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News Releases: 2002

ACLJ Files Religious Discrimination Complaint With EEOC Against Louisiana Health Dept. Over "Morning-After" Pill

American Center for Law and Justice

October 23, 2002

(New Orleans, LA) - The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm committed to protecting life, today announced it is representing a nurse from Louisiana who has been threatened with termination for refusing to dispense pregnancy-ending medication - a requirement that violates her deeply held religious beliefs. The ACLJ has filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights contending that the employer - Louisiana Dept. of Health and Hospitals - is discriminating against the nurse because of her religious beliefs.

"This is a case where a nurse is facing religious discrimination because her deeply held beliefs do not permit her to dispense medication designed to end pregnancies," said Stuart J. Roth, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which is representing the health care worker.
"Our client just wants to do her job without violating her conscience and her religious beliefs. Instead of accommodating this employee, health department officials have decided to criticize her and threaten her with termination. We will do whatever it takes to protect the conscience rights of our client."

The ACLJ filed the complaints this week with the EEOC and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Cynthia Day of Marrero, Louisiana who is employed as a Public Health Nurse III with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health at a clinic in New Orleans.

The complaints contend that Day repeatedly told her supervisors that she could not dispense what is known as an emergency contraception pill, also known as a "morning-after" pill - medication designed to end pregnancies. Day says she holds a sincere religious belief that human life, beginning at fertilization, is sacred and cannot be harmed in any way. Day contends that she has been criticized for her beliefs, threatened with being fired, and transferred to a job that makes it much more likely that she will have to dispense the objectionable medication to patients.

"The state must accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of our client," said Roth. "There is no question that the health department could have another employee dispense the medication instead of our client. But, health department officials have not only rejected our request to accommodate our client's religious beliefs, they continue to threaten and intimidate this health care professional in a manner that is both unprofessional and unlawful."

Roth said the ACLJ was required to file formal complaints first with the EEOC and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights before proceeding with filing a lawsuit against the health department. Roth said the ACLJ is prepared to take legal action to protect the conscience rights of Day.

In May 2002, the ACLJ successfully convinced a California jury that Riverside County violated the constitutional rights of a former nurse who was fired from her job for refusing to dispense "morning-after" medication. A federal court jury found that the county violated her First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of religion, and failed to reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs. Damages in that case - including a jury award and attorney's fees - totaled $100,000.

The American Center for Law and Justice is an international public interest law firm specializing in constitutional law and protecting human life. The ACLJ is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

Crisis at Philadelphia Hospital Highlights The Violation Of Women's Rights Due To Mismanagement Of Our Health System

Doctors for Life International

EMBARGO: Immediate Release  
Date: 26 June 2002

Doctors For Life (DFL), an organisation of about 770 doctors, places the blame for the lack of staff to support women having abortions at Philadelphia hospital, squarely on the shoulders of the South African government. Before the government bulldozed the law to legalise abortion on demand through Parliament, DFL warned via numerous press releases that the infrastructure to implement the law does not exist.

Firstly, there were not enough doctors and nursing staff who did not have conscientious objection against assisting with abortions. The government ignored us even when this fact was repeated in our submissions before the Select Committee on Abortion in Parliament.

Secondly, the lack of sonographic equipment to determine the gestational age of the unborn baby before an abortion made a mockery of the legislation (the law allowed abortion for a certain gestational age for different reasons).

The biggest survey ever done amongst doctors showed that more than 80% of South African doctors are against abortion on demand. The government was fully aware of this attitude when they forced the members of the ANC to vote against their consciences in support of "Termination of Pregnancy". They should therefore not be surprised when only 5 of the 27 hospitals in Mpumalanga have staff who are willing to take part in abortions.

In what appears to be a hypocritical move, the government seems concerned when women in the Carte Blanche programme had to deliver their own aborted babies, while the Department of Health is busy introducing the abortion pill (RU486) which will have the same result of causing women to abort at home.

