New Jersey Nurses Join Ranks of ‘Conscientious Objectors’ Who Refuse to Do Their Jobs

Ten nurses at a New Jersey hospital have filed a lawsuit claiming the hospital’s new policy requires them to assist in performing abortions.

They sued under a federal law which prohibits discrimination against any employee for refusing to “perform or assist in the performance of such a procedure or abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of the procedure or abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Basically, any institution that gets federal funds can’t terminate or demote an employee who doesn’t want to perform or assist with an abortion. (Or who does want to.)

This regulation is what was left of a Bush-era edict (called the “Church Amendment”) after Obama got done with it. The Obama administration said that the old version would allow almost any hospital personnel to refuse to in any way facilitate an abortion. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the Bush version “overbroad.”

I think she has identified exactly the problem with the new language, though. The current version has similar problems to the old one. The way it reads, a nurse or doctor can rightfully object to participation in any step of the process.

Which is exactly what has happened here.

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey officials claim that since the implementation of the new policy, it has not required objecting nurses to assist in or perform an actual abortion. The plaintiffs are nurses in the surgery unit, so naturally they encounter patients who are at the hospital for abortions. According to the hospital, the nurses have only been required to care for patients before and after the procedure.

It is exceedingly reasonable to require surgical nurses to provide care to patients even if they don’t like what the patient is there for. What if the nurse had a moral objection to heroin use? Would we think they should be allowed to opt out of so much as getting that patient a drink of water? What about caring for murderers? Should medical ethics require that they be allowed to refuse care? Doesn’t seem right to me.

Even so, the plaintiffs allege that requiring them to care for patients before or after an abortion procedure violates their rights under the Church Amendment.

Unfortunately, the broad language of the statute might support their position. It could be interpreted to mean that the nurses can claim the conscience exception if they are required to give care in even those tangentially-related-to-abortion circumstances.

Which gets to the crux of the problem. Conscience exceptions allow people in positions of trust and power to impose their version of morality on people who rely on them for care. It just isn’t right, and it could jeopardize the health of people who need emergency care.

The good news is that at least one federal court has found that medical staff don’t have a right to sue under the Church Amendment. In November 2010, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court that threw out a lawsuit by a nurse who claimed she’d be forced to participate in a late-term abortion. The Second Circuit held that Congress didn’t intend to give nurses the right to sue in that situation.

New Jersey isn’t in the Second Circuit, so this precedent isn’t binding. But hopefully the judge that hears this case will find it persuasive. Even better, Barack Obama should clarify the exception and make it more clear what health workers can opt out of. The Church Amendment as it stands is a vague, unhelpful mess. It needs serious revision before it’s of any legitimate use.

About Carrie

Carrie Clark is a lawyer in Illinois. The opinions herein are that of the author only. Any information in this post is for discussion purposes only, and is not offered as legal advice.

  • Anonymous

    Ah, so if I have have a moral conviction stating that I should not pay an employee that is refusing to do their work, then I can refuse to perform or assist in the performance of their payment?  Good to know the same provision that allows bigots to refuse to do their job also allows their bosses to slash their hours, and not pay them.

    • TheBlackCat

      That is another issue: there aren’t general allowances for
      religious objections.  They single out one specific area to get special
      treatment: abortion.  Why is it okay for a christian to object to
      someone who got an abortion, but not okay for a Christian Scientist to
      object to blood transfusions, or a Muslim to object to someone with a
      dog, or any other sort of religious objection?  Why is this one issue
      given special treatment amongst all imaginable religious objections?

  • Fett101

    Wonder if anyone has used this in relation to circumcisions.

  • http://twitter.com/CoboWowbo Cobo Wowbo

    So the nurses in question didn’t actually help with the procedure but were required to care for the patient(s) before/after it. If they weren’t involved with the actual procedure, the “church amendment” doesn’t apply to them.

  • Anonymous

    Lets see. What if one of those nurses is or gets promoted to a supervisory position or high level management postion? Could they say they  nobody they supervise should be involved in any care of anyone who has an abortion?

