Alliance Defending Freedom

They Said ‘No!’:  What happened when 12 nurses refused to participate in abortions

Alliance Defending Freedom
By Alliance Defending Freedom
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January 14, 2013 (ADF) - Nurses in a big city hospital never know what a day's shift will bring – straightforward cases or medical miracles, major crises or minor first aid. Whatever her station, whatever the duty of the moment, a nurse tries to ready herself for anything. But some things, you just can't see coming.

It was Beryl Otieno Ngoje's turn to work the desk in the Same Day Surgery Unit at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), in Newark. She was busy with the usual administrative duties – filing charts, handing out forms to the patients, answering visitors' questions – when another nurse hurried up beside her.

"Oh, something just happened, you won't believe it," the woman said, visibly excited. "I have it in my hand." She held up a clenched fist, palm up. "I have it in my hand," she said again.

"What do you have in your hand?" Beryl asked, bemused at the woman's demeanor.

"Do you want to see?"

"Yes," Beryl said – and instantly regretted it.

The other nurse opened her hand to reveal the tiny, tiny form of a baby, just aborted.

"I felt like somebody had just hit me with something in my face," Beryl remembers.

She began to cry, to the consternation of her coworker.

"I'm sorry – I didn't know you were going to react like that," the woman said.

It was a moment that seared Beryl's soul and haunted her memory, and it would come back often, in the days ahead. For the other nurse was not just a co-worker, but her manager... with the power to hold not just an unborn baby, but Beryl's career in the palm of her hand.

The dozen-or-so nurses of the UMDNJ Same Day Surgery Unit – like nurses at any other hospital – are a lively mixture of backgrounds and personalities. Beryl, a native of Kenya, is a quiet ICU specialist who's been with the hospital for over 15 years. Fe Esperanza Racpan Vinoya, a veteran of the ER and ICU, is from the Philippines, and speaks with cheerful delight about her love for music and for her church. Lorna Mendoza has been a nurse for 25 years, at University for more than a dozen, and takes both her work and her Christian faith very seriously.

"We high-five each other," Beryl says, "Most of us are there 12 hours, and that is a good portion of your day. It is important that you get along and feel relaxed and free."

Because: "you get to socialize a lot," Fe says. "You're less busy here than in the ER."

The nurses of Fe's unit are responsible for monitoring, medicating, and placating patients going into and coming out of surgery. That means a lot of bedside comfort, encouragement, and interaction with both patients and their families, so conversations between coworkers tend to be quick exchanges in the hallway or on break. What the nurses share, more than close friendship, is delight in and commitment to a job they love.

"It's a noble job," says Fe. "Very fulfilling... a healing profession. Everything you do for the patient just makes them feel better, and satisfies my entire being, because I've helped someone."

"A lot of people don't realize... we usually see somebody at their worst," Beryl says. "They're not perky, happy – they're ailing and hurting. They just want somebody to be there. I can make a difference. I can help in whatever little way. I find that very gratifying."

All operations on this unit are elective – that is, the patient chooses to have a specific procedure done: a tonsillectomy, a hernia repair, the removal of cataracts. And, sometimes, an abortion.

Not the kind of abortion where the mother's life is in danger, Beryl says. "They just choose to end it. These are people who go to the doctor and say, 'Look, I don't want this pregnancy.' The age range is mostly teenagers – 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds – and a lot of times, they come back."

"To some, it's like contraception," Fe says. "Five or six times, you see them there."

If she ends up talking to those patients, she says, "I always tell them, 'I'll be praying for you, and I hope that this is the last time I'll see you doing this kind of procedure.' I can see in their faces how guilty they feel, the guilt in their hearts." Many say, "Yes, definitely this is my last time."

And yet, so often, they come back.

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Fe knows, all too well, about that guilt in their eyes. Twenty years ago – still new to America, still learning the language and culture, just getting the hang of her first nursing job – she found she was pregnant. But her doctor said the number of rubella antibodies in her blood was too low, and posed far too great a risk for the baby. He urged her to get a therapeutic abortion.

Fe and her husband pressed the doctor repeatedly – was this absolutely necessary? He assured them it was, and, out of their depth in a new country, they didn't realize they had any choice. Fe soon found herself in a clinic, surrounded by half-a-hundred teenagers, all waiting their turn to abbreviate the life in their wombs. Fe sat with her husband and sister.

"We were the only ones crying," she says.

Right up until the moment of the procedure itself, Fe was on the phone with her doctors, trying to get their okay not to end her baby's life. But her pediatrician and the specialist were adamant, and she went through with what they told her to do. The decision has troubled her ever since.

