No Equal Opportunities for Nurse With Pro-Life Views

NEWS RELEASE

Rutherford Institute

Salem, OR–January 30, 2002–Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute filed suit yesterday on behalf of Janice Turner, a public health nurse who lost her job with the Marion County Health Department due to her deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, charges that Turner’s supervisor at the Women’s Clinic harassed and retaliated against her for her pro-life views and refused to accommodate her religious objections to discussing or promoting abortion procedures with her patients.

Turner, a public health nurse with the Health Department from 1990 until July 2001, had early on in her employment expressed her religious opposition to abortion and requested accommodation from having to discuss or promote abortion procedures with her patients.

According to Turner, her initial supervisor accommodated her religious beliefs and allowed her to refer those patients wanting to receive emergency contraception, a.k.a. “the morning after pill,” or information about abortion to another nurse.

As a result of Turner’s personal commitment to providing quality health care to those in need, she also worked as a Maternity Case Manager, making house calls to women undergoing high-risk pregnancies and educating them on how to have a healthy pregnancy. However, in 1995, a new supervisor was appointed to the Women’s Clinic who declared herself to be pro-choice and allegedly acted in a manner intolerant of other viewpoints.

According to Turner, this new supervisor stated her expectation that everyone on staff discuss emergency contraception, or “the morning after pill,” with patients as “a method of contraception that will prevent a pregnancy,” and discouraged the nurses from discussing it as a possible abortifacient. Turner claims that her supervisor continually reiterated her distaste for Turner’s pro-life views regarding emergency contraception and repeatedly told her that she “was not a complete nurse.” During Turner’s final evaluation, the supervisor informed her that budget cuts would soon be forthcoming. She then warned Turner that her position could be cut in the department budget, and if Turner wanted another position in the department, she would have to be willing to dispense emergency contraception. Shortly thereafter, Turner was notified that her position was to be cut.

Among the allegations detailed in the complaint filed by Institute attorneys are charges that Turner was discriminated against for her religious beliefs, a violation of Title VII, the Hill/Burton Conscience Act and Oregon’s conscience clause.

“It is unconscionable for anyone to force their beliefs on another person, especially forcing a pro-abortion message on a person who believes that life begins at conception,” stated John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “What makes it even worse is that this was being done by an employer who was fully aware that she is in control of that person’s livelihood.”


The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.
THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE
Charlottesville, Virginia.
General inquiries: tristaff@rutherford.org
Press Contacts: Nisha N. Mohammed Ph: (434) 978-3888, Pager: 800-946-4646, Pin #: 1478257

Nurse dismissed over ‘morning after pill’

The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, today filed suit in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California on behalf of a health care worker charging that she was fired from her job as a nurse for Riverside County, California after she refused to dispense medication known as a “morning-after” pill designed to end pregnancies. See the ACLJ news release for details.

 

ACLJ files religious discrimination suit against Ca. health agency over “morning after” pill

News Release

American Center for Law and Justice

(Riverside, CA) – The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, today filed suit in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California on behalf of a health care worker charging that she was fired from her job as a nurse for Riverside County, California after she refused to dispense medication known as a “morning-after” pill designed to end  pregnancies.

“This case centers on the rights of our  client to hold religious beliefs and have those beliefs accommodated by her  employer,” said Frank Manion, Senior Regional Counsel of the ACLJ who is representing the nurse. “Our client did not want to dispense medication that she believes places her in a position to participate in an abortion. It is our position that her deeply held religious beliefs were ignored by her employer and it is our belief that she was wrongly fired because of those beliefs.”

The ACLJ filed suit today in U.S. District Court in Riverside on behalf of Michelle Diaz, who worked as a Clinic Health Nurse at the Riverside Neighborhood Health Center. The complaint contends that in March 1999, Diaz and other health professionals expressed their concerns to management about dispensing the so-called “morning-after” pill – medication designed to end pregnancies.  The lawsuit states that Diaz told her supervisor that her deeply held religious beliefs prevented her from distributing the medication because she believed she would be participating in an abortion.

The complaint contends that the Director of Public Health for Riverside County informed her that if she did not sign a document that required her to dispense what the county called “emergency contraception” which included the “morning-after” pill and other pregnancy-ending medications, she  would no longer be able to work at the clinic. Diaz did not sign the document and wrote a letter to the Director of Public Health explaining that her religious beliefs prevented her from doing so.

According to the suit, in June 1999, Diaz was contacted by news reporters concerning the “morning-after” pill controversy and explained her position to the media. The suit contends that on June 23, 1999 – just days after speaking with the media – she was told that she was being terminated.

“This case may represent a new kind of religious discrimination in the workplace as health care professionals strive to follow their consciences as they begin dispensing new pregnancy-ending drugs like RU-486,” said Manion. “A person’s religious beliefs must be respected and accommodated in the workplace. To do anything less is simply wrong and unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit contends that the action taken against Diaz violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution along with provisions in the California Constitution. The complaint contends the County violated her constitutional rights of free speech and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to accommodate her religious beliefs and terminating her employment.

At the same time, the suit contends that Diaz has suffered and continues to suffer financial loss from the termination and damage to her  professional reputation. The suit requests that the court find the actions of the defendants illegal and unconstitutional and requests unspecified damages. The suit also requests a trial by jury.

The suit names as defendants the County of Riverside Health Services Agency, Kenneth Cohen, the Director of the Agency, and Dr. Gary Feldman, who serves as Director of Public Health and as the Public Health Officer for Riverside County.

The ACLJ is being assisted in this case by Robert Tyler of the firm, Tyler, Dorsa & Eldridge in Temecula, CA.

The American Center for Law and Justice is an  international public interest law firm that specializes in constitutional law and focuses on pro-life, pro-family, and pro-liberty issues. The ACLJ is headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA.

 

Catholic Charities files lawsuit against the State of California

A law passed in 1999 included a requirement that would force Catholic hospitals to provide employee insurance coverage for artificial contraception. This has resulted in a lawsuit against the state. An application for a preliminary injunction is to be heard in a Sacramento Court in late August.

 

Nurses Triumphant! Human Rights Case Ends in Settlement

After a difficult five year struggle, eight Ontario health care professionals win the right to choose.

Markham-Stoufville, Ontario, Canada

Sue Careless*

Staff with religious objections will not be required to provide primary nursing care to a patient admitted for an abortion, but could be required to provide post-abortion nursing care. They would not, however, have to in any way participate “in the administration, monitoring or documenting of the pregnancy termination process.”

They did it!

After a five year battle, eight Ontario nurses won the right to refuse to assist in abortions at the Markham-Stoufville Hospital, just outside Toronto. The nurses had taken their fight to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and one nurse, Ailene George, had filed a civil suit.

They hope their victory will be precedent-setting. “I want all nurses in the future to have the right to say, “No,” said Joanne Van Halteren, one of the eight. “This will have a ripple effect.”

The case was to be heard by the OHRC, but the sides reached a mediated settlement April 13 in which the hospital issued a policy respecting the nurses’ religious objections to performing abortions.

. . . The nurses’ battle took its toll. One nurse, Ann Mahon, died of cancer in May 1998. Others suffered stress-related illnesses. Una Clennon had a lump removed from her breast that her doctor believed was brought on by stress. [Full text]