Hospital aide fired for refusing to clean abortion instruments

Valparaiso, Indiana, U.S.A.

Sean Murphy*

Elaine Tramm was fired despite the fact that Indiana had a protection of conscience statute. It took three years to win a lawsuit against the hospital; five months later, a jury awarded her $5,200.00 in compensatory damages and more than $18,000.00 in punitive damages. The following excerpt from the judgement of the District Court sets out the circumstances leading to her dismissal.

… On November 13, 1986, the plaintiff, Elaine Tramm, was hired by the Porter
Memorial Hospital (PMH) as a part-time Workroom Instruments Aide and was
assigned to the Portage Medical Surgical Center (Center). . . On December 1,
1986, Tramm began a full-time orientation program . . . The job description for
an aide included cleaning surgical instruments and handling surgical specimens.
Tramm claims that at the time she was hired she was not aware that abortions
were performed at the Center or that the job description included cleaning
abortion instruments. On December 7, 1986, Tramm learned that the Center was
equipped for abortions. Tramm subsequently informed her supervisors, Leslie
O’Toole, Isobel Cardonna, James Pingatore, and Donald Wadle, that she was a
Roman Catholic and that because of her religious beliefs she was opposed to
cleaning and preparing instruments used in performing abortions or handling
fetal tissue after abortion procedures. On December 12, 1986, Tramm claims that
another Aide, Marlene Haller, told her to clean instruments that had been used
in abortion procedures. According to Tramm, she cleaned the instruments because
she was afraid of losing her job. [Full text]

 

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