SWEDEN- The case of the anti-abortion Swedish midwives – again

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SWEDEN- The case of the anti-abortion Swedish midwives – again

by International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
August 8, 2017

On 17 March, 19 April and 31 May, we published three reports from Sweden on the cases of two midwives who sought to keep their jobs in spite of declaring conscientious objection to abortion, which is not recognised under Swedish law, and refusing to provide abortion services, which were a part of their job descriptions. The most recent report said they were considering taking a case to the European Court of Human Rights, as they had failed to win their case in the Swedish courts. It would appear they have done so.

However, on 18 July, we received an e-mail from someone in Sweden which explained that the case the two midwives took to the European Court was not an appeal against the Swedish courts’ rulings, but a new case. The writer said:

“The verdict against Ellinor Grimmark that came out of Sweden’s Labour Court in April cannot be appealed. The other midwife with the same story, Linda Steen, who also sued her county and was ruled against, appealed to the Labour Court, which declined to hear the case. So these cases are, in point of fact, concluded.

“However, the two midwives have sued Sweden before the European Court of Human Rights. This is not an appeal of the verdicts in their respective labour disputes, but a separate suit alleging human rights violations by the Swedish government.

“It should be noted that Sweden has a shortage of midwives. Due to this shortage, many counties offer nurses a salaried position while they go through a tax-funded training programme to become midwives, on the condition that they then work for that county for a certain time after qualifying.

“Grimmark took one of these positions in Jönköping county. She only alerted the county of her refusal to perform certain tasks within a midwife’s job description shortly before completing her training. The county did not sue her for breach of contract, but simply informed her that she was disqualified from employment as a midwife. Steen did the exact same thing, in Södermanland county.

“There are rumours that these two were specifically recruited to carry out this legal assault on Swedish women’s abortion rights, but these are unconfirmed. What is clear is that both these women entered into contracts to receive large sums of taxpayer money, then broke their contracts after receiving the money and launched frivolous lawsuits to further a religious agenda. When the verdicts came down and they were forced to pay the counties’ legal fees, these were covered by funds raised, in part, by the ADF [Alliance Defending Freedom, USA anti-abortion group].”

On 8 June, the ADF published a statement that Ellinor Grimmark’s case to the European Court is that she had to seek work in another country because she refused to participate in abortions. On 16 June, the so-called Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers reported: “On 14 June two Swedish midwives together with the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers filed a complaint against Sweden to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violations of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.” The arguments they put forward are that the women were denied the right to work within their profession, and that most countries in the Council of Europe permit conscientious objection.

SOURCE: E-mail, 18 July 2017. The writer did not give permission to publish his name.

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/sweden-the-case-of-the-anti-abortion-swedish-midwives-again/

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El Salvador: What It’s Like To Be The World’s First Abortion Refugee

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What It's Like To Be The World's First Abortion Refugee

In 2011, María Teresa Rivera was sentenced to 40 years in prison for 'aggravated homicide' following a miscarriage in El Salvador. Five years later, free and living in Sweden, she finally speaks out about the horrific ordeals women across her home country are facing when it comes to abortion, homicide and the law.

By Katie O'Malley
Aug 1, 2017

The pain, both physical and psychological, of going through a miscarriage, is an experience no-one should have to endure.

However, little did 33-year-old María Teresa Rivera know that the death of her embryo would also be compounded by the loss of her freedom.

Continued at source: Elle: http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/culture/longform/a37441/first-abortion-refugee-maria-teresa-rivera-el-salvador/

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Sweden to cut aid to groups applying Trump abortion ban

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Sweden to cut aid to groups applying Trump abortion ban

Posted at: Jul 11, 2017

A Swedish government agency on Tuesday threatened to cut aid to NGOs which have suspended abortion services over fears of losing US funding due to a decree signed by President Donald Trump.

In one of his first acts as president, Trump in January reintroduced the global gag rule, enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, which prohibits foreign charities from using US federal funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals.

Continued at source: Tribune India: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/world/sweden-to-cut-aid-to-groups-applying-trump-abortion-ban/434985.html

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Ireland: “Fianna Fáil TD told us he arranged an abortion for his niece, but he was against abortion”

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'FF TD told us he arranged an abortion for his niece, but he was against abortion'
Face the 50: The X-ile Project's online gallery of women who shared experiences of abortion has grown to 50 photos

May 12, 2017
Rosita Boland

On December 10th, 2015, 11 portraits of women were posted online to a new website. Nothing unusual or remarkable about that entirely routine event. Countless new websites appear every day around the world. But this one went on to be reported by news organisations in the US, Australia, Britain, Poland, Italy, India, Belgium, Germany and France. It was picked up by outlets as diverse as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Guardian, The Pool, Mashable, Le Figaro and The Telegraph.

