Hospital Told Nurses: Assist Abortions or Lose Your Job

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 1, 2011   |   10:56AM   |   Trenton, NJ

A dozen nurses have 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.

The Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of 12 nurses in New Jersey who work for a hospital receiving federal health funds who were told they needed to assist abortions or be terminated from their employment. The mandate violates several federal conscience laws and state law, ADF senior legal counsel Matt Bowman tells LifeNews.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” Bowman told LifeNews. “No less than 12 nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since a policy change required them to participate in the abortions regardless of their religious objections. That is flatly illegal.”

According to a copy of the complaint ADF sent LifeNews, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was “demanding that the Nurses must assist abortions in violation of their religious objections or they will be terminated. Defendants have illegally coerced some of the Nurses to train to assist abortions already, and Defendants are presently scheduling the others to do so.”

“UMDNJ’s coercion of the Nurses is a blatant violation of federal and state law, which explicitly prohibit UMDNJ from penalizing employees including Plaintiffs because they object to assisting abortions,” the complaint says.

The nurses are asking the federal court to declare their rights under law and enjoin UMDNJ from continuing to mandate that they or similarly situated employees assist in abortions. Because UMDNJ’s federal tax funding is also conditioned on UMDNJ not discriminating against employees’ civil rights when they object to assisting abortions, the nurses also seek an order requiring UMDNJ to disgorge the nearly $60 million in federal health funding that it received in 2011. They also want an order requiring that UMDNJ be disqualified from receiving additional federal health funding unless and until it demonstrates compliance by ceasing its illegal coercion to assist abortions. Plaintiffs also seek statutorily authorized attorneys fees and costs, and other relief deemed appropriate by the Court.

A spokesman for the hospital told Fox News that it was not yet aware of the lawsuit and, thus, had no comment.

Bowman told the news outlet that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey had been doing abortions for decades without forcing nurses to assist, until recent weeks.

“The hospital passed a policy and put one of the nurses who did abortions in a supervisory position and started forcing nurses to assist in abortions out of the blue,” Bowman said. “It’s in complete violation of federal and state law – that says you can’t force people to assist abortions.”

Bowman told Fox News the hospital agreed to meet with the nurses but, when the nurses showed up to the meeting with legal counsel, the meeting was canceled.

“The hospital told the nurses they have no regard for their religious beliefs,” he said. “They were going to be assigned to these abortions or they would be terminated.”