"I wasn't able to sleep for a long time," she says. "It took me years to just feel that, okay, it's done. I asked for forgiveness. The Lord knows my heart, that I didn't want to have that happen."

Within a year, Fe was pregnant again. She is now the mother of three... yet her thoughts linger, sometimes, on the one she lost. The experience makes it that much harder, she says, to watch the young teenagers come through to eliminate a child just because it might complicate their lives. She knows how their hearts will be haunted in ways they can't imagine now.

Which is why she was horrified to learn that she was being ordered to help with their abortions.

The change came in September of 2011, with the news that a peer was being promoted. Though employed in the same unit as Fe, Beryl and the rest, this particular nurse had long been assigned to a special team that carried out the abortions without any involvement or assistance from other nurses on the Same Day Surgery floor. 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. The assistant manager quickly set up a training program that would give each nurse on the unit hands-on experience in how to assist with and clean up after abortions.

"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."

"We were all shocked," Fe says. "All these years I've been a nurse, I was never told to help kill children."

But the managers remained adamant. Hospital administrators supported them. When the nurses brought up a long-standing, in-writing agreement exempting them from taking part in abortions apart from a medical emergency, officials told them "an emergency" would hereafter be defined as any situation in which the patient was "bleeding." And every birth involves bleeding.

"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."

When even their own union declined to help them, Fe wrote a letter to hospital officials saying that she and her coworkers would not participate in abortions. She passed it around for the other nurses; 15 signed it. She gave the letter to her manager, who took it to the director of nursing.. Response was swift. A meeting was called for the next day, with each of the signing nurses, the labor board, a union official, the managers, and "an expert on ethics" scheduled to be on hand.

The day of that announcement, Pastor Terry Smith, of Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey, returned from a trip. A staff member told him that one of his parishioners – Fe – had called, shared what was happening at the hospital, and asked for advice. The pastor immediately phoned Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

"I'll be all over this," said Deo, who hung up and called Alliance Defending Freedom. Shortly afterward, staff attorney Matt Bowman was on the phone with a local allied attorney, Demetrios Stratis, enlisting him to help defend the nurses. The two immediately called Fe.

"I remember... I was driving and speaking to them three-way," says Fe, who had just been convincing herself the nurses' case was hopeless. "I didn't know a thing about conscience law – it was very, very new to me." The two told her she had a legitimate case, and offered to defend her. Best of all, Stratis said he could be on hand for her meeting with the managers the next day.

"Is there a catch?" Fe asked. Visions of sky-high attorneys' fees danced in her head.

"No catch," Stratis said. "We're pro bono lawyers." Fe drove home in a daze.

Next morning, she met Stratis at the hospital entrance. She took him upstairs to the Same Day Surgery Unit and introduced him to the nurses on duty and others waiting for the meeting. Twelve of the 15 immediately agreed to have him and Bowman represent them in the case.

"A godsend," Beryl says. "We had no idea which way to go. It was like something from heaven just dropped in our lap at the right time. It boosted our morale a lot." It did considerably less for the morale of the nurse managers and others gathered for the meeting, who had not reckoned with the nurses hiring outside counsel.

"Who are you?" a manager asked Stratis.

"He's our attorney, and he is going to speak on our behalf," replied Fe. Everyone split into huddles – Stratis and the nurses in one room, administrators in another. After a few minutes, the nurse manager came to cancel the meeting, but not before Stratis made it clear that he would be defending "my clients' legal right not to be forced to participate in terminating a pregnancy."

"It was like we had been talking to a brick wall, and that brick wall just got smashed," Fe says. "We were very happy after that. It gave us a sense of hope."

Stratis and Bowman reminded hospital officials – face to face and in writing – that their new policy transgressed both state and federal laws that make it illegal to compel medical professionals to violate their conscience by forcing them to help with a non-emergency abortion. With their actions, the hospital was not only risking a lawsuit, but more than $60 million in federal funding. Still, administrators stubbornly contended that all abortions in the Same Day Surgery area – each scheduled weeks in advance – were "emergencies."

"These surgeries are, by definition, elective, outpatient procedures," Bowman says. "If they weren't, the ER is just 30 seconds away." Plus, he points out, "these are pre- and post-operative nurses. They're not even supposed to be there for a surgery, whether it's abortion or not."

To get around that, he says, the abortion team "would give a woman a pill that induced labor, give it in the pre-op area, and leave her there. After a couple of hours, she'd start going into labor." And now, she was outside the surgical area – in a section for which the 12 pro-life nurses were responsible.

