On Wednesday, Rockford, Illinois nurse Sandra Mendoza sued the Winnebago County Health Department for forcing her out of her long-time job as a pediatric nurse on account of her refusal to participate in abortion related services. Ms. Mendoza, a devout Catholic, had worked for the Health Department for 18 years providing pediatric care, immunizations, and screenings.
In 2015, the County’s new Public Health Administrator, Dr. Sandra Martell, merged the pediatric clinic with women’s health services and mandated that all nurses be trained to provide abortion referrals and participate in the provision of abortifacients like Plan B.
When Ms. Mendoza informed Dr. Martell and the administration of her conscientious objections to participating in any way in the provision of abortions, Dr. Martell gave Ms. Mendoza two weeks to either quit or accept a demotion to a temporary job as a food inspector. Mendoza refused the demotion and was forced to resign in July 2015.
The suit seeks damages under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act which prohibits public officials from discriminating against a person in any manner because of their conscientious refusal to participate in any way in the provision of abortions. The suit comes on the heels of the Illinois General Assembly’s recent passage of a bill that seeks to weaken the law’s protections. Senate Bill 1564, which was passed on May 31, 2016, would force medical professionals to promote and facilitate abortions despite their personal beliefs. Governor Bruce Rauner has yet to indicate whether he will veto the bill or sign it into law.
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Mendoza’s attorney, Noel Sterett, a partner at Mauck & Baker, LLC, in Chicago, says, “Ms. Mendoza has spent her life serving children and protecting life. People disagree on whether abortions end human lives, but I’d hope we can all agree that pro-life doctors and nurses should not be forced out of employment on account of their faith or commitment to protecting life.”
Ms. Mendoza says, “Nursing is more than just a job, it is a noble calling to protect life and do no harm. There is something terribly wrong when you are forced out of your job on account of your commitment to protect life.”