By Dave Andrusko
It’s hard to know what it means, but the date of the next phase in the battle between 12 pro-life nurses and a large New Jersey hospital has been moved up.
In November the nurses who work in the “same-day surgery unit” at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were threatened with the loss of their jobs if they did not assist in abortions over their religious and moral objections.
The Associated Press is reporting that the date at which a federal judge was supposed to rule has been moved forward a week—from December 22 to next Friday. There is no explanation, only a reference to the letter UMDNJ sent to the nurses last Friday informing them that it would hire “additional staff to provide care to our full complement of patients.”
In a number of news accounts this was interpreted as a “policy shift” by the hospital even though UMDNJ insists “Its position will be vindicated when the court gives this matter a full hearing” because “The university is in full compliance with all applicable state and federal laws.” The lawyer for the nurses categorically disagreed there had been any meaningful change. He told reporter David Giambusso.
“’The hospital filed a brief last week [December 3] asking the court’s permission to continue bullying nurses into participating in elective abortion cases,” [Alliance Defense Fund] lawyer Matt Bowman said in an e-mail. “Only by guaranteeing the court and the nurses that it has reversed its position would it prove that UMDNJ might finally be interested in following the law. Until then, ADF will continue to fight the illegal discrimination against these pro-life nurses.”
UMDNJ abruptly changed its policy from allowing nurses to honor their consciences and NOT participate in abortions to threatening them with the loss of their job if they didn’t, a move the hospital has never explained. Assisted by the ADF, the nurses took the hospital to court where on November 3, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order stopping all training, procedures and performances related to abortions for the suing nurses.
The hospital insists it never threatened to fire any of the nurses if they did not comply, which would be a violation of both state and federal law, and that it was demanding only that nurses “perform peripheral duties for abortion patients”—such as “logging information, drawing blood,” etc.
In an editorial supporting the nurses, the New Jersey Star-Ledger observed,
“In other words, UMDNJ believes it should be able to compel nurses and other health care professionals, against their moral beliefs, to perform duties leading all the way up to the actual abortion, then force those health care professionals to attend to patients immediately afterward — or lose their jobs.
“Narrowing the law to specify that nurses have the right to opt out of only the actual abortion procedure strains common sense.”
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