The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Catholic nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion, despite voicing her moral objections.
Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was instructed to assist in a late second-trimester abortion for a woman 22 weeks into her pregnancy. The hospital had known of the nurse’s religious objections to abortion since she was hired in 2004.
Cenzon-DeCarlo reminded her supervisors of her religious objections, but was told that if she did not participate, she would be charged with “insubordination and patient abandonment,” which could result in disciplinary action and the possible loss of her job and nursing license.
Hospital officials told Cenzon-DeCarlo that the situation was an “emergency,” although evidence suggests that this was not the case. The hospital itself labeled the case as a “Category II,” meaning that the operation needed to take place within six hours. This would have allowed enough time to find another nurse without moral objections to assisting in the abortion, her lawyers said.
Matt Bowman, legal counsel for the ADF, explained that the hospital could not legally have required the nurse to participate in the abortion even if the case had been a “Category I,” meaning that the patient required “immediate surgical intervention for life or limb threatening conditions.” Federal statutes prohibit recipients of federal health funds from requiring employees to perform abortions, Bowman told CNA.
However, the evidence in the case suggested that the patient was not even at the “Category II” level, as the hospital had claimed. When the woman was brought into the room, Cenzon-DeCarlo observed no indications that the case was a medical emergency. The woman’s blood pressure was not at a crisis level, and standard procedures for patients in crisis had not been taken. Yet the nurse was still required to aid in the abortion.
When CNA contacted Mount Sinai, officials refused to comment or explain why the nurse was asked to participate in the abortion. Officials stated that they would not comment because a lawsuit is pending.
Now, the ADF has filed a lawsuit against Mount Sinai for violating Cenzon-DeCarlo’s rights of conscience.
According to Bowman, this scenario is not unique. “We’re seeing more and more cases where pro-life health workers are facing requirements to assist in abortions against their rights of conscience,” he said.
Earlier this month, President Obama promised that a “robust conscience clause” would be forthcoming, but critics are skeptical after his earlier decision to repeal conscience provisions put in place by the Bush administration.
However, Bowman remains hopeful about the case. “We’re going to fight so that pro-life nurses are not forced to assist in abortions,” he said. “This is a battle we have to win.”