Midwife Ellinor Grimmark who is fighting with her employers after she has refused to assist with abortions. Photo: Fredrik Persson / TT.
Midwife Ellinor Grimmark who is fighting with her employers after she has refused to assist with abortions. Photo: Fredrik Persson / TT.

Christian Democrats push for abortion opt-out

"This should not be optional"
4:03 min

A local Christian Democrat proposal to introduce a conscience clause for health care workers, which would allow them to refuse helping out by an abortion, has passed its first hurdle.

Earlier this year, christian midwife Ellinor Grimmark in Jönköping County sued the health authorities when they withdrew an offer of a job after they found out she objects to taking part in abortions.

Now, in Kronoberg, the county south of Jönköping, the county council has voted in favour of looking into the possibility of introducing a conscience clause, which would give someone like Grimmark a chance to work as a midwife and opt-out of helping with abortion related work.

"I think you can't force people to violate their own inner conviction. I think respect for the differences among patients - but also staff - is very important if we are going to get a good, human and warm health care," Eva Johnsson, the Christian Democrat representative in Kronoberg county executive board, told SVT Smålandsnytt.

Exactly where the line should be drawn, and what tasks could be refused, she does not want to say, but she says that, generally, staff members will do a much better job if they don't have to compromise their beliefs.

"If you have a moral compass that says you are educated to save lives, not to extinguish them, then I think we have to respect that," she said.

The Christian Democrat Party is also at the national level in favour of health authorities introducing conscience clauses.

In Kronoberg, the proposal to investigate this measure further got the backing of two Alliance partners, in the Moderate and Centre parties.

The Liberal Party representative abstained from voting, while the Social Democrats, the Left and the Green representatives voted against it.

"I think that a woman who has considered her reasons for going through with a medical abortion, should not have to worry about whether the health care workers actually want to do this or not. This should not be optional," Anna Fransson, top Social Democrat representative in the county council, told Swedish Radio P4 Kronoberg.

And the head of the health care workers' trade union in Kronoberg, Karin Jisborg Hultgren, finds it "unthinkable".

"As a Swedish citizen and a member of this society, I should be able to trust that I get the health care that I have the right to get according to Swedish law," she told SVT Smålandsnytt. "That is not something that should be dependent on who I meet in the health care situation and what faith that person has."

But Eva Johnson, the Christian Democrat politician in the executive board, says there is another factor to consider as well. Changing the rules could make it easier to recruit people at a time when there is a severe shortage of midwives.

"We can't afford to miss one single educated specialist, just because they might have some doubts about a single task in a much wider area," she said.

The proposal will now go to the country assembly for a vote, before the details of an opt-out clause would be further investigated. It may go no further.

Tabloid Aftonbladet reports the Center Party's group leader in the national parliament is not in favour of the proposal, and will discuss the issue with his colleagues in Kronoberg. And the Liberal party representative in Kronoberg country, Yngve Filipsson, told Swedish Radio P4 Kronoberg that he may actually vote against it, as his party finds a conscience clause questionable.

"If you work in the health care you can end up in situations where it is important that you carry out the tasks that are part of the job," he said.

But the story does not end there. A similar proposal has been handed in to Jönköping county council, which is expected to be decided on in the months to come.

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