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Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county

Published: 11 Jul 2014 16:02 GMT+02:00

Ellinor Grimmark made headlines in January when her contract offer at a hospital in Eksjö, southern Sweden, was rescinded. She had completed an internship at the hospital and had been offered a job, but the employment offer was scrapped after Grimmark said she wouldn't perform abortions on grounds of her Christian faith. 

The 37-year-old lodged a complaint with Sweden's Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO), but in April the ombudsman judged that she had not been discriminated against.

The DO said that the county council had refused her the position not because of her religion, but because she was not prepared to perform duties that were part of the job description.

Grimmark has now taken her case against the county to the Jönköping district court.

Grimmark has enlisted the help of US-based organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which submitted a 17-page brief in connection with the case in early July.

"We are greatly concerned with the case of Mrs. Grimmark. Her case is representative of an emerging human rights problem in Sweden regarding failure to recognize rights of conscientious objection," ADF wrote in the brief, which is available online.

"The dismissal of midwife Grimmark is a troubling development stemming from Sweden being out of step with the rest of Europe," the brief states.

"Such a blatant disregard for rights of conscience cannot be allowed to stand in Sweden. A state must seek to accommodate religious and moral beliefs no matter how irksome it finds them."

The senior legal counsel for ADF, Roger Kiska, told the Life News website; "No one deserves to be denied a job simply because she is pro-life."

When Grimmark found out that the job offer had been scrapped, she said that it felt like it was a "personal" reaction against her beliefs.

She has since found work at another hospital, where staff were hesitant but willing to give Grimmark a shot.

"I declared my attitude to the hospital management, and while they think it is problematic they said it was OK and that were prepared to give it a try," Grimmark told the TT news agency in January.

In the 17-page ADF brief, the organization stated that Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's position on the rights of medical professionals and abortion was 'clear.'

"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 foetus or embryo, for any reason," wrote the ADF in the brief.

Grimmark intends to take the case forward, claiming that she has not received any support from the healthcare union.

"As a patient in Sweden it must be very clear what (healthcare) you can expect according to Swedish law," the Swedish Association of Health Professionals (Vårdförbundet) vice chairwoman Pia Arndorff told TT in January. "It should not depend on whom you happen to encounter."

On its website the Alliance Defending Freedom describes itself as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system and advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."

In April Grimmark told press that she would soon take a job in Norway, where midwives are allowed to refuse helping with abortions. But she added she was not through with the case in Sweden, saying she would "push this further."

The Local has attempted to contact Ellinor Grimmark on several occasions without success.  

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