A Swedish midwife on Wednesday lost her years-long legal battle to be exempt from performing abortions -- an act she says violates her religious freedom -- and is now considering a final push before the European Court of Human Rights.
Midwife Ellinor Grimmark objects to abortions because of her Christian beliefs. But the Swedish Labor Court decided that midwives are obligated to make a choice between conscience and career -- contradicting international law, which protects conscientious objection, experts say.
According to the organization Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, "freedom of conscience" is a human right stating that no one shall be deprived of their ability to work in their profession because that person -- by ethical, moral or religious reasons -- cannot perform a task that “extinguishes human life” at its beginning, or final stages.
“Restrictions on the right to freedom of conscience must be supported by law and be necessary in a democratic society,” Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers said after the appeals court decision in Grimmark's case.
In November 2015, a district court found that Grimmark’s right to freedom of conscience had not been violated, and required her to pay the local government’s legal costs, which totaled more than $100,000.
Grimmark has been commuting to Norway, where midwives and doctors are granted freedom of conscience, according to the human rights group.
“The Court has failed to protect Ellinor Grimmark’s fundamental right to freedom of conscience despite the clear legal protections that exist in international law,” Robert Clark, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International, an organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, said in a statement. “Some have attempted to frame this case as one that pits one human right against another -- however, the only person whose rights have been violated is Ellinor Grimmark.”
According to ADF, three different medical clinics in the district of Jönköping had refused to employ Grimmark because she would not assist with abortions due to her belief in the “dignity of human life.”
Grimmark must now decide whether or not to pursue her case before the European Court of Human Rights.