    How about a janitor or supervisory janitor that cleans a floor that someone who may have an abortion would walk over or be transported through. Then we have the staff that checks people in, or supervises them, the guard at the door or information desk person, the PR person, or marketing staff, perhaps the executive assistant to the President or the person who cleans the President’s office…

  • Sheila

    I hate this.  I work in a hospital blood bank, and a large percentage of the patient population requiring transfusions are alcoholics (alcohol destroys the liver; the liver is where blood clotting factors are made; once the liver is gone other blood vessels are forced to handle the blood supply that formerly went to the liver; those vessels can’t handle it and burst;patient has no clotting factors and patient bleeds, etc.).  Do I “approve” of alcoholism?  No, I do not.  But I have never been given a choice as to whether to use my serological skills to crossmatch blood for alcoholics, or not.   And that is a GOOD thing!  My job is to take care of patients, NOT to pass moral judgments upon them and decided whether or not they “deserve” my help.  If you don’t like it, don’t go into the healthcare field.

  • L.Long

    Well as some have shown in the past, when it come to court the jury is the real law, ask OJ.   So they will be very lucky I’m not on the jury.  Their BS delusion and bigotry would not stand a chance.  Their buyBull absolutely permits abortion and even gives instructions, so their anti-abortion stance is BS right off.  If on the jury I would uphold the firing, if they don’t want to do the job then plucking QUIT!

  • Erik Cameron

    Conscientious were people that didn’t go to war, not people who received training, took weapons and equipment, and then decided not to do the job when others were relying on them.
    If you don’t want the job don’t take the job.

    • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

      There’s a lot more to nursing than assisting with a couple of specific procedures.

      It would be like a veterinarian who is highly skilled at caring for animals and loves her work, but refuses to help euthanize them. Would it be appropriate to tell her: “If you don’t want the job don’t take the job”?

      • Anonymous

        Yes

        • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

          The trouble is that many who enter the health profession are interested in promoting health, not killing. By taking away conscientious objection, we would lose or not gain many people who do important work…because you insist they _all_ be ok with killing as well as healing.

          So long as legal services like abortion and (non-human) euthanasia are reasonably available, it serves no helpful purpose to exclude so many from the profession.

          In addition, such policy will make it hard to legalize human euthanasia, since it will be feared that more medical professionals will be driven out by people who insist they all be comfortable with that form of killing. I want legal human euthanasia, so I want conscientious objection.

          • Demonhype

            What if the woman who needs an abortion will die if she doesn’t get one–and the fetus will also die?  In that case, which is “killing”–allowing both mother and fetus to die or aborting the fetus to save the mother?

            Personally, I consider it “killing” when someone will die if they don’t get a medical procedure and you just stand there and watch them die because your religious beliefs state that that is her “place”–that if she can’t carry the pregnancy to term then she ought to die with her “baby”.

            So if a paramedic is called and finds a girl who has had a back-alley
            abortion and is bleeding to death on the scene, s/he should be legally
            allowed to just wait until the “whore” finishes dying–maybe  get a
            coffee in the meantime–and cart the warm corpse to the morgue
            afterward, because it would be against their morals to use their skills
            to save the life of or ease the pain of an unrepentant harlot?  How far
            are we willing to go on “I’ll do my job unless I believe Jesus doesn’t
            want me to”?

            I have a job at a drugstore and find the smokers buying cigarettes to be disgusting and am disgusted at my role in their own self-destruction.  But if I refused to ring out any cigarette sales I wouldn’t have a job anymore–it doesn’t matter if I consider those cigarettes to be killing those people.  I used to work at McD’s and you wouldn’t believe the morbidly obese people who come in ordering a supersized double big mac meal with an extra burger, a shake, an ice cream and a couple of pies.  But if I decided not to ring out sales to morbidly obese people because I don’t want to participate in “killing” those people, I wouldn’t have a job anymore.

            Of course, I applied to do a job and while I would refuse to, say, help the manager embezzle funds or something like that, I don’t see that my moral rights extend to not doing my job.  Yes, abortion is just one of many procedures, but selling cigarettes is only one of many duties for me–yet that doesn’t exempt me from selling them.  Why can’t I tiptoe around that one aspect of my job that I find immoral?

            Or in my case, I find it against my morals to kill someone  based on someone else’s judgement or on someone else’s orders because I think that having blood on one’s hands is so serious that it ought to be my own choice to make.  So I stay the hell out of the military, despite all the people who kept encouraging me to join “because they’ll pay for college”.  I said that it was against my moral principles to join the military and I paid for college my own damn self.  I didn’t waste everyone’s time and money training and then, when ordered to kill someone I don’t think needed to be killed, start in on “I don’t want to, it’s against my morals to kill that guy because I don’t personally believe he’s a threat”.

