ADF rebuts NY hospital’s claim that pro-life nurse can’t sue

ADF attorneys respond to claims of Mount Sinai Hospital

NEWS RELEASE
19 August, 2009

Alliance Defense Fund

NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys submitted a brief in federal court Monday in response to the claim of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital that a pro-life nurse who sued the hospital has no right to defend herself in court.  ADF filed suit after the hospital forced senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo to participate in a late-term abortion procedure.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs.  Nonetheless, Mount Sinai Hospital is multiplying its injustices against nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.  “First it disregarded Cathy’s conscience; now it argues she can’t go to court to defend her rights.  Mount Sinai Hospital does not have the right to disregard federal law and then refuse to face the consequences of its actions.”

Administrators at Mount Sinai Hospital threatened Cenzon-DeCarlo with disciplinary measures if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion.  Despite the fact that the patient was apparently not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an “emergency,” even though the procedure was not classified by the hospital as such. ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of Cenzon-DeCarlo in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on July 21.

Attorneys for the hospital submitted a brief to the court Aug. 10 arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the federal law at issue “does not grant individual litigants a private right of action.”

ADF attorneys responded to the brief Monday, noting, “Mount Sinai’s compulsion violates 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c), ‘the Church Amendment’ (named after Senator Frank Church).  This law provides that no recipient of federal health funds may discriminate in the employment or privileges of its health care personnel because of their religious objection to abortion.  The law contains no exception letting Mount Sinai compel assistance based on their unbridled judgment that abortion is an ‘emergency.’  Mount Sinai’s actions are a quintessential example of discriminating in employment and privileges on condition that Mrs. DeCarlo violate her objection to abortion.”

The ADF brief goes on to explain that “Mount Sinai compounds its contempt of the law” by denying that the law allows Cenzon-DeCarlo to defend her conscience rights.  The brief points out that a federal court just this year “not only recognized an individual right, but allowed the plaintiff (in that case an abortion supporter) to seek punitive damages.”  It also points out that the federal law involves all of the factors that the U.S. Supreme Court has used to recognize such rights and that Congress obviously intended to protect individuals from discrimination under the law it created.

New York ADF-allied attorneys Joseph Ruta and Piero Tozzi are serving as local counsel in the case, Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital.  The court will hold a pre-trial conference on Sept. 10.

Contact: ADF MEDIA RELATIONS  (480) 444-0020


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

A NY Nurse Forced to do the Unthinkable

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

August 18, 2009
Reproduced with permission

Alliance Defense Fund

The administrators at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital knew at least three  things, that Sunday morning, when they ordered senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo,  at the last minute, to assist in a late-term abortion:

  1. They knew that Cathy, who is a devoted follower of Christ and a Catholic, was on long-term record with the hospital as opposing abortion for religious reasons.
  2. They knew that, despite what some of them were telling Cathy, the medical situation was not a true emergency, and the mother’s life was not at stake.
  3. They knew that, under federal law, any hospital receiving federal health funds – as Mount Sinai does – cannot force its employees to assist in abortion procedures under any circumstances.

Despite all that, the administrators told Cathy that if she didn’t assist in the  procedure, she would face disciplinary action – likely including termination and  loss of her professional license.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their  beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who is representing Cathy in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New  York. “Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion  in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of  conscience. Federal law requires that employers who receive funding from tax  dollars must not compel employees to violate their sincerely held religious  beliefs, but this nurse’s objections fell on deaf ears.”

ADF attorneys are also requesting a preliminary injunction that would order the hospital to honor  Cenzon-DeCarlo’s religious objection against assisting in abortion and refrain  from retaliation against her while the case moves forward. New York ADF-allied  attorneys Joseph Ruta and Piero Tozzi are serving as local counsel in the case.

“Chasing away workers from the health care field is disastrous health care  policy,” said Bowman. “An individual’s conscience is likely what brought them to  the health care field. Denying or coercing their conscience will likely drive  them right out.”

