she would not assist with abortions in light of her convictions about the dignity of human life.”
On April 12, the Swedish Labor Court of Appeal refused to protect her freedom of conscience and instead found that Grimmark’s rights had not been violated, ADF said.
The decision, however, ADF contended, “contradicts international law protecting conscientious objection.”
The court required her to pay the local government’s legal costs, amount to 100,000 euros, or about $106,000,” ADF said.
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The case began in 2013 when the Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic rescinded a job offer as a midwife to Grimmark after she explained she could not perform abortions because of her Christian faith.
ADF noted the head of the maternity ward said “she was no longer welcome to work with them” and questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife.”
Shortly later, the Ryhovs women’s clinic told her it was mandatory to assist in abortions to work there. Then, the Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic offered Grimmark a job but then withdrew it because of the complaint she filed against Höglandssjukhuset.
WND reported as the case was under way that Grimmark commented: “They have said that because I do not perform abortions, I cannot work as midwife. In my contact with my employer or a prospective employer, I have talked very carefully about my inability to perform abortions based on my Christian faith, my sincere religious conviction. My employer has not been willing to discuss the issue further.”
She brought a complaint to Sweden’s anti-discrimination office with the help of the human rights group Provita and the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The court agreed with a statement from a “discrimination ombudsman,” according to ADF, which acknowledged her rights had been violated but determined the right to an abortion had greater weight.
ADF International noted that under the specifications from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “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.”
ADF said in a court filing that the dismissal of Grimmark is “a troubling development stemming from Sweden, being out of step with the rest of Europe, and in fact the international community, in allowing for conscientious objection for medical personnel in the area of abortion.”
“Such measures are a serious breach of international law and an insurmountable obstacle for a large segment of the population entering the medical profession solely by virtue of their moral or religious convictions,” ADF’s brief said.
“Such a blatant disregard for rights of conscience cannot be allowed to stand in Sweden.”
The brief argued the European Court of Human Rights “has held that guaranteeing freedom of conscience and religion assumes state neutrality.”
“Therefore, where necessity and proportionality are lacking, a state must seek to accommodate religious and moral beliefs no matter how irksome it finds them. This notion stems from the reluctance of European civilization – born of decency, forbearance, and tolerance — to compel our fellow citizens to humiliate themselves by betraying their own consciences.”