These photographs were of women who, while living in Ireland, had all shared the same experience; of having had an abortion. The gallery of their portraits was the first to go online in the X-ile Project. There were more than 10,000 hits in the first few hours when it went online originally. On May 12th, the photographs of 17 new participants in the project will be added to the ever-growing gallery, bringing the number to 50.

Continued at source: Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/ff-td-told-us-he-arranged-an-abortion-for-his-niece-but-he-was-against-abortion-1.3077115

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Swedish anti-abortion midwife goes to European court over discrimination

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Swedish anti-abortion midwife goes to European court over discrimination

By AFP
14th April 2017

A Swedish anti-abortion midwife is going to the European Court of Human Rights after being denied employment in her country, her lawyer said on Thursday.

Ellinor Grimmark says she cannot carry out abortions because of her Christian faith and that she's been discriminated against by several clinics because of it.

The case has sparked a fierce debate in Sweden, one of the most liberal countries in the world, where abortion rates are among the highest in Europe and religious faith one of the lowest.

Continued at source: New Vision: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1451079/swedish-anti-abortion-midwife-goes-european-court-discrimination

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Swedish court rules against midwife in abortion case

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Swedish court rules against midwife in abortion case

Wednesday, April 12, 2017
By The Associated Press, AP

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A Swedish court has ruled that a midwife who was denied employment had not been discriminated against because of her refusal to perform abortions.

Sweden's Labor Court said Wednesday that it found no cause to suspect that Ellinor Grimmark's "freedom of opinion and expression had been violated."

Continued at source: Biz1190: http://biz1190.com/news/business/swedish-court-rules-against-midwife-in-abortion-case

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Swedish labour court rules against anti-abortion midwife

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Swedish labour court rules against anti-abortion midwife
Published April 12, 2017

A court in Sweden has ruled against an anti-abortion midwife in a case that will set a precedent for the treatment of evangelical Christian healthworkers.

The Swedish Labour Court, or Arbetsdomstol, ruled that JönköpingCounty did not discriminate against Ellinor Grimmark unfairly when it decided not to employ her.

"The Swedish Labour Court considers that a portion of the [midwife's] demands are too out-of-date and no longer applicable, and that the midwife has not been able to prove some of her claims," the court said.

The court also judged that "no breach of the midwife's freedom of opinion or expression had been committed".

Continued at source: Radio Sweden: https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6672847

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Sweden: Where conscientious objection to abortion is not recognised in law

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Sweden: Where conscientious objection to abortion is not recognised in law
March 17, 2017
by Safe Abortion

In Sweden, conscientious objection is not recognised in law. A Swedish midwife who refused to participate in abortions or prescribe contraceptives, which are part of the job description for midwives, was turned down for jobs in three clinics in the region of Joenkoeping in 2014.

Her case was tried by Sweden’s discrimination ombudsman and appealed to the district court. Both ruled against her claims of discrimination in 2015. The district court ordered her to pay the authorities’ legal costs. She then appealed to the Labour Court. Her anti-abortion lawyers argue on human rights grounds that her freedom of religion and freedom of conscience have been breached, and that she has been discriminated against.

Her legal team call themselves Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers. Her legal and financial backing, however, comes from a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian US anti-abortion group, well-known in the USA, that declared net assets of $4.9m on its US tax return in 2015.

The president of the Swedish Association of Midwives. Mia Ahlberg, says it is important that ADF’s role in this case is becoming known in Sweden. In January 2017, when the case opened in the Labour Court, she told Radio 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.

Indeed, this group’s anti-abortion tactics in the USA are being repeated in Sweden – to tie up the courts with suits that are not supported in national law, for the publicity and the nuisance value, and to tie up and wear down the pro-choice movement in opposing them. Thus, it is less well-known that in 2015, another Swedish midwife also sued her health authority after she was denied employment when she said she would not carry out abortions. She too was represented by the same lawyers as the midwife in the current case, and she too was supported by ADF.

This case is said to be an important piece of the ADF’s anti-abortion lobbying activity in Europe, as their aim is to influence European abortion law. They say they are prepared to go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights. One can only hope that the Swedish courts will soon deny them the right of appeal, to stop this dragging on.