Cathy’s case is a clear example of an employer violating an employee’s right of  conscience – and violations like this are happening all over the country  everyday to people of sincere religious faith who work in the medical  profession: not only nurses, but doctors and pharmacists as well.  Please be in  prayer for those who are trying to blend their medical skills with a Christ-like  compassion and godly reverence for human life – and in particular prayer for our  attorneys as they represent Cathy in this high profile and potentially  nation-shaping case.

Contact: ADF MEDIA RELATIONS  (480) 444-0020


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

NY nurse threatened, forced to assist in late-term abortion

ADF attorneys file lawsuit against hospital for violating Christian nurse’s rights of conscience

NEWS RELEASE
For immediate release
22 July, 2009

Alliance Defense Fund

NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday against Mount Sinai Hospital on behalf of a Catholic nurse who was forced to participate in a late-term abortion under the threat of disciplinary action, including possible termination and loss of her license. The hospital has known of her religious objections to abortion since 2004.

Hospital administrators told the nurse that the scheduled abortion was an “emergency,” though evidence shows otherwise, and insisted moments before the procedure that she assist doctors despite her repeated objections to the procedure, which dismembered a preborn child in the 22nd week of gestation. By federal law, hospitals that receive federal funds cannot force employees to participate in abortion procedures under any circumstances.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of conscience. Federal law requires that employers who receive funding from tax dollars must not compel employees to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, but this nurse’s objections fell on deaf ears.”

“Chasing away workers from the health care field is disastrous health care policy,” said Bowman. “An individual’s conscience is likely what brought them to the health care field. Denying or coercing their conscience will likely drive them right out.”

Administrators at Mount Sinai Hospital threatened senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo with disciplinary measures if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion. Despite the fact that the patient was not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an “emergency” even though the procedure was not classified as such.

“Category I” is the classification reserved for “patients requiring immediate surgical intervention for life or limb threatening conditions.” The surgery in this case was classified as “Category II,” for operations needing to take place within six hours, indicating that the hospital had no reason to insist upon Cenzon-DeCarlo’s assistance in the abortion in order to protect the patient. Plenty of time existed to find a different nurse to assist, especially since evidence indicates that the patient’s condition did not rise even to a Category II. In fact, Cenzon-DeCarlo observed no indications that the abortion was a medical emergency while in the operating room.

ADF attorneys filed the complaint in Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. They are also requesting a preliminary injunction that would order the hospital to honor Cenzon-DeCarlo’s religious objection against assisting in abortion and refrain from retaliation against her while the case moves forward. New York ADF-allied attorneys Joseph Ruta and Piero Tozzi are serving as local counsel in the case.

Fact sheet on lawsuit, including links to resources

Contact: ADF MEDIA RELATIONS  (480) 444-0020


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

Nurse forced to assist in late term abortion

 Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital

(New York, NY, USA: May, 2009)

  • ADF | Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo, a nurse who was forced to assist in the abortion of a 22-week-old preborn child despite her longstanding religious objections. Full Text

Healthcare responsibilities and conscientious objection

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009 Mar;104(3):249-52. Epub 2008 Nov 29.

Rebecca J. Cook, Monica Arango Olaya, Bernard M. Dickens

Abstract:

The Constitutional Court of Colombia has issued a decision of international significance clarifying legal duties of providers,hospitals, and healthcare systems when conscientious objection is made to conducting lawful abortion. The decision establishes objecting providers’duties to refer patients to non-objecting providers, and that hospitals,clinics, and other institutions have no rights of conscientious objection. Their professional and legal duties are to ensure that patients receive timely services. Hospitals and other administrators cannot object, because they do not participate in the procedures they are obliged to arrange. Objecting providers, and hospitals, must maintain knowledge of non-objecting providers to whom their patients must be referred. Accordingly, medical schools must adequately train, and licensing authorities approve, non-objecting providers. Where they are unavailable, midwives and perhaps nurse practitioners may be trained, equipped, and approved for appropriate service delivery. The Court’s decision has widespread implications for how healthcare systems must accommodate conscientious objection and patients’ legal rights. [Full Text]

A matter of conscience

Washington Times
17 December, 2008

Reproduced with permission

Jonathan Imbody*

Americans blanch at abortion coercion in China, where population control agents force mothers to end the lives of their unborn babies who exceed the mandated limit of one child per couple. Yet few Americans realize that abortion-related mandates are also threatening to U.S. health care professionals who follow medical standards such as the Hippocratic Oath.