            Same reason I take a good look into any profession or any company I might want to get into prior to accepting any jobs–if I disagree with their hiring practice or their business practices, I will not work for them.  I take the time to look into what will be expected of me and make a decision about what I am willing or not willing to do.

            Why is it that only people in certain professions get to determine what other people ought to be doing and withhold important services–even in cases where they are the only ones who can do that service–in the name of what they quaintly refer to as “morality”?  Only medical personnel and pharmacists get to make that decision (and by extension eliminate access to an important medical procedure to millions of women whose lives will be destroyed without it), but if you make minimum wage you’re SOL and should just do what you’re told?  Where’s the line?

            • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

              That is a good general question. I would suggest that it’s more reasonable to accommodate workers’ moral concerns when:

              1. It concerns a relatively minor area which can be covered by others.
              2. It is a grave moral concern. (Killing is more grave than permanently disabling which is more grave than making slightly less healthy.)
              3. The worker has little opportunity to work in the field otherwise.

              • The Other Weirdo

                1. Perhaps, in that particular geographic area. What about areas where that’s the ONLY source of medical care?

                2. True, but ultimately meaningless since human beings can’t be reduced to a binary decision tree.

                3. I’m not sure that’s more important than the health of the patient.

            • The Other Weirdo

              Oddly, I was just thinking about the case a couple of years back(or maybe it was just about a year ago, can’t remember now) where a Catholic nun working at Catholic hospital in the US somewhere got excommunicated for ordering an abortion for a woman whose pregnancy had gone terribly wrong and was going to kill the mother. The death of the fetus was a foregone conclusion.

              The reason for the excommunication was that it was better to let the patient die than to commit murder, or words to that effect. Which effectively turned Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, into a blood cult.

              The real question is, why are people so surprised when stuff like what’s described in *this* article happens?

          • kaileyverse

            I can understand not participating in an abortion procedure, but to refuse pre or post operative care is just ridiculous.  Taking a blood pressure reading or drawing blood has nothing to do with why a patient is in a particular facility.

            Also, I don’t believe many women have abortions in hospitals: “about 95% of women who need abortions have them in
            clinics or in private doctors’ offices…According to the American
            Hospital Association, there were 5,801 hospitals in the United States
            in 2001. However, a 2001-2002 study by the Guttmacher Institute
            identified only 603 hospitals that provided abortions in 2001 (National Abortion Federation).  Most nurses will be able to work in a hospital that doesn’t provide abortion services, and can certainly choose NOT to work in a smaller facility or clinic that does, particularly because 88% of all U.S. counties have no identifiable abortion provider and in  non-metropolitan areas, the figure rises to 97%.  

            I don’t think nurses or health care providers are pressured to participate in abortion procedures – particularly because the majority of abortions are not performed in hospitals. However, should the situation arise in a hospital where a woman may have an abortion – for a nurse to REFUSE to provide other pre or post operative care  or even emergency care after the fact would be unprofessional and not in line with medical ethics.  The American Nurse’s Association,  Code of ethics even states that a nurse respects the worth, dignity and rights of all human beings with a health problem and that the worth of a person is not affected by their disease, disability, etc.  Respect for human dignity requires the recognition of specific patient rights, including self determination extended to all who require the services of the nurse.

            While the code does allow for nurses to excuse themselves in situations exceeding “Acceptable moral limits” or “involving violations of moral standards of the profession” – it does not allow for personal preference, prejudice, convenience or arbitrariness.  

            • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

              …”While the code does allow for nurses to excuse themselves in situations exceeding “Acceptable moral limits” or “involving violations of moral standards of the profession” – it does not allow for personal preference, prejudice, convenience or arbitrariness.”

              Well, arguably abortion violates that same code, since the code emphasizes to “the inherent worth, dignity, and human rights of every individual.” It’s a medical fact — not merely a religious doctrine — that embryos and fetuses are distinct human beings. Anyone who takes “human rights” seriously and literally has to extend them to unborn humans.

              There’s still the question of how far a nurse can distance themselves from what they believe to be a serious ethics violation. I would tend to agree that post-abortion care is far enough removed to not involve objectors, but would want to hear why they feel differently if they do.

              • Jason Loveless

                Your “medical fact” is nothing of the sort, and your on-high pronouncement the necessary components of ‘serious’ human rights would be insulting if it weren’t so tritely indicative of your agenda.

