A federal judge will hear oral arguments this Friday in a case involving a group of hospital nurses in New Jersey who were ordered to assist in abortions or be fired. U.S. District Judge Jose Linares will hear the lawsuit filed by twelve nurses employed by the University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.
Judge Linares issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the hospital from requiring the nurses to "undergoing any training, procedures, or performances related to abortion" until he rules on the merits of the case. Linares also ordered the hospital not to discriminate against any of the nurses in matters of employment, promotion, or termination of employment due to their refusal to participate in the performance of abortions or abortion training.
The hospital announced a new policy change in September that all nurses in the Same Day Surgery Unit
would be required to assist in abortion procedures. The hospital forced the entire staff of nurses to undergo abortion training beginning last month. When the twelve nurses objected that assisting in "violence against innocent human life" would violate their religious beliefs, they were told that their religious convictions were of no consequence.
"As a Christian, I don't believe in abortion," says nurse Fe Esperanza Vinoya. "I think it's murder. It's against
my religious conviction and it's against the law for them to force me to assist in something against my religious conviction."
Vinoya says the hospital edict was a crushing blow to the nursing staff. "It felt like the whole word crashed on me. You could sense the sadness in all of us. We felt betrayed." Vinoya has been a nurse for 21 years, and says she believes nursing is not just her job--but is God's calling on her life.
The Alliance Defense Fund is representing the nurses in the case. Matt Bowman, legal counsel for ADF, says the hospital's actions are "flatly illegal." "These twelve nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since the policy change required them to participate in abortions regardless of their religious and moral objections."
"The hospital's coercion of the nurses is a blatant violation of federal and state law, which explicitly prohibits them from penalizing employees because they object to assisting abortions," Bowman says, adding that officials at the University of Medicine and Dentistry
Hospital have demonstrated "an extreme level of arrogance." "It is disturbing that this hospital may fight to continue violating laws that clearly protect conscience rights."
Bowman makes reference to a federal law known as the Church Amendment which forbids hospitals which receive federal funds from forcing its employees to participate in abortions. New Jersey law also provides conscience protections for pro-life doctors and nurses, similar to a statute on the books in Missouri.
Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey sharply condemned the hospital's actions. "Because the nurses recognize the innate value and dignity and preciousness of the child in the womb and have refused to participate or be complicit in an act of violence against a vulnerable child, they are being punished."
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey already has a tarnished reputation following a court-ordered investigation five years ago. A report issued by
a court-appointed monitor concluded that eighteen cardiologists were engaged in an illegal kickback scheme, and that the hospital had defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of $36 million. The report's author, former U.S. Attorney and federal judge Herbert Stern, also charged that no-bid contracts were awarded to vendors with political connections who often performed no work, and that the university's president was involved in a coverup of the financial misconduct.
The Alliance Defense Fund is asking Judge Linares
to order that the New Jersey hospital forfeit the $60 million in federal funds it received this year because of
its violation of federal health care workers' conscience protections. The lawsuit also asks that the University of Medicine and Dentistry be disqualified from receiving future federal funds until it demonstrates compliance with federal conscience provisions.
ADF has already been engaged in a similar case involving a pro-life nurse in New York. Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo was threatened with termination by Mt. Sinai Hospital if she refused to provide nursing support for the performance of late-term abortions. DeCarlo was also threatened with loss of her professional nursing license.
We thank God for Fe Vinoya and Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo
, and other pro-life health care professionals who have the courage to put their jobs on the line to take a stand on behalf of innocent human life. Vinoya says she has been sustained by her faith in God, through prayer, and through the support of her fellow church members at Life Christian Church.
Please be praying for Fe Vinoya and her colleagues as this case proceeds--that justice will be done and their
conscience rights will be preserved. The other nurses in the case are Sharon Danquah, Beryl Otieno-Njoge, Jacqueline DeSeo, Marites Linaac, Milagros Mananquil, Julita Ching, Cristina Abad, Lorna Jose-Mendoza, Virna Balasa, Ossie Taylor, and Ronette Harbaradas. These are women of true Christian valor. May their testimony be an inspiration to each of us to be bold in standing for righteousness in our own professions regardless of the personal cost.