NEWARK, N.J. A New Jersey hospital violated a court order and attempted to force 12 pro-life nurses into meetings that would impose discriminatory job "transfer" and other "changes" to their employment solely because of their objections to helping with abortions.
The group of nurses filed suit against the University of Medicine and Dentistry after implementing a new policy that the Same Day Surgery Unit nurses must assist in abortion procedures. The hospital imposed the new policy in October and informed the nurses that failure to assist in abortions would be cause for termination.
"These pro-life nurses shouldn't be bullied into employment discrimination that is forbidden both by federal law and a court order," said Matt Bowman, Alliance Defense Fund legal counsel.
"The hospital is threatening to impose discriminatory transfers or changes in the employment conditions for these nurses because of their religious and moral objections to abortion. Such discrimination against pro-life nurses violates state and federal law, the court's order in this case, and even the hospital's own public statements saying that no nurse must assist in procedures to which they object," said Bowman.
A temporary restraining order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on Nov. 3 prohibited the hospital from making discriminatory employment changes until the court has a chance to consider the case. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.
A letter was sent to the nurses requiring them to attend mandatory meetings on or before Nov. 23 to discuss potential "changes in duties, changes in scheduling, and/or transfer to another nursing position…."
The hospital's letter frames the threatened changes as "reasonable accommodations," but the ADF motion explains that, because conscience rights regarding abortion are paramount in the law, "the underlying laws in this case do not allow employers to negotiate 'reasonable accommodations' in the abortion context, and this Court's Temporary Restraining Order does not either."
ADF attorneys are asking for a new temporary restraining order that will prevent the hospital from forcing the nurses into meetings that impose changes to their employment. In addition, ADF is asking the court to hold the hospital in contempt of the court's existing order.
According to ADF, federal law prohibits hospitals that receive certain federal funds from forcing employees to participate in abortions.
UMDNJ receives approximately $60 million in federal funds annually. In addition, New Jersey law states, "No person shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of an abortion or sterilization."