A New Jersey congressman accused a hospital of violating the civil rights of a dozen pro-life nurses who refused to assist in abortions, calling the decision illegal and unethical and suggested the hospital could put its federal funding at risk.
“This is an outrage – to coerce nurses or any health care professional to be involved either pre-op or during the commission of an abortion is against federal and state law,” Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) told Fox News & Commentary. “We’re talking about coercion here.”
Smith held a press conference Monday afternoon outside the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – one of the state’s largest hospitals. He called the nurses “very, very brave.”
The nurses filed a lawsuit against the hospital on Oct. 31, claiming they were told to either assist in abortion procedures or they would be fired.
“Because the nurses recognize the innate value and dignity and preciousness of the child in the womb and have refused to participate or be complicit in an act of violence against a vulnerable child, they are punished,” the congressman said.
When Fe Vinoya got the news, she was heartbroken. The veteran nurse at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was told she had a choice – assist with abortion procedures or be fired.
“It felt like the whole world crashed on me,” Vinoya told Fox News & Commentary. “You could sense the sadness in all of us. We felt betrayed.”
“We repeatedly told them we are pro-life nurses,” she said. ‘But they ignored our convictions. One of the nurses was even told that the hospital does not regard any religious objections.”
Vinoya has been a registered nurse for 21 years. For her, nursing is not a job – it’s a calling.
“It’s a profession of caring,” she said from her home in West Orange, NJ. “Even when I was young, I wanted to take care of patients.
After the hospital ordered the nurses to prepare to assist with abortions, Vinoya went home and told her family the news.
“That day my eight year old son was learning about The Ten Commandments in church,” she said. “He recited the sixth commandment – we are not to kill anyone. I just cried. I knew that God had given me hope and that he is really on our side.”
She said she received further affirmation from her 13-year-old son who was working on a school project about religious freedom.
“This fight really is a good fight,” she said. We are talking about religious freedom and it’s being violated right in front of us.”
Matthew Bowman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Vinoya and the eleven other nurses. who “possess strongly held religious and moral beliefs that she may not participate in the process of an abortion that causes the death of a preborn child.”
Bowman told Fox News & Commentary that the hospital had been performing abortions for decades without forcing nurses to violate their religious beliefs. But that changed a few weeks ago.
“The hospital passed a policy and put one of the nurses who did abortions in a supervisory position and started forcing nurses to assist in abortions out of the blue,” Bowman said. “It’s in complete violation of federal and state law – that says you can’t force people to assist abortions.”
Bowman said hospital officials agreed to meet with the nurses to discuss the matter, but when the nurses arrived with an attorney the meeting was abruptly cancelled.
“The hospital told the nurses they have no regard for their religious beliefs,” he said. “They were going to be assigned to these abortions or they would be terminated.”
Bowman said the hospital has displayed “an extreme level of arrogance” and is calling on the court to pull the plug of $60 million in federal funding until the hospital agrees to stop forcing nurses to assist in abortions.
Rep. Smith said the hospital is “very reliant on federal funds” and said its funding could be jeopardized.
“I don’t know why any board of directors or any management would want to put its own federal funding stream at risk,” he said. “It brings enormous dishonor to the hospital to so callously treat its nurses as they are doing.”
As for Nurse Vinoya, she said she has been sustained by her faith in God, through prayers and Bible Study and by her fellow church members at The Life Christian Church. And in the end, she believes they will be victorious.
“It’s a David versus Goliath battle,” she said. “But we all know who won.”