Court to Hold Hearing on Nurses Forced to Assist Abortions

State   Steven Ertelt   Dec 21, 2011   |   4:18PM    Newark, NJ

A federal court will hold hearings on a lawsuit on Thursday in the case of 12 nurses being forced to assist with abortions at a New Jersey hospital.

The hearing concerns a motion filed by ADF attorneys on behalf of the nurses that asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction that would halt any efforts by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to coerce the nurses in violation of federal law while their lawsuit moves forward.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions. Federal and state law both prohibit this,” said Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “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. It is disturbing that the hospital is fighting to continue violating laws that clearly protect conscience rights.”

Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a temporary restraining order, with the hospital’s temporary consent, that prohibited the hospital from coercing the nurses until the court could consider whether to issue an additional order, which is the subject of Thursday’s hearing.

Federal law prohibits hospitals that receive certain federal funds from forcing employees to participate in abortions. UMDNJ receives approximately $60 million in federal health funds annually. In addition, New Jersey law states, “No person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or sterilization.” The lawsuit requests that the hospital be ordered to obey these laws and to return part of the federal taxpayer money it has received in light of its violation of federal conscience laws.

As LifeNews has reported, some of the nurses in New Jersey who have faced pressure to do abortions at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey have spoken out about their ordeal. One of the nurses, Fe Esperanza R. Vinoya, talked with the Washington Post and said a manager at the hospital told her: “‘You just have to catch the baby’s head. Don’t worry, it’s already dead.’”

The nurses filed a lawsuit against their employer, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which told them they had to either assist in abortions or risk losing their jobs. A court has stopped a New Jersey hospital from forcing any of 12 nurses that sued it to participate in training or services related to abortions.

In their lawsuit, ADF says the facility receives federal health funds and it told them they needed to assist abortions or be terminated from their employment. The order, which the hospital agreed to, is in effect until the court decides whether to issue any additional order at a November 18 hearing.

The hospital denies the nurses were pressured, but they said otherwise in their testimony.