Swedish nurses denied jobs for opposing abortion

20 March 2020

Two nurses in Sweden denied midwifery jobs for refusing to carry out abortions have lost a legal bid to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for violating their Christian beliefs.

Religious faith ‘not an issue’

Ellinor Grimmark, from Sweden, and Linda Steen, from Norway, are both trained as midwives, however both women have been turned down for midwife jobs. With legal assistance from ADF International, they argued that their freedom of conscience had been violated and that they had suffered discrimination for their faith.

Yet, the ECHR refused to hear their case, citing the finding of the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman, which rejected Ms Grimmark’s case. The ombudsman found that her religious faith was not discriminated against because “another midwife refusing a part of the work other than on religious grounds would not have been treated any differently from the applicant.”

The judge on Ms Grimmark’s complaint did admit that there had been “an interference with her freedom of religion under Article Nine” of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the ruling continued that by saying that “the interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion was proportionate and justified with the view of achieving a legitimate aim.”

Made to perform abortions

Swedish law requires midwives to carry out abortions. However, international law also clearly provides protections for the right to freedom of conscience.

Now that the ECHR has refused to accept this case, the nurses cannot appeal again.

‘Job is to bring life into the world’

After filing her case with the ECHR four years ago, Ellinor Grimmark explained why she objects to performing abortions: “I chose to become a midwife because I wanted to help bring life into this world. I cannot understand why the Swedish government refuses to accommodate my conscientious convictions. I am now working in Norway, where my conscience is respected, but no-one can explain why Sweden cannot do the same.”

Nature of abortion ends life

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, spoke to Russia Today about the case: “If you have a conviction that life is precious, worthy of protection and there to be saved, that you are doing your job because you believe just that, then the profession should make accommodation for that.

“There are many medics around the world who choose this profession because they’re all about life – all about saving life, not about ending life. And the very nature of abortion ends life.”

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