NASHVILLE, Tennessee, January 13, 2011 ( – A Christian legal organization has filed a complaint against Vanderbilt University with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), charging it with violating federal law by requiring nursing residents to participate in abortion procedures.

At issue is Vanderbilt’s nurse residency application, which states 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 goes 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.”

Alliance Defence Fund (ADF) attorneys have filed the complaint on behalf of a fourth-year nursing student at another university who wishes to apply to Vanderbilt’s nurse residency program, but who is opposed to abortion.

“Christians and other pro-life members of the medical community shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions to pursue their profession,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “People enter the medical profession to protect and heal the helpless. Federal law protects them from being required to kill the helpless.”

In a statement to the media, however, Vanderbilt denied the charges, saying that the offending clauses in the application were added simply “in order to create an awareness that terminations are performed here at Vanderbilt,” according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser.

“If you choose to participate (in the nurse residency program), you will be around patients who have had or are seeking terminations, and you may be asked to care for them. It does not say that you are required to participate in performing or in the performance of terminations.”

Howser said that the university medical center has in place a policy that allows staff and students to “be excused from participating in activities due to religious beliefs, ethical beliefs or other associated reasons.”

Bowman, however, said that this isn’t good enough. “Vanderbilt is being duplicitous by talking about the wrong policy,” he said. “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.”

According to the ADF, 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.

The ADF complaint letter urges the HHS to “swiftly” step in and to stop the Vanderbilt policy, so as to allow the student they are representing to be able to apply by the January 28 deadline.

“We repeatedly see universities and other users of taxpayer dollars tell students and staff that they must submit to the institution’s preferred ideology or take a hike,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “What many of these institutions truly want – besides money – are people who share their leftist political and social views.”

ADF is currently litigating several cases involving Christians required to act against their conscience. These include the cases of a nurse forced to assist in an abortion procedure at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, a student rejected from Eastern Michigan University’s counseling program because she would not agree to affirm homosexual behavior as morally acceptable, and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counselor fired because she would not provide counseling that would directly affirm or promote behavior contrary to her religious beliefs.

Contact information:

Vanderbilt University
211 Kirland Hall,
Nashville, TN 37240
General Information (Medical Center)
(615) 322-5000