          • TheBlackCat

            Sorry, that is part of the job.  They don’t get to judge the people they are providing the care to.  They don’t get to judge the medical choices of the people they are providing the care to.  They don’t get to judge the politics of the people they are providing the care to.  They don’t get to judge the religion of the people they are providing the care to.  They don’t get to judge the sexual orientation of the people they are providing the care to.

            Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of homosexuals?  Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of atheists?  Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of conservatives?  Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of hispanics?  Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of people who went through plastic surgery?

            Would it be okay for a Christian Scientist to get a job as a nurse then refuse to treat anyone who got a blood transfusion?  Would it be okay for a Mormon to get a job as nurse and refuse to treat anyone who drinks alcohol?  Would it be okay for a Muslim to refuse to treat anyone who had pork for dinner?

            Nurses don’t get to make those sorts of choices.  Their job is to provide equal care to everyone, not to pick and choose who deserves it and who doesn’t, what medical procedures are worth their time and which aren’t.

            If that reduces the number of available nurses, tough.  If they aren’t willing to do their job, they don’t belong there, period.  They can go work for a private hospital that discriminates the same way they do, or get another job.

            • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

              “Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of homosexuals?  Would it be okay for a nurse to refuse to take care of atheists?”

              You’re attacking a strawman. The conscientious objectors are not discriminating against patients. They just don’t want to assist with the overall, routine process of abortions. They are concerned about what _they themselves_ are involved with.

              Now, you can argue that routine care immediately after an abortion is sufficiently separated to not count as assisting. But to mischaracterize the objections as discrimination is a failure to grasp the issue.

              • TheBlackCat

                Of course you can make it look like a strawman when you cherry pick two sentences. 

                First, I don’t buy that.  You could just as easily argue that someone treating a homosexual has to be involved with that patient.  The procedure itself may not directly involve homosexuality, but it certainly true that the nurse has to be involved with something or someone they object to. 

                Second, the line gets blurry very quickly.  Should muslims be allowed to not serve patients pork, or hindus not serve patients meat of any kind? 

                Someone who doesn’t accept same-sex marriage could be required to take orders from the same-sex spouse of a incapacitated patient, that is requring the nurse to get pretty deeply involved I would say.

                Third, even if we accept that premise, you still have to deal with examples like Christian Scientists and most medical treatment, Jehova’s Witnesses and blood transfusions, even PETA people not wanting to be involved in treatments derived from animals (i.e. almost all of them).

                How is being involved in bringing someone in room food any worse than a vegan having to use medicine disinfected using horseshoe crab blood, for instance?

                I brought this issue up already but you ignored it.

                • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

                  My general position here is that if we can reasonably accommodate the deeply held moral convictions of professionals, then we should try to do so. We live in a pluralistic society and should not expect everyone to embrace one set of values, particularly in areas so perennially controversial as killing.

                  Now, concerns about the availability of services are very legitimate. But there’s often considerable latitude between making sure services are available vs. making sure every professional is willing to participate in every service.

                • TheBlackCat

                  You cherry pick two of my points, then just completely ignore all of them and start repeating yourself.  If you aren’t actually going to address anything I say then I guess the conversation is done.

              • The Captain

                Those are not “straw man” arguments at all. They are legitimate questions of “who’s” religious believes you are going to give preferential treatment for. 

                Since that is what are are arguing for. You want these nurses (or anyone I suspect who shares YOUR particular views) to get special treatment for their religious beliefs over other who may have religious objections to something.

      • Erik Cameron

        What happens when there is only one vet in the area, and only one vet is needed in the area? No new vets can come because the economy will not support them.
        If this vet refuses euthanasia then every animal that requires the procedure will instead be tortured to death by their respective sicknesses.
        What if all the nurses at one hospital are catholic and refuse to help the woman getting the abortion?
        With necessary services we can’t adapt a ‘competition will fill the gaps’ mindset, because in some areas there is no competition.

    • randall.morrison90

      On the contrary, what if you go to war but the Commander orders atrocities to be carried out.

      Aren’t you going to object?

      • Johann

        Damn straight. Because one of the duties of a soldier is to refuse to carry out illegal orders. If a doctor says “Well, we can’t help this one, just put a pillow over his face and we’ll cart him out of here”, I would also expect a nurse to refuse to cooperate.

        A better analogy would be a soldier who signed up with full knowledge of what the job entailed and then refused to go into combat because “I might have to shoot someone there! These people didn’t do anything to me!”, this being the sort of thing you consider before you join up.

        • Demonhype

          Exactly.   I could have just joined up to get free college like a lot of people I knew, but I knew beforehand that the values of the military were completely diametrically  opposed to my own moral principles.  So I just didn’t join and looked into other ways of paying for it.

