Scandianvian Human Rights Lawyers
November 12, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Swedish Court ignores International Law protecting Freedom of Conscience
Judgment delivered in the Swedish Midwife Case
The Jönköping District Court ruled Thursday against midwife Ellinor Grimmark who was unjustly denied employment by three different hospitals because of her conscientious objection to abortion.
- We regret the Court’s decision. The Court decided not to examine the right of freedom of conscience according to international law and the European Convention on human rights, at all. We will discuss the judgment with our client, Ellinor Grimmark, but it is likely that we will appeal the case to the Göta Hovrätt, the Court of Appeal, says attorney Ruth Nordström, Senior Legal Counsel of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.
In November 2013, Höglandssjukhuset women’s clinic withdrew 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 Grimmark “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.
– Ellinor Grimmark is currently working as a midwife with maternity care in Norway, where her freedom of conscience is respected. Considering the great shortage of midwives in Sweden, especially within the maternity care, it is surprising that the Health Region of Jönköping, would rather lose competent health care workers to Norway than grant them freedom of conscience. This decision contradicts the right to safe maternity health care and is not in the best interest of patients, says Ruth Nordström.
– The District Court only examined if Ellinor Grimmark was discriminated because of her religious beliefs and did not at all examine the relevant case law of the European Court. It is remarkable that the Court states that the question of freedom of conscience should only be examined if a person is not religious, says Ruth Nordström.
– Article 9 of the European Convention establishes freedom of conscience as a human right. The Convention has been implemented as Swedish law and takes precedence over national laws. The majority of the countries in Europe, protect the right to freedom of conscience in their Constitution, law or practice. In addition, health professionals right to conscience is recognized in international ethical standards of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the World Health Organization and in the International Code of Ethics for Midwives. According to Council of Europe Resolution 1763 (2010) health care professionals shall not be coerced or discriminated upon because of refusal to perform or assist in any act that could end a human life at its beginning or end, says Ruth Nordstrom.
– Freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right. To deny freedom of conscience to all health care workers in Sweden cannot be considered a measure necessary in a democratic society. Sweden has not shown in what way the country’s health care system is so unique compared to the rest of Europe and neighbouring countries that it is impossible to grant Ellinor Grimmark a right to conscience, says Attorney Jörgen Olson.
Read the full judgment:
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