Support from US for Swedish anti-abortion midwife

7:33 min

An American anti-abortion organisation is funding the discrimination case brought by a Swedish midwife who refused to perform abortions on the grounds of her religious beliefs.

In 2014, midwife Ellinor Grimmark sued the health authorities in the Jönköping region for discrimination in refusing her a job after she told them that she would not carry out abortions or prescribe contraceptives on the grounds of her religious beliefs.

The case has been tried by the discrimination ombudsman as well as a district court, which both ruled against claims of discrimination.

The appeal has now reached the Labour Court, which will judge whether Grimmark's freedom of religion and freedom of conscience has been breached. It will also try whether she has been discriminated against.

Swedish Radio revealed on Tuesday that Grimmark's legal case is being funded by a well-known Christian anti-abortion organisation in the US, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). For them, this is part of an international campaign to influence the right to abortion in Europe, according according to Joshua Wilson, associate professor at University of Denver in the US. He has specialised in research about how legal processes like this influence political decision making. And he is well familiar with the ADF.

"This is a classic example of what you see with the ADF. Similar or analogous types of legal cases have been made in the US for quite a long time now. So you can see that ADF is taking that strategy and trying to bring it into Sweden," Joshua Wilson told Swedish Radio.

"The primary, intended, effect is to chip away at abortion access," Wilson said.

ADF is supporting Grimmark's case legally as well as financially. On their website, they write that they are "representing" Grimmark, and there is a link where people can donate money to the case.

They say they are prepared to take the case "all the way to the European Court of Human Rights", where they hope they will force Sweden to accept freedom of consciousness for for health care staff, something that would allow them to - for example - refuse carrying out abortions.

Among those following the case closely is the Swedish Association of Midwives. Its president, Mia Ahlberg, says she is glad that ADF's role in this case is becoming known also in Sweden.

"I have been discussing this a lot and people think that 'well she is just alone, it is just one midwife fighting, it is like the small one against the big one'. But this is not the case. This is a global, very strong, well-funded organisation that is trying to get their message though in different countries in different ways. And it is very, very important that this gets out, so you know what is behind it, so you know who you are fighting against," she said.

In 2015, another Swedish midwife sued her health authorities after she was denied employment when she said she would not carry out abortions. She is represented by the same lawyers as Ellinor Grimmark, and she too is supported by ADF.