          What I didn’t do was  join and then start whining about how immoral everything was and how I didn’t want to participate–but that I should still be able to get all the benefits without performing the essentials of my job.

          To tell the truth, it wasn’t even on the table for me as far as I was
          concerned–it was some other people I knew who were giving me shit for
          not even considering it.  They couldn’t comprehend the idea that I
          valued my principles more than the money and benefits and just kept
          giving me abuse about it until we don’t talk anymore.  I wonder if it
          ever occurred to them that having a near-pacifist enlisting and serving
          right next to them, solely for money, might not be in their own best
          interests?

      • Erik Cameron

        That isn’t exactly what a CO is. A conscientious objector refused to do military service in general and did it before hand. Moreover the atrocities in your thought experiment were unexpected and came up in the field, whereas helping abortion patients was in the job description from the get go.
        If the atrocities were part of the known plan before the soldier joined the military, the soldier ought to object then. Deciding that you don’t want to do it on the field of battle just puts the lives of your fellows at risk. This is troublesome since the definition of atrocity is so subjective.

  • Al Y

    As a nurse, this disgusts me. We’re supposed to be highly ethical, thats why we score highest on most trusted profession gallup polls year after year.

    This kind of shit makes me think we’re going to start losing that public trust sooner or later. Scumbag old nurses who think their own ‘morality’ supersedes providing knowledgeable high quality care to those in need can fuck right off and die.

    • http://rrlane.blogspot.com rrlane

      Al, do nurses have the equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath?  I’m wondering how the objectors reconcile it if you do.

      • Erik Cameron

        From what I understand doctors don’t have to take a Hippocratic oath and are free to disagree with it. I think some versions of it prohibit euthanasia for example.

        • snoofle

          My doctor’s surgery has one on the wall that has a line where the doctor swears not to aid a woman to have an abortion. 

          • Demonhype

            That’s scary.  I wonder how many dumbbells come in and think that is the “official” oath that every doctor swears–and therefore abortion doctors have violated their oaths and are not really doctors and are fair game as renegades?

            I guess it’s on a level with the history revision of that sort, where Thomas Jefferson didn’t exist and America was founded as a Christian theocracy by George Washington and Jesus after a period of earnest Christian prayer, only we don’t know about it because of the Evil Atheist Agenda.

            • Erik Cameron

              Hey now, shush! We worked hard covering that up!

      • G Mc

        I suppose the closest nurses have is The Nightingale Pledge, which is actually modified sometimes to prohibit assisting in an abortion.  It isn’t binding and my school didn’t even include it at the graduation.

      • EJC

        The Hippocratic Oath is a myth. There is no formal oath. Doctors choose to craft their won, or simply follow laws for practicing medicine. The Hippocratic Oath is a misused as the Lex Telionus.

      • Al Y

        Nope, just the whole idea that you’re going into a profession to help people. When you refuse to do exactly that because you think a particular act is morally reprehensible, you’re reneging on your obligation to patients. Your only true obligation is in your scope of practice as written by your state board of nursing and any stipulations within the contract with your employer.

        We’re here to care for people regardless of their circumstances, and cherry picking care based on arbitrary religious criteria when there are far more egregious violations of morality waltzing into the hospital every day is disingenuous at best, and malicious at worst.I like the analogy about alcoholics. We get lots of drunk drivers who have either killed their passengers or other innocents around them, but you don’t see religious exemptions for that. And I don’t call exemption when catholic priests who I consider to be propagators of a dangerous and virulent lie that protects fucking child rapists and demonizes sex comes into my care. Come to think of it, maybe I should boycott caring for priests until my hospital stops refusing to participate in abortions. But I won’t, because that’s lowering to their standard of morality, and I wouldn’t want to seem anything like a priest.

    • randall.morrison90

      Yeah, you sound really ethical.  I was in the hospital two summers ago.  The nurses on my floor, at least, were bitches.

      You sound just like them.

      • http://twitter.com/aynsavoy Anne Sauer

        Whatever case you are trying to make, @google-77b14b86ab207c4d08ab0e37c8a541b7:disqus , this kind of sexist, personal insult against another commenter doesn’t help you make it. Try again.

      • Demonhype

        Yes, it’s so much more ethical to let a woman die for want of an abortion because you think Jesus will cry if this woman doesn’t die with her fetus.  It’s so much more ethical to ignore a call button because the patient pushing it just had an abortion, and if she’s having post-complications that’s TS for her–in the eyes of God.

