Sweden Rules Against Pro-Life Midwife: A Free Market Solution

By Ben Johnson Published on April 15, 2017

The government can force midwives to perform abortions or lose their job, a Swedish court has ruled. As bad as it is, this setback for life and liberty could have been worse if not for the free market.

On Wednesday, the Swedish Appeals Court ruled against a pro-life midwife who lost jobs in two southern Sweden hospitals because she refused to perform abortions. Ellinor Grimmark sued after being told that, if she wished to deliver babies, she had to be willing to abort them, as well. She replied that her Christian faith would not allow that.

It’a not that government officials didn’t care that this violated her religion. They actually seemed to revel in it. One Swedish minister said that “one who refuses to participate in abortions is an extreme religious practitioner.” In the next breath, she mentioned ISIS.

A district court ruled against Grimmark in November 2015. It also slapped her with court costs of 100,000 euros ($107,000).

She has now lost the second round and is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“The desire to protect life is what leads many midwives and nurses to enter the medical profession in the first place,” said Robert Clarke of Alliance Defending Freedom International, which intervened in the case. “Instead of forcing desperately needed midwives out of their profession, governments should safeguard the moral convictions of medical staff.”

The is clearly a morality tale. But it’s also about economics. Grimmark’s suffering is due to a local lack of economic freedom in her native Sweden. And her ability to make a living in neighboring Norway is due to the economic freedom she enjoys there.

Government Control, Government Values

The government dominates health care in Sweden. The government agency that Grimmark sued — the Jönköping regional health authority — notes that it “has considerable autonomy and tax-raising powers.” (Undoubtedly.) And it insisted all midwives perform abortions: no excuses, no exceptions.

In Sweden, only government-approved midwives may practice, and training includes abortion.

Sweden is a global outlier in supporting abortion-on-demand. Stockholm funds abortions globally. One Swedish official called President Trump’s restricting U.S. abortion funds “catastrophic.”

When the government controls health care, bureaucrats dictate the values of its participants. This is the opposite of the consumer choosing someone who shares her views.

Make no mistake, there is a market for pro-life OB-GYNs. A friend recently told me she would never see a doctor who would refer anyone for an abortion. Surely mothers should be free to seek out doctors who share their commitment to unborn human life.

Instead, the Swedish government formed a cartel. Only government-approved midwives may practice, and training includes abortion. Like labor unions that refused to admit blacks, the Swedish government has made faithful Christians an excluded minority.

But excluding any worker has consequences — and not just for the workers. Sweden now suffers “an acute midwife shortage,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “Eighty percent of the county councils that run local hospitals reported having trouble recruiting midwives last year.”

That’s bad because midwifery “improves as many as 56 health outcomes,” according to the director general of the World Health Organization.

Ironically, at the same time the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs runs an outreach known as Midwives4All “to spread knowledge about the benefits of midwives” worldwide. Physician, heal thyself.

Such are the contradictions of a nation where health care is considered a right but life is not.

Free Markets, Freedom of Conscience

So, what saved Ellinor Grimmark from being locked out of her chosen field completely? Global competition.

Grimmark made the tough decision to commute four hours — each way — to a hospital in Norway. Oslo is no more pro-life than Stockholm. But Norway respects conscience rights. So do 20 of the 28 members of the E.U.

Or maybe Norway just cares more about delivering babies than punishing Christians who refuse to bow the knee to Mammon and Moloch. Whatever the reasons, it’s in Norway’s interest to let Norwegian women benefit from the services of pro-life midwives. Sweden’s loss is their gain.

If Sweden were more tolerant, it would enjoy a larger and more diverse labor force. Its intolerance robs it of workplace diversity and quality reproductive health care.

Despite Sweden’s intolerance, she was free to work across the border in Norway. Her commute — roughly the distance from Scranton to New York City — crosses national borders. The freedom to work in Norway allowed her to be a midwife without breaking the Ten Commandments.

Just governments must respect the right to life and conscience.

She is following in good footsteps. How often in the lives of the saints do we read that they were exiled? St. Athanasius is a famous example. St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Gregory Palamas were exiled numerous times. In fact, in Christian history, fleeing an oppressive homeland is so common that it’s practically a form of pilgrimage.

Immigration is at the heart of many E.U. disputes. “This issue is of the most momentous significance for the future of the world,” wrote Ludwig von Mises in Liberalism. “The fate of civilization,” he wrote, “depends on its satisfactory resolution.”

There are strong cultural reasons that a nation would protect its borders — concerns that Mises called “justified.” And the Bible does not demand open borders. But these concerns don’t apply to someone from a shared culture who is close enough to commute, as Grimmark does.

What let a pro-life midwife serve babies, in other words, was economic freedom.