With the hospital unwilling to budge, Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on behalf of the 12 nurses to defend their legally protected right of conscience. Their managers, meanwhile, insisted on including the 12 in abortion training, which included interactions with abortion patients and handling dead babies. Three were forced to take part before the nurses enlisted Bowman and Stratis. Once hired, though, the two quickly obtained an injunction that prevented other nurses from having to undergo training the following day.

One of the three forced to train did not quite accomplish, perhaps, what her managers had in mind. During her shift, a patient expressed reluctance to go through with the procedure. The nurse talked with her awhile, then – at her request – quietly brought in the woman's husband. After a bit, the woman dressed and they left... having decided not to have the abortion.

For weeks, the 12 nurses worked in a decidedly tense environment. "It was scary," Beryl says. "We prayed a lot. We came into work and stepped off the elevator and said, 'God just let the day go by well, without incident' – because we had our incidents. It was very, very uncomfortable." The 12 drew strength, she says, from each other, from praying friends, and from their faith that, "Our God is greater than this."

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.

Amid all the tension, threats, and growing media coverage, the judge in the case stunned everyone by suddenly announcing, in a preliminary hearing, that a settlement had been reached.

"We had gotten everything [the 12 nurses] requested," Stratis says. "We'd gotten the hospital to agree not to force them to perform these abortions. There would be no retaliatory measures against them, and they could feel free and sleep at night, knowing that the next day they would not have to be trained on the abortion process or help a woman kill an innocent child."

"I was crying – really crying," says Lorna, who heard the news from one of the other nurses. "And very thankful. The next day, I went to work, and all of us were hugging and very happy."

"Before, I used to think that some prayers won't be answered," Fe says. "Sometimes, I'd feel very hopeless. But with this case, I saw how the Lord moves... providing the resources, the people who would help us out. It just strengthened my faith. I really thank God for Alliance Defending Freedom."

"I'm not sure I know where we'd be today if it wasn't for them, really," Beryl says. "We were up against some really big guns, and Alliance Defending Freedom was determined to support us."

"This case took an emotional toll on all of these nurses," Stratis says. "To stand up, to be part of a lawsuit against their employer, is very, very hard to do. There was a lot at stake. Some were the sole breadwinners for their family. Being faced with termination of their job or standing up for their faith... that is a very, very difficult decision, especially in these economic times."

But "I couldn't do what they were asking me to do," Beryl says. "I could not. You go against what you believe, what are you? What's left? Just a shell of what you are."

Spoken like a woman whose conscience is in good hands.

Reprinted with permission from Alliance Defending Freedom.http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.com

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Congressman: Give us Nucatola or we’ll subpoena

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By Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Dr. Deborah Nucatola has become awfully shy since she became the first national Planned Parenthood figure featured in an exposé of its practice of harvesting, and allegedly profiting from the sale of, the organs of aborted children. Within hours of the video release by the Center for Medical Progress, she removed her social media accounts. 

Now, she is considering dodging a call to testify before a Congressional committee investigating whether she admitted to breaking the law during her covertly recorded cameo with actors posing as agents of a human biologics company.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee called her to address the committee by month's end. 

Roger K. Evans, Planned Parenthood's Senior Counsel for Law and Policy, responded by saying that asking her to speak to Congress "no later than July 31 ... is short notice given the number of questions raised." 

He instead offered to substitute Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley in Nucatola's place.

Faced with the possibility that Planned Parenthood would refuse to send its star witness, at least one congressman has said he will take steps to ensure the abortion provider shows up.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA, responded to Evans' letter by saying that the committee has called Dr. Nucatola to the witness stand before the end of the month, and she will comply or face the consequences.  

“If they say no, we’ll subpoena her,” the pro-life Republican said. 

The committee is focused on whether the process Dr. Nucatola - the doctor seen in the first video, eating salad and sipping wine - amounts to a violation of federal felony law forbidding the sale of human organs for "valuable consideration." 

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Why selling ‘baby body parts’ has captured America’s attention (VIDEO)

By Pete Baklinski

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - A key player in last week’s startling video exposé of Planned Parenthood says that it took 30 months of strategic planning from numerous pro-life organizations to give the story the hard-hitting power with which it has walloped the abortion industry over its practice of harvesting the body parts of aborted babies. 

“We are seeing the fruit of a lot of careful thought, a lot of disciplined activities, and a lot of undercover work,” Rev. Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews in an interview in Washington. 

