HHS Office of Civil Rights cites University of Vermont Medical Center for forcing nurse to participate in an abortion, calls for immediate corrective action

By Dave Andrusko

Once again, under the category of “elections do matter…”

NRL News Today readers may recall that the University of Vermont Medical Center had forced a nurse to assist in an elective abortion over the nurse’s conscience-based objections. Today the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services notified UVMMC that by so doing, the medical center had violated the Church Amendments. Enacted after Roe v. Wade, the Church Amendments prohibit hospitals funded by the Public Health Service Act from discriminating against doctors and nurses who refuse to participate in abortion.

In addition,

OCR also found that UVMMC has discriminatory policies that assign or require employees to assist abortion procedures even after they have recorded their religious or moral objections to assisting in the performance of such abortions. OCR’s Notice of Violation letter asks UVMMC to conform its policies to the Church Amendments and take other corrective action, or face potential action by the HHS component from which UVMMC has received federal funding

NRL News Today asked Mary Beerworth, executive director, about UVMMC. She replied

“The action taken today should come as no surprise to those who understand that the UVMMC has been invested in unlimited abortion since September of 2017. The medical center is run by CEO John Brumsted, who began his career at the state’s largest abortion clinic and the Board of Trustees elected Allie Stickney to chair the board despite her background as CEO of Planned Parenthood affiliates. Furthermore, the hospital has hired three trained D&E abortionists and the attitude from hospital executives has been consistently dismissive of pro-life concerns.”

According to a press release from OCR, the medical center was not cooperative.

On May 9, 2018, a nurse at UVMMC filed a conscience and religious discrimination complaint with OCR against UVMMC, a medical center in Burlington, Vermont that receives HHS funds, contending that the nurse was forced to assist an abortion in violation of the nurse’s conscience rights. As part of its investigation, OCR contacted UVMMC repeatedly in a good faith effort to seek cooperation from UVMMC, but the hospital refused to conform its policies to federal conscience laws, provide all the documents requested by OCR, or produce witnesses for OCR interviews. Nevertheless, OCR interviewed multiple witnesses and gathered evidence concerning the allegations. …

UVMMC maintains a staffing policy that facially violates the Church Amendments because the policy admits to circumstances where UVMMC can and will force staff—on pain of adverse action or discipline—to participate in abortions against their moral or religious objections. The policy also violates UVMMC’s agreement, as a condition of receiving HHS funds, to comply with federal law, including the Church Amendments and HHS’s grants regulations.

Very much worth noting is not only was the nurse not told in advance she would be required to assist in an abortion, ”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.”

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