DFL also had special meetings with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa where we explained the dilemma of pro-life health professionals. We mentioned that it strikes us as unethical that some health professionals are prescribing abortifacients and then tell the patient to go to a hospital, manned by pro-life staff, to have the abortion completed. This appeared like a strategy to force unwilling, ethically sound health professionals to take part in killing one patient (the unborn child) at the request of another (the mother). It boiled down to a doctor starting the procedure and then referring the patient for the "mopping up" of the procedure to pro-life staff.

It is a well-known fact amongst nursing staff that doctors list abortions as sterilisation procedures on theatre lists. Once the staff is in the theatre, scrubbed and half way through the procedure, they discover that the doctor is doing an abortion.

DFL therefore calls upon the government to accept responsibility for the dilemma women find themselves in. Something should be done about the pressure on health workers to take part in the abortion procedure. The public should be well informed if a certain clinic/hospital is unwilling to perform abortions. Once a hospital is identified as an abortion provider, the Department of Health must make sure that there are enough pro-abortion staff to render a 24 hour service, 7 days a week.

It must, however, be stated once again that health professionals do have the constitutional right NOT to participate in ANY part of the abortion procedure.

Enquiries: Dr Jay Mannie (Dep. CEO)
Mobile phone: +27(0)83 6414 382
ACLJ  Wins Religious Discrimination Case Against California Health Agency Over "Morning After" Pill

American Center for Law and Justice

Immediate Release
May 28, 2002

Riverside, CA - The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, announced today that a federal jury in California has found that Riverside County violated the constitutional rights of a nurse who was fired from her job after she refused to dispense medication known as a "morning-after" pill designed to end pregnancies.

"This is a tremendous victory for our client and for all health care professionals who want to do their jobs without violating their consciences and religious beliefs," said Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ, which represented the nurse.  "This verdict sends a very clear message that conscience rights of employees must be respected by employers everywhere." 

A U.S. District Court jury in Riverside has found that Riverside County violated the constitutional rights of former nurse Michelle Diaz.  Following a four-day trial in federal court that ended May 24th, the jury found the county was liable on all three counts presented:  violated her First Amendment rights of free speech; violated her rights of freedom of religion; and, failed to reasonably accommodate her religious beliefs.  The jury also awarded damages totaling more than $47,000 - including $19,000 in damages for back pay, and more than $28,000 in damages for emotional distress.

The case began in December 2000 when the ACLJ filed suit in U.S. District Court in Riverside, California against the Riverside Neighborhood Health Center on behalf of Diaz, who worked as a Clinic Health Nurse at the center.  The suit contended that Diaz was fired after she told her supervisor that her deeply held religious beliefs prevented her from distributing medication designed to end pregnancies because she believed she would be participating in an abortion.   The suit contended that she was fired from her job in June 1999 shortly after she talked to the news media about the "morning-after" pill controversy and explained her position.

Manion said the verdict is an important victory for free speech and religious freedom.   "This is an important victory in what's become the new frontier of religious discrimination - employers who force employees to violate their consciences and religious beliefs by requiring them to dispense pregnancy ending drugs."

The ACLJ was assisted in the trial by attorney Robert Tyler of the firm, Tyler & Dorsa in Temecula, CA.

Contact:  FRANK MANION   (502) 549-7020
The American Center for Law and Justice is an international public interest law firm that specializes in constitutional law and pro-life issues.  The ACLJ is headquartered in Virginia.
Stonewalling Leads to Call for New Freedom of Information Law

Protection of Conscience Project

For Immediate Release
22 April, 2002

An Albertan writes to a professional organization with concerns about its policies on civil rights and public health issues. She gets no response.

Registered professionals in Alberta, worried about policies that could cost them their jobs, send letters to their licensing authority. Their letters are ignored.

What can these people do in the face of bureaucratic stonewalling? At the moment, not much.

