Nurses face job loss for refusing to assist in abortions

It’s happening in New Jersey — but somehow, I don’t think that’s the only place stories like this will be unfolding.


Twelve nurses in New Jersey have filed a lawsuit against a local government hospital for being told they would lose their jobs if they refuse to perform abortions.

The case shows evidence of “a systematic attack on the right of pro-life professionals to engage in their careers without being forced to violate their fundamental moral and religious beliefs,” Matt Bowman, attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, told CNA.

On Oct. 31, the defense fund filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey on behalf of the dozen nurses, who currently work at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey.

According to Bowman, the hospital has violated federal and state law by requiring the nurses to perform abortions against their consciences and threatening to terminate their jobs if they refuse.

Two of the nurses—Lorna Mendoza and Julita Ching—are both scheduled to assist with an abortion this Friday, Nov. 4.

Bowman said that although the hospital has been performing abortions for many years, nurses had not been forced to assist until the hospital recently passed a policy and put one of the nurses who does abortions in a supervisory position.

Despite hospital officials initially agreeing to meet with the 12 nurses to discuss the issue, Bowman said, the meeting was canceled at the last minute when the nurses arrived with an attorney.

“We are asking the hospital to cease its illegal compulsion immediately,” he said, adding that the hospital is aware of the lawsuit.

“We’re going to ask the court to order the hospital to obey the law and to not violate our clients’ beliefs, and we’re going to ask the court to make the hospital give back the millions of dollars that it’s received in tax money on the promise that it would not force health care personnel to assist abortions.”

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RELATED: Morning must-read: on HHS, Catholics and conscience

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29 responses to “Nurses face job loss for refusing to assist in abortions”

  1. Let’s be careful here. This sounds like the hospital itself is making the rules, not the government forcing the hospital to do so.

    Should they be allowed to force people to do immoral actions? No.

    However, in the market system people want, how can those who are against government regulation and interference in medicine ever suggest the hospital can’t make such a policy? This shows the errors of that position. This really speaks more against the “keep government out of healthcare” position than anything else, because they want the government in health care to stop a health care provider from doing what it wants to do.

    I say it is good to stop the abortion. But let’s see how consistent people will be when it is other immoral actions promoted by the capitalist system. And, again, do not make this as an argument against government interference, since this is all about government interference –showing why it is necessary and good.

  2. A hospital policy cannot contradict a state or federal law. Unless it is the law of the land that compels healthcare providers to participate in abortion then I guess they can fire anyone who won’t participate. Hopefully these nurses can find a good Catholic hospital.

    Auschwitz guards faced the same dilemma.

    Murder is still murder.

  3. Interestingly enough, according to the Washington Post:

    “The hospital says in a statement none of its nurses is required to participate in procedures he or she objects to on religious or moral grounds.”

    So look not just to the ADF, but look to what all sides are saying. If the hospital is forcing it, again, I say, it is good to tell the hospital to follow regulations, and we should keep them. On the other hand, let this be a reminder, as I said, when you start going to a pure “capitalist” enterprise, this will happen more and more, and without regulations, there will be nothing anyone can do about it. This is why the pure “capitalist” ideology of Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, and the like are failures and why a government needs strong authority to deal with economic immorality. And, as I pointed out, don’t make this an issue of Obama, unless you can find direct evidence of his administration demanding this in NJ, which, of course, is unlikely. It seems, more, to be an issue of hospital administration overstepping their authority — if, again, this really happened.

  4. “Despite hospital officials initially agreeing to meet with the 12 nurses to discuss the issue, Bowman said, the meeting was canceled at the last minute when the nurses arrived with an attorney.”

    If the nurses really wanted to work the situation out directly with the hospital officials, maybe they shouldn’t have brought a lawyer with them.

