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Swedish labour court to rule on anti-abortion midwife

Published onsdag 12 april 2017 kl 10.06
Midwife: I'm disappointed but not surprised
(4:16 min)
Ellinor Grimmark has the support of the anti-abortion group ADF.
Ellinor Grimmark has the support of the anti-abortion group ADF. Credit: FREDRIK PERSSON / TT

A court in Sweden will today rule on whether a Christian midwife who was not given a job because she refuses to carry out abortions is entitled to compensation.

Ellinor Grimmark, from Jonköping in central Sweden, was refused a summer job at a maternity clinic in 2013 because she refused to help carry out abortions because of her Christian faith.

She was subsequently refused positions at two other hospitals in the region.

The Swedish Labour Court, or Arbetsdomstol, was expected to rule on the case at 11:00 AM on Wednesday. 

If the court finds that Grimmark's freedom of religion and freedom of conscience has been breached, and that she has been unfairly discriminated against, she will be entitled to be compensated for the legal costs of two earlier cases. 

Kavot Zillén, a specialist in medical law at Stockholm University, said the decision would set a precedent for whether Christian midwives could demand the right not to carry out abortions on grounds of conscience.

"Once the Labour Court comes with its ruling, it can become a guide for how these issues should be addressed in health care," she told Swedish Radio.

Grimmark appealed earlier to Sweden's Equality Ombudsman and then took her case to Jonköping District Court. Both ruled that she had not been subject to discrimination.

Anders Liif, head of human resources for Jonköping county, said that employees could not expect to be excused from carrying out the central duties of the job for which they were applying.

Everyone has the right to their personal beliefs, but you cannot go from that to yourself defining what work duties you can and cannot carry out," he told Swedish Radio.

"The care we provide is defined by the needs of patients, not those of employees."

Grimmark's case has attracted much attention from the international anti-abortion movement, and she has received financial and legal support from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a US-based anti-abortion group.

Ruth Nordström, the lead lawyer for Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, who is working with Grimmark, aims to take the case to the European Courts if Grimmark loses in the Labour Court.

She told Swedish Radio she aimed to win Swedish midwives the right to work exclusively in birth departments.

"Abortions are always planned which means that it is possible to solve it simply through work schedules, which is what has been done previously," she said.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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