Judge Issues TRO temporarily stopping New Jersey Hospital from Compelling Pro-Life Nurses to assist in abortions

By Dave Andrusko

Although media coverage continues to confuse the issues, nurses at a New Jersey hospital will not be required to assist in performing abortions if they object on religious grounds—at least not until November 18

The Associated Press’s story today, began “A New Jersey hospital says it will temporarily stop requiring nurses to assist in performing abortions if they object on religious grounds.” It isn’t until several paragraphs in that you understand that the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) was responding to a temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge, not agreeing necessarily to change anything. The court will decide whether to issue any additional order at a November 18 hearing.

The court order states that hospital officials “are restrained from requiring the named Plaintiffs from undergoing any training, procedures or performances relating to abortions pending the Court’s determination on the merits regarding the Plaintiffs’ Application for a Preliminary Injunction.” 

According to the Alliance Defense Fund, which is defending the twelve nurses, “The order also prohibits any acts of employment discrimination against the nurses until that matter is resolved.”

The ADF filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, on behalf of the nurses who “possess strongly held religious and moral beliefs that she may not participate in the process of an abortion that causes the death of a preborn child,” according to ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.

In its press statements and lawsuit, the ADF says that UMDNJ had been performing abortions for decades without forcing nurses to violate their religious beliefs, and then “out of the blue” changed its policy. The new policy? Take training in abortions (which means actually assisting in abortions, not merely watch) or be fired.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions. Federal and state law both prohibit this,” Bowman said today. “These 12 nurses have encountered threats to their jobs at this hospital ever since a policy change required them to participate in the abortion cases regardless of their religious and moral objections. “

Bowman added, “The court’s order prevents that until the Nov. 18 hearing, but it is disturbing that the hospital may fight to continue violating laws that clearly protect conscience rights.”

Previous stories had also not made clear that several nurses had already been forced to participate ”by threatening them with termination,” according to Bowman.

One nurse was assigned “to train for abortion without warning or notice to her,” according the lawsuit. “She was first informed when she arrived for her regular morning shift on October 28, 2011.” The lawsuit continued

When [Sharon] Danquah reiterated her religious objections to training in or assisting abortions that morning before the cases began, Defendant  [Tammy] Ludwig responded that [the hospital] has ‘no regard for religious beliefs’ of nurses who so object” and “that “’everyone on this floor is required when assigned to do TOPs [termination of pregnancies; abortions]…”

Bowman said yesterday that if nothing were done, “the hospital is planning to force Lorna [Mendoza] and her colleague Julita Ching to assist abortions this Friday, Nov. 4, despite the hospital’s crystal-clear legal obligations not to coerce them.”

Also the concluding sentence in today’s AP story is ambiguous: “The hospital has said none of its nurses is required to participate in procedures he or she objects to on religious or moral grounds.”

Does that mean the hospital is not requiring this because of the temporary restraining order or that it is claiming that it has never done so.

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