The arguments for her case

Using human rights language, the midwife’s lawyers have argued that the European Union and Europe’s main human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, call for “freedom of conscience for healthcare professionals” concerning abortions. And that Sweden’s neighbours, Norway and Denmark, have specific clauses allowing this in their healthcare systems. Abortions are only “a very limited part of the work” of a Swedish midwife, the lawyers claim. It seems her unwillingness to provide contraception is being left out of their arguments, however, at least in the media reports.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is part of Swedish law, has also been cited by her lawyers, as requiring states to safeguard “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. However, this Convention also allows for restrictions on this right, in certain cases, including “for the protection of health” of other citizens.

Moreover, the only two reasons why conscientious objection exists in the laws of many countries as regards abortion is because a) abortion is considered “controversial”, a label the anti-abortion movement works hard to promote and maintain, and b) because abortion is in the criminal law and therefore has a different status. No other form of health care provision includes the right of conscientious objection.

The anti-abortion movement’s addition of the right to object to providing contraception, which in most countries is neither controversial nor covered by the criminal law, has failed to gain any legal traction, even in the USA – where they then changed their tactic to trying to remove contraception from the list of services covered by government-funded health insurance.

The arguments against her case

Sweden’s policy on abortion follows the principle that “the needs of the patient always come first”, Mia Ahlberg explained to the BBC. The key point is that the midwife has a choice – she can always choose another profession – but in many cases a woman having an abortion could not choose to become pregnant. She argues that the case is about women’s rights, women’s human rights and women’s access to good, safe healthcare.

What about the freedom of conscience argument? If the midwife were to win, she said, it could have a big impact on Swedish healthcare: “For example, a nurse who is a Jehovah’s Witness might refuse to perform a blood transfusion.” Swedish midwives’ training includes abortion procedures and after-care. “It’s part of our professional competence – so the employer has a right to say ‘you cannot work here’… Swedish midwives today do abortions quite independently in some units.” Although Sweden does not have enough midwives, she says, that is not a reason to make an exception for one midwife, stressing that women’s rights and the integrity of midwifery are at stake and must be defended.

In effect, what she is saying is that the anti-abortion argument is always the same argument, dressed in different clothing. It not only puts the fetus first but also puts the objecting midwife first. It is just another way of saying that the woman and her needs and rights do not come first and do not take precedence over every other competing claim.

SOURCES: BBC News, 26 January 2017 ; Radio Sweden, 24 January 2017 ; LOGO

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion: http://www.safeabortionwomensright.org/sweden-where-conscientious-objection-to-abortion-is-not-recognised-in-law/

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Sweden gives Mozambique $5.2m for safe abortion

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Sweden gives Mozambique $5.2m for safe abortion

ARNALDO VIEIRA in Luanda
Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Mozambican government has received $5.2 million from Sweden for a programme aimed at accessing safe abortion, VOA Radio reported.

According to the report, the programme aims at furnishing women with information about abortion, its access, precautions to take and means of contraception.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an unsafe abortion as the termination of an unwanted pregnancy either by "persons lacking the necessary skills or an environment lacking minimal medical standards, or both".

Continued at source: Africa Review: http://www.africareview.com/news/Sweden-gives-Mozambique-cash-for-safe-abortion/979180-3837816-x8e21y/

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UK fails to contribute as donors unite to bridge US ‘global gag’ funding shortfall

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UK fails to contribute as donors unite to bridge US 'global gag' funding shortfall

As countries pledge a total of €181m to fill void left by Trump administration’s funding ban, UK highlights existing commitments on family planning

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and Jessica Elgot in London
Thursday 2 March 2017

The British government failed to join other donors in pledging millions of dollars to an international fund aimed at filling the gap left by Donald Trump’s reimposition of the “global gag rule”.

At a conference in Brussels on Thursday attended by delegates from 50 countries, pledges were made totalling €181m (£155m) to fund family planning and reproductive health services in low-income countries. Organisers hope to counter Trump’s ban on US aid to overseas groups that provide abortion or abortion advocacy, one of the US president’s first acts in the White House.

Countries including Canada, Sweden and Finland lined up to announce pledges, while Britain’s minister at the talks presented existing spending commitments.

Continued at source: The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/02/uk-donors-unite-us-global-gag-rule-shortfall-trump-she-decides-conference-brussels

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