Vanderbilt University Policy Should Caution Pro-Life Med Students

Opinion   |   Kristan Hawkins   |   Jan 12, 2011   |   2:46PM   |   Nashville, TN

You may be next. Vanderbilt University recently informed a fourth year nursing student that she must sign a form mandating that she be ready to assist in abortions…or look for another residency.

This discrimination comes at the cost of Vanderbilt violating federal law, which prohibits recipients of federal funds from coercing anyone to perform or assist in abortions in violation of their religious or moral convictions. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Vanderbilt received $313.6 million from taxpayers in the 2008 fiscal year.

This comes as Medical Students for Life is receiving other conscience complaints from Medical and Nursing Schools across the country. Pro-life Medical Students and Nursing Students are being discriminated against because of their moral and religious beliefs.
We placed this at-risk nursing student in touch with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) who responded by filing a civil rights complaint against Vanderbilt with the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Yet this student—and many others—are not yet safe.

The Vanderbilt acknowledgement form states, “I am aware that I may be providing nursing care for women who are having” procedures including terminations of pregnancy.

What if you believe abortions violate your conscience?…“If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals.”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser told The Tennessean that the nursing form “does not say that you are required to participate in performing or in the performance of terminations.”

Yet they are screening pro-life applicants!

 David French, senior counsel for ADF, poses the simple question, ‘Why not include that in the application also?’ French maintains, “You can’t create a better way to screen out pro-life applicants if you try. That violates the (federal law) regardless of whatever policy they might have.”

It may too late for this summer’s nursing applicants. Vanderbilt’s January 28th deadline for the summer nursing residency may continue shutting out pro-life nursing residents if the HHS (or Vanderbilt) does not act quickly.

Abortion is not health care, and students should not be forced into assisting with them. Abortion should not be a prerequisite for education. 

Kristan Hawkins is the Executive Director of Students for Life and Medical Students for Life and a contributing blogger at Dominique Monlezun is the National Coordinator for Medical Students for Life of America.