For the twelve nurses filing a lawsuit against the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, the issue is cut and dried. The hospital’s same day surgery center is forcing them to participate in assisting with abortions, against their moral objections and despite a federal law stating that they can opt out because of the conscience clause.
But the hospital says it is following federal guidelines, no one is being forced to assist with the procedure and that they aren’t breaking any laws.
Who’s right? It depends how you define “assist.”
Two nurses explain their objections, and the words that they use make all of the difference in the world. One states, “We come from different backgrounds but we all have the same conviction that we do not want to help in the killing that happens in abortion.”
But another says, “No nurse should be forced to violate her religious or moral beliefs in order to keep her job. Nursing is a healing profession, and the law protects our right not to provide any services related to abortion.”
Any service. It’s a very, very broad term. For most people, the idea of “assisting” in an abortion would be giving the patient the drugs that would induce the birth, inserting the speculum, opening the cervix, using whatever tools are involved in the type of abortion the woman is undergoing.
But for the nurses in question, assistance goes beyond that. It would include getting her a hospital gown. Taking her blood pressure. Entering her pre-op information. Even any sort of monitoring after the abortion was over. The nurses are arguing that if the patient is there for an abortion, they should be allowed to refuse any contact with her, for any reason.
Is this really “not being complicit in abortion?” Or is this about shunning and shaming women they consider to be guilty of making the wrong choice in their pregnancy? Nurses are obligated to “heal, not help kill” as one nurse stated, but is it also their right to punish, too?
Where exactly are the limits of the conscience clause? The definition of “assist” is becoming so broad as to encompass any action a person wants to take against a woman obtaining, or even just suspected of obtaining an abortion. As we learned from the bus driver who refused to take a customer to Planned Parenthood or the pharmacist who denied drugs to stop a woman’s bleeding, the conscience clause can be used to allow nearly any worker to deny services of any type to a woman they believe is getting an abortion.
Will we hear next that admin staff refused to file paperwork for an insurance claim (for the rare insurers that still cover the procedure), or the orderly refused to prep a bed? Maybe the gift shop clerk will get to deny her purchase of a bag of gummy bears on the way out of the building? Under these rules, all of these situations, as ridiculous as they sound, could officially be covered.
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