NJ nurses explain lawsuit against hospital’s abortion requirements

Rep Chris Smith at a Newark press conference with UMDNJ Nurses CNA US Catholic News 11 14 11 Rep. Chris Smith at a Nov. 14, 2011 press conference in Newark with UMDNJ Nurses

With the backing of a congressman, a group of nurses in New Jersey are speaking about their lawsuit challenging their hospital superiors’ orders to cooperate in abortions or lose their jobs.

“We come from different backgrounds but we all have the same conviction that we do not want to help in the killing that happens in abortion,” Fe Vinoya, a nurse in the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey hospital’s Same Day Surgery Unit, said at a Nov. 14 press conference in Newark.

Vinoya said she and her fellow nurses were “suddenly confronted with a choice between our faith and our jobs” in October when administrators told them to cooperate in abortions.

Managers told nurses they must begin training to assist abortion patients in “all aspects” of their care, in spite of the nurses’ “repeated effort” to inform managers of their own religious and moral objections, Vinoya said.

“They said very clearly that if we did not assist we would face termination,” she added. “Several of us have been forced to assist already despite objecting.”

“No nurse should be forced to violate her religious or moral beliefs in order to keep her job. Nursing is a healing profession, and the law protects our right not to provide any services related to abortion.”

Beryl Otieno Ngoje, another nurse in the hospital’s Same Day Surgery unit, said she was “shocked” that supervisors told the nurses they had to assist in abortion cases despite their objections, or face termination.

“I am a nurse so I can help to heal people, not help to kill. No health professional should be forced to choose between assisting abortions or being penalized at work.”

Ngoje said the hospital is not speaking truthfully when it says it does not compel nurses to violate their beliefs.

“Supervisors have explicitly told us we are required to assist abortion cases against our beliefs, and we have asked the hospital to change its position but they refuse to do so.”

Eight of the twelve nurses involved in the lawsuit attended the press conference, which was held across from the hospital’s administration building.

Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) also attended the conference. He said that the policy is “illegal and highly unethical” and must cease “immediately.”

“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 punished,” Rep. Smith said.

The congressman characterized the objecting employees as “nurses of conscience” who are asserting their “fundamental civil rights” by refusing coerced participation in “the killing of unborn children.” He listed several federal acts protecting the nurses, such as the 1974 Church Amendment and the Hyde-Weldon conscience law of 2005, which protect conscience rights for employees of hospitals that receive federal funds.

New Jersey state law also bars hospitals from requiring that persons perform an abortion or assist in performing one.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys are representing the nurses in the lawsuit.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions,” said ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman. “These 12 nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since a policy change required them to participate in abortion cases regardless of their religious and moral objections.”

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Vinoya said there are only a handful of abortion cases each week. In previous years, the hospital has paid nurses who were willing to do it.

On Nov. 3 a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the hospital. It allows the nurses to opt out of assisting with abortion cases until a Dec. 5 court hearing.

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the school released a statement that said the “University is in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and is confident its position will be vindicated when the court gives this matter a full hearing.”

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