        And there’s nothing bitchier than a nurse with high standards who believes that her personal morals do not trump the well-being of the patient.

        Are we on the other side of the looking glass now, where up is down, left is right, and high morals are “bitchy”?

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    There should be no exemptions for religion, that’s it. If these people find it impossible to do the job, then they should get another job.

    • randall.morrison90

      Unfortunately, Graham, the First Amendment to the Constitution is in your way.

      • Anonymous

        Freedom of religion isn’t absolute. You can’t justify any behavior with “My religion tells me so”. It was never meant to be used this way

      • The Other Weirdo

        Tell that to the guys in Michigan who tried to touch off Armageddon by inciting a race war in the US by, of all things, targeting non-white cops.

  • Politisis

    The entire law should be scrapped. If they can’t do the job – ALL of it – find a different one.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    The analogy of a nurse refusing to care for a murderer might be apt for a nurse who just doesn’t want to help a woman who is there for an abortion. However, it stops being an apt analogy as soon as a nurse is concerned, instead, about his or her own participation in the process of abortion.

    I don’t know the details on how close or far from the abortion procedure proper counts as “assisting” in legal precedent and in the conscience of healthcare workers. (It would be in the interest of objectors not to push for the line being drawn so widely that public annoyance grows and they lose the core protection.)

    “Conscience exceptions allow people in positions of trust and power to impose their version of morality on people who rely on them for care. It just isn’t right, and it could jeopardize the health of people who need emergency care.”

    It only becomes an imposition on others when access to abortion or sterilization becomes acutely burdensome (which does happen in some locales). When the number of objectors is low or the number of alternatives is high, it’s _removal_ of conscience protections that allow people in power to drive otherwise-competent workers out of their profession.

    So why not push for a hybrid approach? Legally ensuring that services are reasonably available to all citizens, and allowing conscientious objection so long as that first condition remains covered.

    • randall.morrison90

      So, no conscientious objection?

      No conscientious objection to war?

      To the use of nuclear weapons?

      Etc.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        I’m arguing _in favor_ of a place for conscientious objection.

        If women can still reasonably obtain abortions, we shouldn’t be trying to force a bunch of health care workers out of their professions.

        Same goes if (human) euthanasia becomes legal. Many healthcare workers would still object to being personally involved. No need to tell them to go find a job in retail.

  • G Mc

    The funny thing is, I could actually use this law against many people (in theory, never in practice).  I’m an ER nurse and could very easily argue that I don’t approve of the moral doctrines of the bible and have a moral objection to letting people live to spread its ideals.  Would these nurses argue for my right to let die a Christian having a stroke or MI or bleeding from gunshot wounds?

    I would never do that because:

    A) I love my profession

    B) I’m a professional

    C) I’m not a frickin’ monster!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Religion needs to stop being an excuse.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    What happens in this scenario?
    A woman has an abortion at a clinic far from where she lives. (Maybe she lives in Kansas, and there’s no provider nearby.)  A day or so later, she begins to have complications, such as hemorrhaging or a serious infection. She’s rushed to the ER near her home, and when the ER nurses learn that it’s a complication from an abortion, they conscientiously refuse to treat her,  the rest of the staff can’t help her fast enough, and she dies.

    Do these pious nurses get fired, lose their licenses, fined, jailed, or sued? Or do they go back to work the next day, picking and choosing to treat only the patients who are bleeding all over the floor for moral reasons,  and leave the rest for the janitor to drop in the dumpster?

    For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

    I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not…

    …Verily I say
    unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did
    it not to me.

    • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

      I doubt those ER nurses would consider helping the hypothetical woman to be abortion-assistance.

      Is there anything to suggest this law is being used to refuse treatment to people who were injured during activities a nurse disapproves of…as opposed to nurses refusing to assist with those activities? Without making this distinction, it’s easy to strawman the conscientious objections.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Garren, I earnestly hope you are right that the nurses would not do that, but if I understood Carrie’s analysis, the law is currently so broad that it would allow nurses to refuse to provide treatment in preparation of, and the aftercare following, a procedure that they found objectionable, not just the procedure itself.

