Swedish midwife takes case to ECHR over anti-abortion discrimination

Since 2013, Grimmark has been denied jobs at several clinics because she refused to carry out abortions. [American Life League/Flickr]

A midwife who has been repeatedly denied employment in Sweden due to her anti-abortion stance has decided to refer her case to the European Court of Human Rights as a last resort.

Ellinor Grimmark says she cannot carry out abortions because of her Christian faith and that she’s been discriminated against by several clinics because of it.

The case has sparked a fierce debate in Sweden, one of the most liberal countries in the world, where abortion rates are among the highest in Europe and religious faith one of the lowest.

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“This has been a fierce debate in the Swedish media and Ellinor has been exposed to personal attacks,” said Nordstrom, a former activist for Provita, a pro-life human rights group.

After both a district court and Sweden’s discrimination authority ruled against Grimmark, the Swedish Labour Court concluded this week she had not been discriminated against when she was denied a job as a midwife.

“The Labour Court did not examine the right of freedom of conscience or freedom of speech according to international law or the European Convention on Human Rights,” her lawyer Ruth Nordstrom said in a statement.

“We have now decided to take the case further to the European Court of Human Rights,” Nordstrom confirmed to AFP.

Since 2013, Grimmark has been denied jobs at several clinics because she refused to carry out abortions and was outspoken about her stance.

Jonkoping county’s decision to not hire Grimmark was “not based on her faith but because she did not intend to carry out duties required in the employment,” the Swedish Labour Court said.

When Grimmark launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay her legal fees, the US Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian non-profit organisation, donated money, Nordstrom said.

The organisation opposed former president Barack Obama’s birth control policies.

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According to United Nations figures, 20.8 per 1000 women in Sweden carried out an abortion in 2011. The 2012 figures per 1000 women in the UK were 16.6 and 10.3 in Finland.

Swedish law says a woman is allowed to have an abortion until the 18th week of pregnancy. Between week 18 and 22, a Swedish National Board of Health decides if a woman should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy.

“There is a strong belief in our country that we should protect health care and abortion laws which we’ve had for many years,” Eva Nordlund, vice chairwoman of the Swedish Association of Midwives told AFP.

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