Remembering When a Hospital Told Nurses “Assist Abortions or Lose Your Job”

National   |   Wesley J. Smith   |   Nov 11, 2013   |   12:16PM   |   Washington, DC

I covered this story when it broke, but I was unaware of the details, so I think it is worth revisiting.

Back in 2011, the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ tried to force day surgical nurses to participate in killing fetuses. The nurses sued, and eventually reached a settlement that saved their jobs. But look what it took to prevail!  From the Alliance Defending Freedom story:

The abortion team had always drawn its staff from nurses who had expressed no qualms about helping end a child’s life. Promoted from that team to a supervisory position over all the nurses, the new assistant manager announced that – since she and others had to help with abortions – she saw no reason why every nurse shouldn’t help. Hospital officials agreed, and passed a new, mandatory policy to make it so…”As long as you work here,” she told the 12 nurses who openly protested, “you’re going to have to do it. If you don’t, you’re going to be fired or transferred out.”

Be complicit or be fired! I believe we will see more cases such as this, the attempt to quash personal (especially religious) conscious in what used to be called the medical arts.

When 12 of the nurses refused, the hospital really ratcheted up the pressure:

“I knew we were going to lose our jobs,” says Lorna, who, at one point, amid the flurry of discussions with the managers, was asked to provide a patient with a bedpan. Retrieving it, she found an aborted baby inside. Horrified and sobbing, she called for help, telling the manager who responded, “I don’t know what to do with this. I can’t do this.”

She soon found herself in the office of the vice president of nursing, where she was accused of refusing to help patients and threatened with termination. She wasn’t the only one called in. “Our jobs were hanging by a string,” Beryl says. “We were like, ‘All right. If they’re going to fire all 12 of us, fine. But this is against what we believe God wants us to do.’ We didn’t come into this profession to do [abortions]. We told them we weren’t comfortable with it and didn’t feel they should force us. And if that meant our jobs, well… God was going to provide.”

The nurses’ union even supported the hospital!

Enter Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers. They pointed out that the procedures were elective, not emergency or involving the life of a patient. The hospital didn’t care.

As a court date drew nearer, the hospital came up with another threat: if the 12 would not help with abortions, administrators would hire nurses who were willing to do so. Soon, officials intimated, there might not be work enough for everybody… in which cases those nurses willing to do anything might well enjoy greater job security than those only willing to do most things.

The case settled with the hospital agreeing to leave the nurses alone.

I am convinced that cases like this are the opening stanza of a coming symphony of pressure against Hippocratic medical professionals. Indeed, very powerful forces in politics, culture, and medicine want to conscript medical professionals to participate or be complicit in abortion–and eventually, assisted suicide/euthanasia. (Victoria, Australia already has such a law for doctors regarding abortion and Quebec’s new euthanasia legislation would force doctor complicity.)



I believe strongly in medical conscience rights, and have proposed specific principles about how they should be applied.

Good for Alliance Defending Freedom for stopping this injustice. But beware hospitals and medical groups that ensure participation in culture of death practices before hiring. I also fear culling in medical and nursing school to filter out those unwilling to take human life. Note: Wesley J. Smith, J.D., is a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exeptionalism.