That will change if an Alberta legislative committee agrees with a submission by the Protection of Conscience Project. The Project wants the province's Freedom of Information Act regulations amended so that the Act will apply to self-governing professions like the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

"Stonewalling by the Alberta College of Pharmacists led to the submission," said Administrator Sean Murphy. "I couldn't get even the courtesy of an acknowledgement, despite repeated requests. I heard from a private citizen and some pharmacists who had the same problem."

"I had successfully used British Columbia's Freedom of Information Act to get information from the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia in similar circumstances, so I sent an access request to the Alberta College. It was rejected, because self-governing professions in Alberta aren't subject to the province's freedom of information law. The Project submission argues that it's time to change the law."

People who want Alberta's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act updated can send letters and submissions to the legislative committee in Edmonton until 10 May, 2002. See the Protection of Conscience Project brief online.

Aryan Defender Highlights BC Medical Journal

Protection of Conscience Project

For Immediate Release
24 February, 2002

It is an unusual cover for a medical journal: a crouching, brawny Aryan hero, glowering murderously from under a horned helmet, a copper IUD clutched in his sword hand.

The Administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project wants to post the cover of the January/February edition of the BC Medical Journal on the Project website. In a letter to the editor of the Journal, he describes the cover as "a splendid illustration of the usual basis for conscientious objection to potentially abortifacient devices and drugs."

Most physicians or others who object to the IUD (intrauterine device) and the 'morning-after-pill' do so because such things may act - not by preventing fertilization - but by destroying the developing human embryo by preventing its implantation in the uterine wall. This mechanism of action is explicitly acknowledged in the Journal's article, written by Dr. Roey Malleson.

Rather than recognizing that the destruction of the developing embryo is a key moral issue - and a controversial one - Dr. Malleson defines the issue out of existence by adopting a coded vocabulary. Only readers familiar with authoritative embryological texts are likely to recognize the polemic behind Dr. Malleson's use of words like 'abortifacient', 'pregnancy', and 'contraception'.

The Project letter lauds the article as "an excellent example of moral obfuscation masquerading as science," but challenges Dr. Malleson's authority to tutor colleagues in faith and morals. It rejects the suggestion that civil suits might be used to suppress the freedom of conscience of those who do not share the BC Medical Journal's enthusiasm for Aryan warriors.

Catholic Health Association Supports Medically Appropriate, Morally Acceptable Care for Sexual Assault Victims

Catholic Health Association (USA)

Washington, DC
21 March, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC (March 21, 2002) - The following statement is being released by Rev. Michael D. Place, STD, president and chief executive officer, Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):

The Catholic health ministry, a ministry founded in large measure by religious women known for their service to women and children, is committed to providing personal support and quality medical care for any woman who is a victim of sexual assault. In fact, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services say that "compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is a victim of sexual assault [and that] a female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from a sexual assault." If, after appropriate testing, it is considered medically appropriate, approved FDA drugs can be administered in a Catholic hospital for contraceptive purposes for the prevention of fertilization. In a narrow set of circumstances, a Catholic hospital cannot provide these drugs if their effect would be abortifacient: that is, the fertilized ovum would be destroyed. While some would assert that the fertilized ovum prior to implantation is not human life, the Catholic tradition does consider the fertilized ovum to be human life and deserving of the respect and protection due any human being.

The Catholic Health Association is eager to work with Congress and others to ensure that compassionate, medically appropriate, and morally acceptable care be given to anyone who experiences the crime of sexual assault. One can only wonder, however, if the real intent of this legislation has nothing to do with the care of vulnerable women who have experienced the trauma of sexual assault. It would seem that the real purpose of this proposed legislation is to pursue the narrow agenda of the pro-abortion lobby; namely, eroding the protection of human life by defining life as beginning only with implantation and infringing on the religious freedom of Catholic health care and others of good will who wish to care for women and others in accord with their beliefs or deeply held values.

The St. Louis-based Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA) is the national leadership organization representing the Catholic health ministry. CHA's more than 2,000 members form the nation's largest group of not-for-profit health care sponsors, systems, facilities, health plans, and related organizations.