December 21, 2020

Department of Justice Files Lawsuit Against Vermont Hospital for Forcing Nurse to Participate in Elective Abortion

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that it filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against a Vermont hospital for forcing a nurse to participate in an elective abortion against her will in 2018.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigated the incident at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) and came to the conclusion in August 2019 that the hospital had forced a nurse to participate in an abortion against her will. At that time, it filed a notice of violation against the hospital for violating the Church Amendments, a statute that prohibits health care entities from discriminating against health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions as a matter of conscience.

The DOJ alleged in the new lawsuit that UVMMC has not updated its policy to comply with the Church Amendments since the incident, and they are seeking for a federal court to acknowledge the violation and force UVMMC to change its policy.

An excerpt from a DOJ press release reads:

"The United States’ complaint alleges that UVMMC violated the Church Amendments when it chose intentionally and willfully to discriminate against a nurse who plainly made her objection to participating in abortions based on her religious beliefs or moral convictions known to UVMMC. Despite knowing of her objection, UVMMC deliberately scheduled this nurse to assist with an elective abortion while deceptively misleading her to believe the procedure did not involve abortion. Once the deceived nurse entered the procedure room she learned the true nature of the procedure. After she reiterated her objection, UVMMC refused to find a non-objecting nurse to take over, effectively forcing the nurse to continue assisting in the abortion (or abandon the patient) despite her well-known religious objection. This example makes up just part of UVMMC’s ongoing pattern, practice, and policy of discriminating against health care providers who believe that the performance, or the assistance in the performance, of abortions is contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions."

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