        I don’t like strawman arguments either. That’s why I’m asking about this hypothetical scenario. If it is too far-fetched only because decent and sensible people would not do it, that is not very reassuring. It should not be left ambiguous in this absurd law. Relying only on the hope that common decency and common sense will restrain the most (ahem) “conscientious” nurses is not a good idea. Never underestimate the power of rationalization that religion can give people. With God, all is permissible.  All you need is an ad hoc justification and a sense of self righteousness. I would hate for my scenario to be shown to not be a strawman by the unnecessary injury or death of a patient.

         

        • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

          I certainly wouldn’t want to see that either.

          What we probably need here is a clearer definition of what can count as ‘assisting’ with abortion. (Which is one thing Carrie mentioned in the article.)

          This case appears to be testing whether directly participating in an abortion procedure or being in the room are the only things objectors may opt out of. I can sympathize with an objector feeling that ‘prepping’ a patient for the procedure is assisting abortion in a wider sense. But I have less sympathy with objectors feeling that caring for patients after the procedure is assisting abortion. I would want more information about why they feel the connection is strong enough to warrant their reluctance. I don’t assume it’s just from a feeling of moral disapproval of what the patient did; they may conceive of routine, assigned post-abortion care as personally assisting the overall process of abortion while not counting emergency care as such.

          I believe the question of conscientious objection can be handled in a way that does not greatly reduce access to abortion and still keeps all those valuable health professionals working in the other 99% of their occupational roles.

    • Demonhype

      Yes, I don’t recall Jesus saying “I was hungry and, after determining whether I deserved to be fed, you fed me. ” etc etc.  Don’t recall any such qualifiers in all those nice Bible verses the religious love to quote to show how moral they really are for believing it.

  • RogerE

    I commented on this situation a couple of weeks ago on another site. As a RN who worked some 30 years in operating rooms, I am well aware of this sort of situation. Even before there were Federal rules about it, we never had any problem assigning personnel who objected to these procedures so that they had no involvement with the case. However, I never heard of anyone refusing to give pre-op or post-op care to them. The general feeling was that while you may hate the “sin” you still loved the “sinner”. It seems to me that if these “nurses” object so vehemently about having anything to do with patients seeking an abortion, they should NOT be working anywhere that abortions occur in the first place. After all, doesn’t their dealing with non-abortion patients free up others to do something that is so abhorrent to them? Sure, they may not be involved in the abortion itself, but they are definitely facilitating others to do so. It also makes me wonder what other procedures/patients they object to.

  • jamssx

    Since comparisons have been made in this thread to war conscientious objectors, I would like to point out many of those went to war and many of those were even decorated for bravery. Their objection was to killing, so they became battle field nurses and the like. Just because you object to one part doesn’t mean you can contribute to the whole. In this case the health of the patient is the the whole.

    • jamssx

      should be “can’t contribute” oops…

  • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

    I think it’s pretty sad that some nurses would deny care to people simply because they disagreed with their politics.  Years ago, I worked in a fire department and I don’t recall we ever asked someone their politics before — or after — we responded to their needs.

    • guest

      Huh?
      When did politics come up?
      Reagan was only joking when he told the staff at George Washington Medical Center that he hoped they were all Republicans. 
      “Mr. Gorbachev! Tear down this wall!”
      What a great man!!!
      Like Hank Hill said, “I sure miss voting for that guy…”

      Joke!!!! LOL

      I’ve grown surprisingly fond of Obama, as well. 
      Now everyone can hate me for my politics;)

  • Ndonnan

    this issue really has nothing to do with religion,this is about people finding it objectionable to killing babies,end of story.regardless of what the law has said is legal,some people dont deny what it is they are doing.they arnt in the army fighting soldiers with guns,putting unwanted dogs down,their babies.

    • Anonymous

      Wrong. A fetus is not a baby

      • Ndonnan

        thats like saying a boy is not a man,no hes a boy,and a fetus is not a baby… till when exacly,give birth to a 5 or6 month old fetus and hey presto its a baby,not a puppy

  • Dan W

    Here’s an idea- if you don’t want to do the requirements of a job, don’t take that job. And don’t be surprised when you get fired for refusing to do the job you signed on to do. If I were to make the effort and time to learn to be a nurse, I wouldn’t refuse to help patients just because I disagreed with them on ideological grounds.