This is not enough. Just governments must respect the right to life and conscience. Nothing can substitute for a government that enshrines the right of a human being to live his life according to his conscience, and from its beginning until its natural end.

But when people of faith are subject to a government that does not share their views —  economic freedom may provide the only protection we have. At the least, it can protect us from some of the forms of harm that secularists might like to visit upon us. (And rest assured: Some of them mean us harm.)

Pro-lifers who don’t car much about economic freedom should to reflect on the ways that it might give us room to work and worship in an otherwise secular culture.


Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute and an Eastern Orthodox priest.

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  • Autrey Windle

    Who are these people and what can we do about them?! Sadly, I know the answers to my own questions but I can dream of a world where there are no devil worshippers to identify…

  • Med1

    This is just another reason why we cannot EVER have single payer/socialized medicine!

  • Timothy Horton

    Let me get this straight.

    Here’s a woman who took years of Midwife medical training knowing exactly what the job entailed. Then when it came time to begin work she refused to do part of the job she knew was required of the position.. Now she’s whining and trying to sue because the hospital won’t hire her???

    Can you imagine a person who trained in firefighter school for years, applied for and got a job as a fireman then told his bosses “sorry, it’s against my religion to fight fires. I’ll ride on the truck during parades and shine the engine but I will not fight fires”. How long until someone pulling that would be looking for new work?

    • GPS Daddy

      If I were to pursue a career as a doctor or a ‘midwife’ I would want to be trained in abortion procedures so long as that training was achedemic. That way I can provide the best care to those who have had an abortion if that was an issue for them. But this lady’s rights are being violated. Here is relevant European law:

      – The European Convention on Human Rights, which is Swedish law since 1995, Article 9 gives everyone the right to freedom of conscience and the European Court´s case law is directly applicable in the Swedish legal system.
      – Resolution 1763 (2010) of the Council of Europe stipulates that medical personnel are entitled to freedom of conscience in matters relating to termination of human life. Resolutions are not binding upon member states but give guidance to the European Court when it is examining a case.
      – The Abortion Act Section 5 (Prop.1974:70 s 76 ff) stipulates that only doctors
      – The preparatory work of the Abortion Act (Prop.1974:70 s 76 ff) also stipulates that freedom of conscience shall be granted to healthcare professionals who can not participate in abortion for moral or religious reasons are authorized to perform abortions in Sweden.

    • GPS Daddy

      But let me ask you this, Timothy, why do you defend death so fervently?

      • Timothy Horton

        Let me ask you this GPS Daddy, why do you hate women so fervently?

        • BroFrank

          Obviously, Mr. Horton, you are interested in Christianity, or you would not spend so much time on this site. Thanks for your candor. — You do realize that the Bible supports the view that God knows about us before we exit the womb. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Surely, you must admit that if there is a God, He can know such things.

          Further, with God in the picture, “science,” philosophers, and professors must ultimately be subject to questioning. Surely, you do not believe that scientists know EVERYTHING. Even with “evolutionary algorithms” you must concede that such computations must originate with some “intelligence” or “smart data” to begin with. The Christian believes that God is the first cause, and that He charts the periodic table of elements and basic laws of science, themselves.

          When dealing with moral issues, the Christian falls back on the premise of the opening chapter of
          Genesis: that man is created in God’s image, and that because of that imprint, every life is precious. Even yours . . . and mine. Be blessed.

      • Jim Walker

        Tim is the very character The Bible warns us about in the end times, he is the embodiment of the world as we see it. It’s pointless to reason with the world because the world doesn’t know Him.

        • GPS Daddy

          Jim, you do not know anything substantial about Timothy. You also do not know we’re are in that time. I do not believe that in that time it is useless to try.

          • Jim Walker

            We are closer to the end times everyday. You can try reasoning with him but I suggest prayer.

          • GPS Daddy

            Agreed on prayer. I’m under no illusion that they will get some oppifany and post it here. Rather, if I lay out of he logic specific to their arguments then that might produce fruit down the road. I strive to never personally attack for that will undermine that effort. I do not try to ‘win’ the argument. I only try to counter or present what I hope might be fruitful down the road.

    • GPS Daddy

      The majority of abortions are done as a birth control method. This is due to the man in the relationship going rouge. So to defend abortion as a right is really defending the right of men going rouge. It’s really defending the RIGHT of men to treat women as sex machines. That’s a very loving position to have towards women, don’t you think?

      • Timothy Horton

        The majority of abortions are done as a birth control method.

        That is a flat out lie. No woman I’ve ever heard of decided to have unprotected sex with the idea “if I catch I’ll just have an abortion”. Why do you resort to such blatant lies to push your position?

