Nurses involved in a moral conscience lawsuit against a New Jersey teaching hospital say teachers and medical staff are still pressuring them to perform abortion-related activities.
Twelve nurses held a press conference Monday across the street from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)’s administration building to reveal that the university’s hospital were not heeding their right to moral conscience despite an order issued Nov. 3.
The nurses complained last month that the New Jersey hospital that employed them had changed its policy allowing medical staff to exercise moral conscience and choose not to perform an abortion. Under the new policy, all nurses are required to assist in abortion procedures. Nurses who do not comply with the policy can be fired.
The nurses filed a lawsuit against the UMDNJ, which operates the hospital, Oct. 31.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting UMDNJ from firing any nurses who refused to participate in abortion trainings, procedures or performances.
However, the nurses say that they are still being pressured to participate in abortion-related activities.
At the press conference Monday, New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith said UMDNJ’s behavior is not only unethical but “blatantly illegal.”
The U.S. Supreme Court as well as several federal laws require that medical workers be given the right to refrain from performing an abortion, he said.
The Supreme Court opinion on Doe v. Bolton said that that “appropriate protection” is needed to ensure that “a physician or any other employee has the right to refrain, for moral or religious reasons, from participating in the abortion procedure.”
Additionally, the 1974 Church Amendment and 2005 Hyde-Weldon Conscience Law bar medical facilities receiving federal funds from discriminating in employment, promotion or termination against a person who exercises their religious beliefs or moral convictions.
Smith said that state laws also forbid employees from being required to perform abortions.
He concluded, “In pursuit of an illegal and highly unethical policy to coerce its own nurses to participate in abortions including support activities such as pre- and post-procedure complicity in abortion, UMDNJ has not only imposed irreparable harm and suffering on its own nurses, but has willfully and recklessly put federal funding for the institution at risk.”
The Alliance Defense Fund, the legal firm defending the nurses, estimates that the university receives about $60 million annually in federal funds.
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) released a statement saying nurses are not compelled to be involved, or present, at any procedure to which they object.
"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," the statement declared.
The hearing for Danquah v. Uni. Of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is set for Dec. 5.