  • guest

    There is an easy way out of this for pro-life nurses (note that there are plenty of secular humanists who have ethical problems with abortion). Work for a Catholic Hospital.
    As a long time RN who spend over a decade as an OR nurse, I’ve worked at Catholic, non-profit, and for profit hospitals. First, there’s been numerous straw men knocked down in this thread. At the Catholic facility, the ONLY procedures we didn’t do were elective (or “therapeutic”) abortions and tubal ligations (vasectomies are performed in the dr’s office). We routinely did D&C’s for incomplete or spontaneous abortions (miscarriages), emergency c-sections for fetal demise (that was the most horrific case of my career. We had to do an emergency hysterectomy after the deceased infant was delivered and still nearly lost the mother, too), hysterectomies, and salpingectomies/otomies for tubal pregnancies. Lifesaving procedures posed no ethical dilemma. I can’t imagine a legitimate reason for an “emergency therapeutic” abortion. If the mother has chronic medical problems, abortion is not the standard of care.  High-risk pregnancies can be and are medically manageable with bed-rest, close monitoring, medications, etc. If HELLP syndrome develops, ecclampsia, toxemia, etc develop late in the 2nd or in the 3rd trimester, the baby is delivered via c-section and treated in the NICU. If all that is too inconvenient for the pregnant woman, there’s time to find a provider for a partial birth abortion. Amniocentesis ought to be complete before 20 wks gestation, so a suction procedure can still be safely performed. Still, not an “emergency”. As mentioned previously in this thread, the vast majority of elective abortions take place in clinics during the first trimester. Hospitals and OB/GYN’s consider the pregnant patient, as 2 patients. If there’s a heartbeat detected within the uterus,there are 2 lives to save. If there’s no heart beat, then there is only one patient.  Post-abortion complications, only 1 patient. (poor straw man).
    Alcoholics and heroin addicts, are another absurd straw man. A.) there is only one patient. B.) medical care is saving their lives. C.)the medical staff are not administering the alcohol or heroin. D.)alcoholism/addiction is a medical diagnosis with identified genetic component. You might not “agree”, but it’s true. There are ICD-9 billable codes. E.)acute withdrawal (cold turkey)is potentially deadly. 
    Look, we even put 72 hr legal holds on suicidal and homicidal patients. 
    Terminally ill patients are offered comfort care, not euthanasia. I’ve had numerous conversations with doctors and other nurses over the years. I’m sure there are some professionals who would be ok with assisting suicide. But I haven’t encountered any. Obviously, the states carrying out the death penalty manage to find staff. I wouldn’t want that job. Killing is just not anything people who go into health care  to do. Our role is the polar opposite. Look at how Conrad Murray was convicted for murder. The expert witness testimony practically did all the work for the prosecutor. 
    Although nurses don’t take the Hippocratic Oath, we are very familiar with how it begins: “First, do no harm!” 
    I think there is too much assumption that healthcare professionals are adverse to abortion due to their religion. For some that is probably true. But with medical advances, babies born as early as 22 weeks routinely can be saved and grow on to be perfectly healthy children. Who decides where to drawn some arbitrary line? 
    I am NOT in favor of making abortion illegal. I’ve even circulated a handful of elective abortions when I worked at facilities that had no policy prohibiting them. Once an abortion was added on to our schedule late in the day after everyone had left for the day. That morning, we only had 2 anesthesiologists, neither were religious (that I know of). But they “thought” they had made it known never to assign them to these cases. There was a huge drama that played out in the doctor’s lounge (not in front of the patient.) Finally, the “nicer” guy relented and took the case. This woman could have easily gone to a clinic.  I tell this story because 1.)the procedure wasn’t canceled. Ultimately, the woman’s choice carried out. 2.)a man who had ethical problems unrelated to religion, was put in a unfair position because he wasn’t an a-hole (like the other anesthesiologist). Her GYN could have referred her to a clinic instead of a hospital.  Clinics do what they do. Hospitals are in the business of saving lives. 
    As a nurse, I could have refused to circulate this case, but I didn’t nor wouldn’t. I could have stayed at the Catholic hospital instead. There’s a lot more I could say on this topic, because there is so much misinformation in this thread. 

  • guest

    I wanted to add that maybe it was flippant to tell these nurses to go work for another hospital. Like any other job, nurses often cultivate a loyalty to a long-time employer. Part of their professional identity is being part of a particular hospital. Bonds are made with co-workers, etc. No amount of shaming or name-calling is going to convince someone who views abortions as murder will change their minds. I think we are a more compassionate society when we have those among us who are vigilant about respecting humanity. 
    Like the ACLU, they are a pain in the ass sometimes. But it’s important that we don’t trample the weakest minority by the majority. 

  • The Captain

    This is so simple. If your religion prevents you from doing your job… You need to get another job!


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