Nurse Denied Employment, Forced to Resign
A Two Tiered System of Civil Rights
British Columbia, Canada (1977-1984)
Bradley, an operating room
nurse with 15 years experience, was told that she
could keep her position only if she assisted in
abortions. As a result, she went to Children's
Hospital, and eventually left the nursing
profession. She has not worked in the health care
field since 1984.
Registered Nurse Linda Bradley had been refused
employment at four British Columbia hospitals when
she applied to work at Richmond General Hospital in
1977. Langley Memorial, Peace Arch Hospital, Delta
Hospital and Vancouver General had all denied her
employment because she was unwilling to assist in
abortions. When asked if she would assist in
abortions at Richmond General, she agreed. By that
time she was desperate for a job.
Nurse Bradley was involved with abortions at
Richmond General for about two years, assisting at
about nine abortions monthly. The abortions occupied
a total of about four hours of her work each month.
One day, however, she was told to scrub for a
hysterotomy of a woman 5 1/2 months pregnant. A
hysterotomy is a Caesarean section performed for the
sole purpose of killing the child. Reason for the
abortion: "multiparity". The woman had had previous
Bradley was horrified. She advised her supervisor
that she would not assist. If she refused to assist
in this abortion, she was asked, would she would
assist with other abortions? Shaken by what was
being demanded of her, Bradley said she could no
longer do so. Advised that this was a condition of
employment, she consulted the Registered Nurses
Association of BC. Acting on RNABC's advice, she
resigned rather than forcing the hospital to fire
her. She did this to avoid tarnishing her record
with RNABC, which would have jeopardized her career.
Appealing to the British Columbia Human Rights
tribunal, Linda Bradley was told that she was not
eligible for protection because her refusal was for
moral and not religious reasons.
Nurse Bradley found work at St. Vincent's
Hospital, and later at the Grace Hospital. When the
Grace Hospital closed in 1982 its operations were
transferred to a new medical centre on Oak Street.
Bradley, an operating room nurse with 15 years
experience, was told that she could keep her
position only if she assisted in abortions. As a
result, she went to Children's Hospital, and
eventually left the nursing profession. She has not
worked in the health care field since 1984.
Canadians are familiar with warnings that
Medicare should not be allowed to develop into a
two-tiered health care system: first class treatment
for the rich, and second class (or worse) for the
Commenting in retrospect on her experience,
Bradley said, "They've set up a two tiered system of
civil rights: one for people with money to hire a
lawyer and take an employer to court, and another
for the rest of us."
She added, "It may be a two tiered system, but
there's no way of winning even if you have the money
to fight it."