Louisiana Nurse Sues Hospital for Morning After Pill Discrimination

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 1, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Louisiana Nurse Sues Hospital for Morning After Pill Discrimination Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 1, 2005

Covington, LA (LifeNews.com) — A Louisiana nurse has sued a county hospital after it demoted her to part-time status after she refused to dispense the morning after pill because of her religious and moral objections to it. The nurse opposes use of the Plan B drugs because they can sometimes cause an abortion.

Toni Lemly, filed a lawsuit in the 22nd Judicial District Court against St. Tammany Parish Hospital over the demotion. She worked in the family planning clinic at the Covingtonmedical facility.

Hospital officials told Lemly she would be required to distribute the morning after pills to any patients who request it, according to her attorney, Michael Johnson, of the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life law firm.

Lemly told officials about her objections to the drug in a May 2004 letter, saying she the drugs sometimes cause an abortion "that ‘prevents a living, united female egg and male sperm which is HUMAN life from attaching itself to the uterus lining.’"

Lemly wrote in an e-mail to Judy Wischkaemper, the center’s director, that she was a Christian and distributing Plan B drugs would violate her religious views.

According to a New Orleans Times-Picayune report, hospital officials gave her three options to avoid having to distribute the drugs, including reducing her workload at the family planning clinic, transferring her to another department, or splitting her time between two departments.

Lemly said none of the options worked because she wasn’t qualified for some of the other departments and that others offered work on a per diem rather than full time basis. That would cause her to lose her benefits and, as a single mother, she needed to keep her health care insurance.

The hospital decided to demote her to part time work.

Johnson said the hospital’s actions violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against employees because of their religious views. He also said the hospital’s action violated Louisiana law as well.

Patti Ellish, the hospital’s president, told the New Orleans paper that she could not comment on the case. However, she said the facility "is an equal opportunity employer" and added that she believes the Plan B drug "is not an abortion pill."

Johnson said the hospital has not cooperated with pleas to resolve the situation outside of court.

"It seems as though the defendants have sort of dug their heels in, and it may ultimately have to be decided in court," he told the Times-Picayune.

Dorinda Bordlee, an attorney and head of the Bioethics Defense Fund, is a Louisiana pro-life attorney. Commenting on the situation, she told LifeNews.com, "The so-called right to choose abortion, either surgically or through the use of drugs, must not deteriorate into a ‘right’ to force medical professionals to act against their fundamental freedom of conscience."

"There is nothing in Louisiana law allowing such blatant civil rights violations," Bordlee said.