By Kathleen Gilbert

NEW YORK, July 23, 2009 ( – A Catholic nurse is suing a New York hospital for forcing her to participate in the abortion of a late-term unborn child under the threat of possible termination and loss of license, and penalizing her after she filed a grievance and continued to refuse performing abortions.

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Mount Sinai Medical Center on behalf of senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, who says she was denied an opportunity to find a nurse to replace her after resisting a last-minute summons to assist in the scheduled abortion. While hospital administrators told the nurse that the scheduled abortion was an “emergency,”

However, Cenzon-DeCarlo says that she saw no indications that the abortion was a medical emergency while in the operating room.

Despite repeated and emotional objections, Cenzon-DeCarlo was ultimately forced to participate in the child’s death, and was later pressured to sign an agreement that she would assist in all abortions doctors deemed an “emergency.”

Mount Sinai, argue the lawyers, should not be allowed to continue receiving millions of dollars of federal funds while in violation of federal law protecting the conscience rights of medical workers.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of conscience.

“Federal law requires that employers who receive funding from tax dollars must not compel employees to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, but this nurse’s objections fell on deaf ears.”

Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo is described in court papers as having a reputation for “a high level of expertise” and competency in various medical disciplines. The hospital, they say, has known of her religious objections to abortion since her declaration of that fact in a job interview in 2004.

The complaint states that Cenzon-DeCarlo was scheduled to perform an abortion on May 24 of this year, and grew concerned when she discovered that the child in the womb was alive. Cenzon-DeCarlo was accustomed to assisting at similar procedures that followed a miscarriage.

The nurse reportedly then sought her nursing supervisor, who warned that if Cenzon-DeCarlo did not participate, she “would be brought up on charges of ‘insubordination and patient abandonment.'” Such charges, says the lawyers, “would severely jeopardize Mrs. Cenzon-DeCarlo’s employment and her nursing license and consequently her career and her and her family’s livelihood.”

While hospital officials insisted to DeCarlo that the woman’s life would be in danger without the abortion, Cenzon-DeCarlo believed that the situation did not require her immediate involvement, as she says the mother’s preeclampsia had not reached a critical stage. Preeclampsia is a medical condition arising as a complication from pregnancy, which can be resolved in severe cases by removing the unborn child – although the child need not be killed.

The complaint states Cenzon-DeCarlo was reduced to tears, and offered to have her priest explain why she could not assist in the death of the child, but her supervisors would not yield. Cenzon-DeCarlo ultimately submitted.

“Mount Sinai callously imposed this harm on Mrs. Cenzon-DeCarlo over and against her tears and urgings and known religious beliefs,” says the ADF lawyers.

Participating in the death of the child (duties included transporting and treating the baby’s dismembered parts with saline) reportedly caused Cenzon-DeCarlo “extreme emotional, psychological, and spiritual suffering.” Cenzon-DeCarlo says she sought therapy after she began suffering from nightmares of children in distress, as well as insomnia and a breakdown in personal and religious relationships.

After Cenzon-DeCarlo filed a grievance over the incident, Mount Sinai allegedly began to retaliate against her by cutting her hours and pressuring her to sign an agreement that she would assist in performing abortions in the case of an “emergency.” Cenzon-DeCarlo refused to sign the agreement.

Mount Sinai declined’s request for comment on the litigation.

ADF attorneys filed the complaint in Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. They are also requesting a preliminary injunction that would order the hospital to honor Cenzon-DeCarlo’s religious objection against assisting in abortion and refrain from retaliation against her while the case moves forward.