Since breaking Tuesday of last week, the story has trended first place in social media platforms such as Facebook and has been given top priority on mega news aggregation websites such as Drudge Report. The first of now two undercover videos has been viewed over 2.5 million times on YouTube. 

Pavone said that this is not the first time Planned Parenthood has faced the heat for what many considered to be a barbaric practice of harvesting human organs for profit. Similar investigations in the late 1990s into the practices of Planned Parenthood found that aborted babies were being dissected alive, harvested, and sold in pieces for research. 

“Now this is fresh evidence. Now this is evidence going to the highest levels of Planned Parenthood. We know that people at the national level of Planned Parenthood are aware of and are admitting that these baby body parts are being harvested, that transactions are taking place, that money is changing hands. And so, this is catching the attention of the American public because it brings the abortion issue down from the abstract level to the concrete,” he said. 

“This is not just about viewpoints, it’s about victims. It’s not just about beliefs, it’s about bloodshed. When people see and hear terms like ‘eyes, livers, hearts’ it’s like, ‘What are we talking about here? This is ghoulish disgusting activity,’” he said. 

Pavone praised pro-life activists such as Operation Rescue president Troy Newman and Life Dynamics president Mark Crutcher for helping the exposé along, giving “strategic input, guidance, and advice.” Pavone highlighted the hard work of lead investigator David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress for going undercover to film meetings with high profile Planned Parenthood employees and attending numerous Planned Parenthood conferences.

Pavone believes the story has received so much traction in social media outlets like Facebook because it gives people a platform to express outrage over the injustice of abortion in response to mainstream media’s unwritten rule of silence and apathy on abortion. 

Traditional media outlets are “in the pocket” of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry, he said, adding that they “don’t want to say a bad word about Planned Parenthood.”

“Social media has become the engine for those who feel so frustrated that things we have known for years that the abortion industry is doing, and yet we can’t seem to get the word out, now these people are taking this and running with it. And I think you’re seeing years and even decades of frustration being channeled in productive ways to say, ‘We’ve got to shout this from the rooftops.’ And social media is the perfect rooftop,” he said. 

When asked what the undercover videos released so far reveal about the abortion industry and the people who work in it, Pavone responded: 

When an abortionist dehumanizes the baby that he or she is about to kill, the abortionist also dehumanizes himself. And this is what we are seeing in these people. We see it in Deborah Nucatola sipping the wine and eating the salad and talking about the body parts. We see it in the newest video [about] Dr. Mary Gatter. We saw it in [jailed abortionist] Gosnell.

What’s wrong with [these people]? There are two things wrong. Number one, these people are dehumanized. They are deeply damaged by the abortions they perform. Because when you perform your first abortion, a voice of protest rises up within you saying, ‘No. Stop. You can’t do this.’ But then if you ignore that voice, and go ahead and do that abortion, then the next time you have to explain to yourself, and to everybody else, why you ignored that voice. And so, the voice of protest gets buried under layer, and layer, and layer of excuses and rationalizations. And in doing that, you are becoming disconnected from your own conscience.

How can these people talk about this with apparent peace on their face? It’s because they are disconnected from themselves, from their own conscience.

Pavone said that new undercover videos to be released in the coming days will continue to shed light on the gruesome practices happening at Planned Parenthood abortion centers across the nation. 

“We want to defund Planned Parenthood and get them to stop what they are doing. This is a very concrete way of doing that. We want to end Planned Parenthood because they are the largest abortion business in the world, and we want that to stop,” he said. 

Already a Congressional investigation is underway, but so far, Planned Parenthood is refusing to cooperate with the demands of the Committee investigating. 

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The Planned Parenthood scandal shows the power of exposing abortion’s grotesqueness

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By Jonathon van Maren

July 23, 2015 (UnmaskingChoice) -- If there’s one thing that confuses me about how many pro-lifers decide on strategies to change hearts and minds on abortion, it’s the fact that they seem to believe that we have to approach the most controversial issue there is without controversy—that somehow, we have to take an issue that people have incredibly strong feelings about and ensure that none of those feelings surface during a discussion.

As our postcard campaign nears our record-breaking mark of one million postcards delivered to one million homes, reactions have been widely varied—we have phone calls from people “horrified” by the postcard, who don’t seem to realize that the action depicted is much more horrifying. We have people who demand to know what they are supposed to say if their children see the picture of “the dead baby”—who don’t seem to realize that with their own words, they have admitted that we live in a country where dead babies are tossed in garbage cans behind government-funded clinics. We also have people who call us to thank us for the information, and express anger that such barbarism could be happening in Canada. We have people who phone to tell us that the postcard has changed their vote, and the votes of their neighbors. And we have people like the old man who wanted to shake my hand because he was encouraged to see that “some people cared about things.”

