Court Rules Nurse Fired for Refusing to Assist Abortions Must Do Abortions to Keep Her Job

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 12, 2015   |   2:07PM   |   Stockholm, Sweden

Ellinor Grimmark is a nurse in Sweden who filed a claim in Sweden that the hospital where she worked discriminated against her because she refused to participate in abortions.

Newly-graduated, Grimmark was fired from her position because she refused to assist abortions. Even though there was a shortage of midwives at the time she was fired and even though she is willing to take on double shifts, she has been denied a job ever since. One employer had first agreed to hire her in spite of the “complication”, but withdrew the offer when her story began to spread in media.

Grimmark says in a statement to the newspaper Aftonbladet: ”As a midwife, I want to exercise a profession which defends life and saves lives at all cost. Are healthcare practitioners in Sweden to be forced to take part in procedures that extinguish life, at its beginning or final stages? Somebody has to take the little children’s side, somebody has to fight for their right to life. A midwife described to me how she had held an aborted baby in her arms, still alive, and cried desperately for an hour while the baby struggled to breathe. These children do not even have a right to pain relief. I cannot take part in this.”

But a Swedish court ruled today that Grimmark has no choice but to participate in abortions.

The district court of Jönköping County Council in Sweden ruled Thursday against Grimmark, who was ultimately unjustly denied employment by three different medical clinics because she will not assist with abortions.

In July 2014, ADF International filed an expert brief in Grimmark v. Landstinget i Jönköpings Län on behalf of the midwife, Ellinor Grimmark, who plans to appeal the decision. The court agreed with the reasoning of the Swedish discrimination ombudsman, who found that the midwife’s rights had been infringed but erroneously concluded that forcing her to participate in abortions that others demand is more important.

“No one deserves to suffer discrimination and be denied employment because their conscience does not allow them to perform abortions,” said ADF International Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. “We are disappointed the court did not affirm Swedish law and international law to which Sweden is obligated and that both recognize freedom of conscience in the workplace. Medical facilities should not force midwives to violate their conscience by requiring them to assist in abortion.”

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In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic rescinded a job offer as a midwife from Grimmark after she explained that she could not perform abortions because of her conscientious objection and her Christian faith. The head of the maternity ward said that “she was no longer welcome to work with them” and questioned “whether a person with such views actually can become a midwife.” A few months later, Grimmark tried to obtain employment with Ryhovs women’s clinic, which told her that a person who refuses to perform abortions does not belong at a women’s clinic.

In January, Värnamo Hospital’s women’s clinic offered Grimmark a job but then withdrew employment because of the complaint she filed against Höglandssjukhuset in April. The head of the hospital told Grimmark that no employee was allowed to publicly take a stand against abortion. The group Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers represents Grimmark in court.

The ADF International brief filed in the case explained that 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, 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.”

“Being pro-abortion should not be a requirement for employment as a midwife,” added ADF International Legal Counsel Robert Clarke. “The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place. Medical centers should respect that desire and conviction.”

Grimmark is currently working as a midwife with maternity care in Norway, where her freedom of conscience is being respected.

In Sweden, midwives are similar to nurses in other countries.