“This should not come as a surprise to somebody. They should not walk into their place of work and have to do something that they’re clearly opposed to!”
That’s what my daughter, Maggie Eisenbarth, mother of nine and the Respect Life Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, said after the Federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Notice of Violation on August 28th against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC), Vermont’s largest hospital.
The violation was issued because OCR determined that “UVMMC forced the [Catholic] nurse complainant to assist in an abortion against the nurse’s religious or moral objection. The nurse had expressed an objection for many years and was included in a list of objectors, but UVMMC knowingly assigned the nurse to an abortion procedure.”
Maggie, who is also a member of our Board of Directors, said, “Maybe the hospital needs to go back and look at who has registered as morally objecting to abortion procedures and go back and talk to those staff members and have an open and clear communication going forward to be sure that the hospital is caring for its staff just as it cares for its patients.”
She continued, “Faith-belief systems throughout all of America have a certain level of freedom that should be honored and respected, including institutions having to honor them, especially when we have a federal law that protects them.”
The nurse had understood that she was requested to assist for a routine miscarriage. However, OCR determined that “the nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until the nurse walked into the room, when the doctor—knowing the nurse objected to assisting in abortions—told the nurse, “Don’t hate me.” The nurse again objected, and other staff were present who could have taken the nurse’s place, but the nurse was required to assist with the abortion anyway. If the nurse had not done so, the nurse reasonably feared UVMMC would fire or report the nurse to licensing authorities.” See the nurse’s full Complaint.
Moreover, OCR determined that “Health care personnel who are coerced in that way suffer moral injury, are subjected to a crisis of conscience, and frequently experience significant emotional distress.” The nurse complained that after the abortion, she suffered immediate emotional distress, attempted to suppress the event psychologically and has been haunted by nightmares ever since.
OCR also specifically determined that “UVMMC is violating 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c)(1) of the Church Amendments by discriminating against health-care personnel who have religious or moral objections to abortion, and subjecting them to different terms or conditions of employment than other health-care personnel.”
Roger Severino, Director of OCR said, “Forcing medical staff to assist in the taking of human life inflicts a moral injury on them that is not only unnecessary and wrong, it violates longstanding federal law. Our investigation has uncovered serious discrimination by UVMMC against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience, assist in elective abortions.”
Severino said, “this nurse’s story was the “quintessential violation” of conscience. This should never happen in America. There is room for disagreement on these issues without having to coerce people to choose between a career dedicated to supporting life versus instances and situations where they were being forced to take life. If there was ever a violation of the Church amendments that needed to be enforced, it was this one.”
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty, issued the following statement in response to OCR’s enforcement action:
It is a grotesque violation of civil rights, and of federal law, to force someone to perform or participate in an abortion against their beliefs. The action by the University of Vermont Medical Center forcing a nurse to participate in the killing of a defenseless unborn child under threat of job loss, and other coercive pressure, is abhorrent. We commend and thank the Administration for taking corrective action to enforce the law. Sadly, such violations of federal conscience laws are not infrequent. We hope that today’s action, and future actions by this Administration, will help ensure that no one is forced to participate in an abortion against their beliefs.Our Lady of America requested our purity and promised us her protection and peace. Let us invoke her, wear her medal of protection and pray her ejaculation for a Culture of Life in America: “By thy holy and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, deliver us from evil.”