Huge numbers of Canadians have no idea that abortion decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels a pre-born human being. Huge numbers of Canadians are being exposed to that tragic and horrifying fact.

By the polling numbers, we see many people influenced against abortion—even if they don’t like us, the image stays with them, and they like abortion even less. Even if only ten percent of people were influenced against abortion because of postcards depicting abortion imagery, I would point out that that is still a far bigger number than any other pro-life strategy even claims to impact. For the first time, statistically significant portions of the population are being exposed to the reality of abortion—and they are reacting to that reality.

Pro-lifers are often tempted to run scared because they believe what the pro-abortion movement says about our best evidence—that it will “turn people” off. It will, of course. In the words of one abortion activist: “Your pictures turn people off of abortion.” If people get angry with us, but are still influenced against abortion, we have accomplished exactly what we set out to do. That being said, people only focus on the angry commenters that they see—a handful of social media posts, and the same tired news story from each and every single media outlet. I’m not sure if most journalists are unimaginative or just lazy, but most seem unwilling or incapable of even visiting a few websites and trying to find out what the rationale behind the strategy is. Most of them, I suspect, have pre-written stories and just call around to get the quotes they want. We know, for example, that reporters have specifically ignored people who have received the postcard and offered to comment positively—that is not, they openly say, the story they are looking for.

The abortion movement, on the other hand, can’t decide whether the imagery we use is extremely effective, or very ineffective. Canadian abortion blogger “Fern Hill” is usually babbling the talking points about how what we’re doing is so counter-productive, and that we’re obsessed with “gore porn,” and then calling us a bunch of names. (If pro-abortion groups really did believe that what we were doing strengthened support for abortion so much, I suspect that they’d be a lot less angry about what we’re doing—after all, we’re just doing their job!) But a couple of days ago, after responding to pictures of the dozens of lovely young women on our staff by snapping that they were all one unplanned pregnancy away from being pro-choice (such a depressing world these people live in), she tweeted an article at me that I found interesting.

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

It was a piece on David Daleidan of the Center for Medical Progress, the man behind the recent exposes of Planned Parenthood. He’s captured video of Planned Parenthood employees casually discussing not only the abortion procedure, but also how to best pillage the corpses of these dead children in order to sell their body parts for profit. The videos have horrified people across North America, and reaction has been swift. Amanda Marcotte, a pro-abortion blogger who often writes for Slate, has responded to the new scandal in an article called “Grossing people out can have short-term impact, but does it matter in the long-term?” She quotes Michelle Goldberg over at The Nation:

Further, it’s a way for the anti-abortion movement to focus the abortion debate on the graphic details of rare, late-term procedures, about which there is less public consensus than there is about early abortion. It serves the same purpose as the ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and as blown-up pictures of bloody fetuses. It induces disgust, a very politically potent emotion, since most people associate things that are gross with things that are immoral. In his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt describes how researchers asked students at Cornell University to fill out surveys about their political attitudes while standing either near or far from hand sanitizer. Those standing closer to it became temporarily more conservative. If something that minor can affect people’s politics, then a video like this one is sure to have a visceral impact.

Amanda Marcotte goes on to say that while abortion imagery and exposes are very potent, that the impact of them is not long-lasting. Why? Because, she writes with hilarious immaturity, most things in life are gross—sex, going to the bathroom, surgery—and we all get over those things, don’t we? So surely abortion pictures will also be forgotten.

She’s forgetting something—abortion pictures aren’t powerful because they’re “gross.” Abortion pictures are powerful because they show the results of abortion—a dead, butchered human being. The power in the imagery is that people recognize that, and something in them responds to this injustice. It’s why even the people angry with our postcards have responded to the media by talking about the postcards depicting the “dead babies” or the “slain babies” or the “torn-up babies.” No-one thinks that what they’re looking at is a removed appendix. No one thinks that what they’re looking at is bodily waste. Everyone knows, almost immediately, that what they’re looking at is a dead human.

That is why the impact of abortion pictures doesn’t just disappear. One more piece of evidence? Almost everyone I know in the pro-life movement was convicted to join the pro-life fight because they saw a picture or a video of abortion, including myself. As Marcotte herself pointed out, that was what convicted David Daleidan as well. We now have over forty young people on our staff, all convicted by seeing what abortion does to babies and what they can do about it.

The movement is just getting started.

Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.

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