University Changes Policy Requiring Students to Sign Abortion Pledge

Vanderbilt University made changes to its nurse residency application a day after a complaint was filed over its abortion practice requirement.

According to the Alliance Defense Fund – the group that helped two unnamed students file the complaint – Vanderbilt changed it registration packet Wednesday to reflect a more inclusive women's health track for those who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures.

The application now includes a statement that such procedures are a part the program, but it also informs applicants that accommodations can be made for those who do not want to assist with abortion procedures.

Previously, the application stated, "If you are chosen for the Nurse Residency Program in the Women's Health track, you will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy."

ADF praised the changes saying that the anonymous complainants will now be able to apply for the program in time for the January 28th deadline. However, the religious freedoms defense group highlighted the school's attempt to skirt any admission of wrongdoing.

"It's ironic that Vanderbilt changed its policy one day after denying that it required the pledge," ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman expressed.

Two days ago, two students who did not want to be identified, complained to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning Vanderbilt's requirement that applicants to its Nurse Residency Program sign an acknowledgment that they must assist in abortions.

"Christians and other pro-life members of the medical community shouldn't be forced to participate in abortions to pursue their profession," said Bowman in a statement Tuesday.

Law enacted during President George W. Bush's tenure allows medical personnel to refuse to perform a procedure on grounds of moral conscience.
After the complaint was filed, university officials asserted the next day that it never discriminated against those with moral objections to abortion services.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser told the Tennessean Wednesday that the acknowledgment statement was created as a disclaimer to inform applicants that they will be asked to provide care to women who have had, or are seeking, abortions, not to block residents with religious or moral objections.

"The letter was added in order to create an awareness that terminations are performed here at Vanderbilt," Howser informed the publication.

He continued, "If you choose to participate [in the nurse residency program], you will be around patients who have had or are seeking terminations, and you may be asked to care for them. It does not say that you are required to participate in performing or in the performance of terminations."

A previous application, given to The Christian Post by the ADF, stated among its requirements that those seeking to pursue the women's health track must sign a letter that partially reads, "If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event (undergoing termination of pregnancy), we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals."

ADF Senior Council David French said of the discrepancy, "A university is never ever going to say we did something wrong." However, he is pleased with the latest changes.

The Nashville, Tenn., university changed its policy to be in full accordance with the moral conscience law. The 2011 Summer application packet now reads, "Procedures performed in the Labor and Delivery unit include … terminations of pregnancy and fetal surgery procedures. It is important that you are aware of this aspect of care and give careful consideration to your ability to provide compassionate care to women in these situations. If you wish not to participate in the termination of a pregnancy procedure on account of your religious beliefs or moral convictions, you should direct your request for an accommodation to [the assigned personnel]."

Also, the university has tossed out the program requirement mandating applicants to sign the aforementioned women's health letter. Now, it will be harder to screen out and discriminate against pro-life applicants, said French.

"We couldn't be more pleased," he commented.

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