NEWARK, New Jersey, December 22, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a triumph for conscience protections, a New Jersey hospital agreed that nurses will not have to assist with abortions if doing so would violate their moral or religious views.
Twelve nurses filed a lawsuit on October 31 against at the hospital run by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), alleging that the hospital threatened to fire them if they refused to assist in abortions. According to the lawsuit, a supervisor told a nurse in the Same Day Surgery Unit that UMDNJ had “no regard for religious beliefs.”
Forcing a health care professional to participate in an abortion could violate both state and federal law. UMDNJ receives $60 million in federal funding, which protects the consciences of medical staff in some situations. New Jersey state law guarantees, “No person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or sterilization.”
“We are glad that the hospital finally agreed to obey the law and not force our clients to do any work on abortion cases in violation of their beliefs,” Matt Bowman, the attorney who handled the case for the Alliance Defense Fund, stated in an e-mail statement sent to LifeSiteNews.com. “The hospital agreed not to penalize our clients in any way because they choose to not help abortions according to their legal rights.”
The nurses agreed they will briefly assist mothers during a medical emergency, until new staff members who do not object can take their place. The hospital hired four new nurses for these cases. “I’m still scared about the part of them having four nurses brought in and we might become the surpluses,” said Fe Esperanza-Racpan Vinoya, one of the plaintiffs. However, Bowman stated, “the hospital cannot use pro-abortion staff to replace our clients or reduce their hours.”
“The judge warned the hospital that our clients could return to his court if they were assigned to work abortion cases or if the hospital pretextually tries to require the nurses to assist abortions,” Bowman stated.
The hospital notified members of the unit in September that they would undergo abortion training, which included participating in abortions, beginning on October 14. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the practice on November 3, but nurses say the hospital continued to pressure them to participate. “They said very clearly if we did not assist, we would face termination,” said Racpan Vinoya.
Doctors reportedly told Vinoya, “You just have to catch the baby’s head. Don’t worry; it’s already dead.”
The agreement, which was reached on Thursday, ended the case Danquah v. University of Medicine and Dentistry of N.J. (UMDNJ), which was filed by all but four nurses in their unit.
Rep. Christopher Smith, R-NJ, said the hospital’s disregard for state and federal law and violation of its staff members’ consciences was “not only highly unethical but blatantly illegal.”