Sacred Ideals : Diversity and Equality in Swedish Reproductive Healthcare

Abstract: To promote diversity (mångfald) and equality (jämlikhet) is a key task for a wide range of welfare institutions in Sweden. The two terms appeal to several aspects simultaneously: inclusiveness, moral goodness, awareness and willingness to facilitate a positive social change. Diversity and equality have become, as I suggest in this thesis, two sacred ideals in Swedish society today. In the context of reproductive healthcare, various forms of diversity and equality measures are thought of as solutions to, for instance, inequalities between immigrant groups and others, structural discrimination of minority groups, and difficulties faced by the Swedish healthcare system in caring for patients’ diverse needs and preferences in clinical encounters. In this thesis, diversity and equality are analysed as two important governing mechanisms in the organisation of healthcare in multicultural Sweden. The aim was to explore how these ideals contribute to shape the provision of reproductive healthcare, and its consequences.Paper I shows that targeted interventions towards immigrant women in contraceptive counselling risk singling out some women from standard routes of care because they are categorised as “immigrants” or “Muslims”. Paper II shows that demands upon healthcare providers to accommodate Muslim patients’ presumed needs have the potential of also creating needs that were not there from the start. Paper III shows that many religious counsellors who are affiliated with Swedish healthcare as spiritual advisers present ideas on abortion that are less progressive than what is stipulated in Swedish abortion law. Paper IV shows that imperatives to promote gender equality in contraceptive counselling were taken seriously by providers in their encounters with non-Western women, at the possible expense of respect for relationship structures that do not conform to the ideals of gender equality.The findings presented in this thesis show that the interventions and initiatives that sought to presumably help disadvantaged groups of people (i.e. Muslims, immigrant women) could, in fact, be obstacles to solving the problems they were meant to address. I argue that the governance of Swedish reproductive healthcare through diversity and equality ideals must be problematised and balanced with regard to their plausible consequences.