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NRL News
Page 8
Fall 2011
Volume 38
Issue 8

New Jersey Nurses Refuse to Participate in Abortions, Take Hospital to Court

By Dave Andrusko

As this edition of National Right to Life News goes to press, 12 New Jersey nurses are suing one of the state’s largest hospitals for compelling them to choose between their pro-life convictions—not participating in any way with abortions—and retaining their jobs.

The “out of the blue” change initiated by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is so outrageous the nurses received unexpected editorial support from the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) won a temporary restraining order in early November in U.S. District Court in New Jersey on behalf of the nurses who “possess strongly held religious and moral beliefs” against participating “in the process of an abortion that causes the death of a preborn child,” according to ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.

In its press statements and lawsuit, the ADF says that UMDNJ had been performing abortions for decades without forcing nurses to violate their religious beliefs, and then “out of the blue” changed its policy. The new policy? Take training in abortions or be fired.

(The hospital is not saying why it abruptly changed its abortion policy, which had been to use freelance, nonobjecting nurses and nonobjectors on its staff.)

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions. Federal and state law both prohibit this,” Bowman said. “These 12 nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since a policy change required them to participate in the abortion cases regardless of their religious and moral objections.”

Bowman was seconded by pro-life Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who participated in a press conference with the nurses in front of the hospital. “UMDNJ’s coercive anti-conscience policy is not only highly unethical but blatantly illegal,” Smith said. “Federal and state law couldn’t be clearer on this matter.”

The hospital countered that it was compelling only that nurses “participate”—as oppose to “assist” in abortions—meaning that they would “perform peripheral duties for abortion patients,” such as logging information and drawing blood.

In its editorial the Star Ledger observed, “In other words, UMDNJ believes it should be able to compel nurses and other health care professionals, against their moral beliefs, to perform duties leading all the way up to the actual abortion, then force those health care professionals to attend to patients immediately afterward—or lose their jobs.”

The newspaper then captured the nub of the controversy.

“An e-mail from UMDNJ to the nurses’ attorney says, ‘The pre- and post-operative care provided to these patients is of the same nature as that provided to patients who have undergone other surgical procedures.’ Yes, but these patients aren’t undergoing ‘other surgical procedures.’ They’re undergoing an abortion—an emotionally and morally charged procedure. This isn’t a tonsillectomy.”

Nurse Fe Vinoya not only spoke at the press conference; she also gave an interview to Fox News & Commentary. When given the choice—“assist with abortion procedures or be fired”—she said, “It felt like the whole world crashed on me,” adding, “You could sense the sadness in all of us. We felt betrayed.”

Vinoya went home and told her family the news.

“‘That day my eight year old son was learning about The Ten Commandments in church,’ she said. ‘He recited the sixth commandment—we are not to kill anyone. I just cried. I knew that God had given me hope and that he is really on our side.’

“She said she received further affirmation from her 13-year-old son who was working on a school project about religious freedom.

“‘This fight really is a good fight,’ she said. ‘We are talking about religious freedom and it’s being violated right in front of us.’”