  5. Mike

    It’s fine to bring in a lawyer, but Bowman is not just any kind of lawyer. He’s a known trouble maker. He is looking for fights to make a name for himself on the abortion front. His work on CatholicVote often misrepresented facts – he has been known to lie about me and people I know quite often, without a care in the world. I have no trust for him and his claims without backup. However, I think they are well within their rights to have a lawyer with them, and even a bonehead like Bowman, if they so wish. But, choosing a better lawyer could have eased the situation.

  6. Henry #3

    What is “the core” of your point? Is it that “government regulation can be a good thing? If so, agreed. This case does support it.
    If that isn’t your “core point,” what is?

    Henry #6

    Clearly, if “The hospital says in a statement none of its nurses is required to participate in procedures he or she objects to on religious or moral grounds,” either the hospital is lying or the complainants are lying. It is hard to imagine why the nurses would commence this action if their allegations were false, since it would get them nothing. OTOH, the hospital might be motivated to respond this way to avoid a PR problem. So we have no proof — that’s what trials are for — but I’m inclined to think that it is more likely than not that the complaints are valid.

  7. naturgesetz

    There are many reasons why they might want to start a false claim. They might think this is a good way to make money. They might hate someone in the administration and make a false charge. They might feel they are being mistreated, and though they can’t prove that, think they can make a claim like this stick.

    Think through how false sexual abuse is done and why it is done, and you can find many reasons why they might be making this charge (if false). It is also quite possible someone told them something which was false, and they believed what someone told them, without checking into it.

    So, the question is, what was going on before the charges, to see if there might be reasons for them to try to make a stink.

    As for my other point, again, I am pointing out that many people complaining now about a health care provider doing what they want to do (and no, the government is not telling them to do this, unless people can show it is) — are the same ones who said the government should let the health care market regulate itself. They are the same people who say if you don’t like a job, find a different one. The hypocrisy is what I am pointing out.

    I am for regulation for the common good. This is a good example why it is necessary. But it is not just for this. Just look at Bowman and CatholicVote to see how this contradicts their normal rhetoric about jobs, markets, government interference. You will see why I call this for what it is.

  8. Sure they have a right to bring a lawyer with them, but if their intent was to identity a mutually agreeable solution to this issue it was probably not prudent. Far better would have been to address their concerns with the hospital administration directly and then get a lawyer involved if they were not satisfied with the outcome. My guess is that their intent was never to reach a mutual agreement with the hospital. It was to create a story.

    Here is what I *think* probably happened: These nurses all work on a floor where abortions are preformed from time to time. Some nurses on the floor are willing to assist with abortions and others are not. Under what seems to be the previous policy the subset of nurses who were willing to assist with abortions had to do all of the procedures, which created discontent because it makes running the floor more complex. At some point recently one of the nurses who was willing to perform abortions was promoted into a leadership position. That nurse instituted a policy saying that all nurses on the floor had to preform all of the procedures done on the floor, which includes abortions. The goal was to make it fair for everyone who chose to work on that floor.

    Now this new policy may be both contrary to hospital policy and against the law and the hospital administration may have rescinded it if given the chance, but now it is turning in to a public legal battle so we will never know.

  9. Mike

    I think we are in general agreement. My point is that if they called for and went to a better lawyer, one who is not wanting for a fight but one who works for real conflict resolution, bringing the lawyer in would also not have been seen as a problem. It is the one they chose which adds to the conflict.

  10. Mike #11

    When employees who are not lawyers intend to make the point to their bosses that the law forbids the bosses to do what they are doing, it would be foolish to try to present the case themselves. This wasn’t a situation where they had time for drawn out discussions since they were being compelled to assist in abortions as training. so they needed to get their point across clearly, completely, and compellingly. They needed to present it in a way that the hospital’s lawyer (to whom it would undoubtedly be referred) would find persuasive. They needed a lawyer.

    And as to Henry Karlson’s characterization of Atty. Bowman, the story nowhere says that he was the lawyer they brought with them. That’s just his speculation, so it really has no bearing on the matter.

