January 13, 2011 ( – Vanderbilt University on Wednesday modified its nurse residency application so that it no longer requires applicants to sign an abortion pledge.

The university made the announcement in an e-mail to applicants one day after the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) had filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services about the policy.

At issue was Vanderbilt’s nurse residency application, which stated on page 15, “If you are chosen for the Nurse Residency Program in the Women’s Health track, you will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy.”

The application went on to encourage those who may feel that they cannot “provide care to women during this type of event,” to “apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program.”

While the ADF argued that the policy was a clear violation of federal law, in that it forced students to participate in abortions, the university denied the charges. In a statement to media, the university had argued that the offending clauses in the application were added simply “in order to create an awareness that terminations are performed here at Vanderbilt,” and that the university had a policy allowing students to opt-out of activities that violated their consciences.

The ADF shot back, however, saying that this wasn’t good enough. “Vanderbilt is being duplicitous by talking about the wrong policy,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Vanderbilt’s application package specifically requires applicants to promise to assist in abortions and says nothing about another Vanderbilt policy which does not require them to assist in abortions.”

In its update to applicants Wednesday, Vanderbilt stated, “While Vanderbilt expects all health care providers, including nurses who participate in the Nurse Residency Program’s Women’s Health Track, to provide compassionate care to all patients, no health care provider is required to participate in a procedure terminating a pregnancy if such participation would be contrary to an individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Bowman praised Vanderbilt for changing the policy, saying: “Christians and other pro-life members of the medical community shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions to pursue their profession.

“We will be monitoring the situation to make sure the university continues to comply with the law. It’s ironic that Vanderbilt changed its policy one day after denying that it required the pledge.”

Vanderbilt receives more than $300 million in federal tax dollars each year. Federal law prohibits grant recipients from forcing students or health care workers to participate in abortions contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

ADF attorneys had filed the complaints on behalf of two fourth-year nursing students at other universities who wished to apply to Vanderbilt’s nurse residency program but had been unable to do so, as they were unwilling to sign the abortion pledge.