        It’s really defending the RIGHT of men to treat women as sex machines.

        I can always count on GPS Daddy to say something even more stupid than the day before. Now allowing women the right to choose what happens inside their bodies is really defending the “right” of men to have sex then leave.

        You can’t make up this stuff folks. You just can’t.

        • GPS Daddy

          So, less than 5% of abortion are done due to rape. Less than 1% are done to save the life of the mother. This means that over 94% of abortions are done from a couple having consensual relations. The reason so many women are having abortions is that when the man finds out she is pregnant, he leaves and tells her it’s her problem. She is now faced with being a single mother or aborting.

          This is the crux of the issue. There are no good choices for her left. Be a single mother or bring death to the child growing inside her.

          You advidcate she has a right to bring death to the child growing inside her. But what do you say to the man? It takes two to tango. By only focusing of her ‘right’ and never addressing the more fundamental problem of the man going rouge you are letting him off the hook. How is that loving?

          • Timothy Horton

            This means that over 94% of abortions are done from a couple having consensual relations.

            That’s not the same as using abortion for your chosen form of birth control.

            Why do you have to continually lie to try and push your case?

          • GPS Daddy

            A couple has become pregnant. Abortion prevents the pregnancy from finishing – birth control. Now how about avoiding the plight that irresponsible men put on women. How do you deal with that?

          • Timothy Horton

            Abortion prevents the pregnancy from finishing – birth control.

            That’s not what the term birth control means. It means taking steps to prevent conception.

            Why do you have to continually lie to try and push your case?

    • glenbo

      How a bout me…I was a volunteer firefighter in a very very small town with few volunteers, and I am an atheist. If a local church caught fire or the church’s pastor’s home caught fire, can I sit it out and watch it burn as per my religious beliefs and conscience?

      • GPS Daddy

        On one side is saving life (saving people from a fire) the other side is end life (abortion).

        • Timothy Horton

          He didn’t say the pastor’s life. He said the pastor’s home. Should an atheist fireman be allowed to let a pastor’s home burn down because the fireman finds the pastor’s “lifestyle” immoral?

          • GPS Daddy

            My comment is valid. The midwife is not objecting to the faith of the mother that is seeking death for the child growing inside of her. She is objecting to being the one who will execute the life within the mother’s womb based on her own conscious.

        • glenbo

          >>”the other side is end life”<<

          Incorrect. Abortion isn’t “ending a life” it is preventing a

          The definition of “life” needs to be clarified. Until then,
          my definition entails a heartbeat, a cerebral cortex and cognitive
          function/ability. A zygote is not a “life.” If you feel it is, then by your definition of life a tumor is a life and therefore must be preserved and allowed to grow despite the victim’s wishes.

          You are not “pro-life” sir. You are pro-forced-procreation
          which is highly intrusive and frankly none of your business. There is a big difference.

          But I know you disagree, so let’s see how “pro-life” you
          really are:

          How much do you and your church donate to cancer research?
          How much do you and your church donate to UNICEF?
          How much do you and your church donate to The World Health
          20,000 children die every day under God’s perfect “plan.”
          If you cannot produce a cancelled check to any of those, you
          are NOT “pro-life.” You are pro-birth.

          If you are against LGBT rights, you are NOT pro-life.

          • GPS Daddy

            Not true. The child is alive.

          • glenbo

            Either way…the pregnancy of another is none of your business.

          • GPS Daddy

            It matters huge that the child is alive. Since the child is alive then ending that life is bringing death to that child. Since the mother cannot have an abortion on her own she must involve another person(s), then it’s not just her buisness anymore. She makes it a social issue which does give me the moral right to present my view.

          • Timothy Horton

            A fetus is living tissue but it is not yet a child. Every time you pick your nose you kill millions of living nasal cells yet I don’t see you arguing to stop the practice.

          • glenbo

            >>”Every time you pick your nose you kill millions of living nasal cells”<<
            Why isn't the church campaigning to illegalize nocturnal emissions?

          • glenbo
          • GPS Daddy

            But again, glenbo, your not dealing with the irresponsible man who put her in the position of either being a single mother or seeking the death of the child growing inside of her.

          • glenbo

            >>”your not dealing with the irresponsible man”<<
            That's neither my problem nor is it my business.
            I'm more concerned about the 20,000 children that will die today, and tomorrow and every day.

          • Timothy Horton

            A fetus is not a child in the medical, legal, or scientific sense of the world.

  • Jim Walker

    Swedish courts should also slap their immigrants to have abortions too or else in no less than 30 yrs Sweden will be an Islamic state.

    • GPS Daddy

      Excellent point, Jim. I bet they will have a change of tune on immigration before then.

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