  11. Mr. Karlson, you seem to know a lot of the details–are you part of this dispute? You sound strongly aligned with the hospital. Regarding unrestrained capitalism, most Catholics would be concerned.

  12. Henry Karlson #14

    Bowman is representing them now. That certainly does not prove that he was the lawyer he took with them to the meeting, and you know it.

    The fact that Bowman says they had “a lawyer” with them, rather than “I was with them” suggests that the lawyer wasn’t Bowman — but it doesn’t prove it one way or the other. Maybe he’s trying to downplay his early involvement, if any; or maybe he really wasn’t there. Unless you are, as Rick suggests, an insider on this case, you don’t know who was the nurses’ lawyer at the meeting any more than I do.

  13. These nurses are the victims of discrimination. Of course, the ACLU, and organizations of its ilk seldom (if ever) advocate for the right of Catholics to follow the dictates of our faith! I will remember these courageous nurses in my prayers. They are beautiful witnesses to our faith and to the pro-life movement! God bless them!

  14. I do not see Bowman’s words at all suggest he wasn’t the attorney there. And my experience is a long history of Bowman’s distortion of facts.

  15. The real tragedy are those little angels whose death sentence is scheduled for Nov 4th.

    “For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb”

  16. Mr. Karlson, you wrote about Mr. Bowman: “His work on CatholicVote often misrepresented facts – he has been known to lie about me and people I know quite often.” It sounds like you have a personal beef with Bowman. Can you provide evidence about what he’s done wrong? Even if he is a jerk does that completely eliminate the credibility of these nurses?

    I’m a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois. I’ve begun hearing some learders say that all Social Workers need to accept gay marriage and rights or lose their license. I read what these nurse claim is happening and I find it credible. I think there is a good chance that within the next few years the State may expect social workers to accept a code of ethics that includes the expectation that Social Workers fight for the right for women to have abortions and for gays and lesbians to marry.

    I’m confused by your argument: are you saying that people who want unrestrained capitialism should be concerned that this is being taken to court–that the rights of business are being denied; or are you saying that people who want to restrain capitalism need to be concerned because the government will begin to manage medical care. There are pros and cons on both side–but I do not understand what your point is.

  17. Thank Obama for this.

    “The Obama administration on Friday rescinded most of a 2008 rule that granted sweeping protections to health care providers who opposed abortion, sterilization and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.”

    “The bishops conference and the Catholic Health Association, representing Catholic hospitals, had supported the Bush rule as a way to protect health care providers against pressure to perform abortions. ”

  18. Henry Karlson
    you seem to be making a lot of attacks on this Bowman. I kind of agree with Rick that this seems to be a lot of accusation without any fact and in a way surprised that Deacon Greg let this through on his blog. I can remember him refusing to allow some attacks without any basis of facts provided.

    It would also seem you have involvement in this somehow. Strange.

  19. Greta:

    “and in a way surprised that Deacon Greg let this through on his blog. I can remember him refusing to allow some attacks without any basis of facts provided.”

    Is this relevant for the reinforcement of your point?

  20. “but Bowman is not just any kind of lawyer. He’s a known trouble maker. He is looking for fights to make a name for himself on the abortion front.”

    Henry, that’s a disgusting calumny. I’m working with Matt Bowman in my capacity as national director of Medical Students for Life of America to ensure conscience protection rights for ALL healthcare professionals.

    And for your information, it goes WAY beyond abortion, including sterilizations, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

    Physicians, nurses, PA’s and NP’s are human beings, autonomous moral agents (you know CHOICE) who are not extensions of the state, or any other entity paying the bills. Human beings are not to be forced into performing actions that they find morally objectionable, even if it is the will of the patient.

    Matt Bowman is a principled man of the highest integrity, and your slur shows you to be something less. The first to resort to the ad hominem is always a hack with the weaker argument. Thanks for the revelation into your character.