Conscientious physicians and other health care professionals are being pressured, under threat of job loss, to violate medical ethics standards by performing abortions and referring patients to abortion clinics to do the deed.

Abortion advocates have been lobbying vociferously to cast abortion as standard medical care and to mandate abortion participation by all health care professionals. Only a tiny fraction of U.S. physicians otherwise are willing to violate the Hippocratic Oath, which has guided medicine for well over two millennia, by participating in abortions.

The abortion mandate strategy may be ill-conceived, but unfortunately it is not ill-fated.

Abortion, which neither heals nor comforts, does not qualify as standard medical care under historical medical standards; it has only recently and politically infiltrated health care. Since American health care professionals have long enjoyed a measure of autonomy in making professional decisions, mandating participation in a procedure prohibited by long-standing medical ethics standards seems likewise implausible.

But abortion ideology and zeal have a way of trumping all notions of ethics and professionalism.

Aggressive abortion mandate advocates dominate the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a highly politicized medical specialty group with vast influence over the profession of obstetrics and gynecology. Last November, ACOG issued an official ethics statement tellingly entitled, “The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine.” The ACOG statement ignores the role of objective standards in conscientious objections to abortion. ACOG instead denigrates conscience as a mere subjective “sentiment.” In reality, however, health care professionals who object to abortion do so not because of subjective feelings but because killing the unborn contravenes Hippocratic, biblical and other life-affirming objective ethical standards.

By contrast, abortion ideology rests on the subjective, unanchored notion of “privacy” and “patient autonomy.” By ripping conscience from its foundation of objective standards and demoting it to the level of subjective feelings, ACOG paints abortion objections as a clash between a physician’s feelings and a patient’s autonomy. With autonomy elevated as the ethical trump card, physicians and all ethical standards must bow in submission.

Having demoted conscience to the subjective realm and elevated patient autonomy to a position of unchallengeable supremacy, ACOG opposes faith-based ethical standards as “an imposition of religious or moral beliefs on patients.”ACOG even incredibly contends that pro-life obstetricians should not only be required to perform or refer for abortions; they should also relocate their practices close to abortionists to make such referrals more convenient.

Given the official link between ACOG ethics positions and physician board certification, obstetricians who refuse to follow ACOG’s abortion mandate now presumably stand to lose their hospital privileges and their livelihood. Medical ethics thus would be turned upside down, as life-honoring physicians lose the ability to practice medicine simply for following the Hippocratic Oath.

Meanwhile, the abortion mandate movement will soon tap potentially irrepressible numbers in Congress and powerful advocates in the White House and the administration.

President-elect Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and other abortion advocates have strenuously opposed a modest U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that would ensure freedom of conscience in health care. The regulation would finally implement over 35 years of federal civil rights law aimed at protecting health care professionals from abortion-related coercion.

The HHS regulation, expected to be finalized before Dec. 20, could be overturned by a pro-abortion Congress and president, either through new legislation or a new regulation.

Mandating abortion participation in health care is rife with irony. Most Americans easily recognize the hypocrisy of forcing “pro-choice” ideology on all health care professionals. The injustice of ending the lives of innocent unborn children has only persisted in this country, where most citizens oppose abortion on demand, under the smokescreen of choice.

By driving out pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists who refuse to participate in abortions, abortion mandates would ironically decrease women’s access to some of the most conscientious and compassionate physicians in America, many of whom volunteer free medical services to poor women. Abortion mandates threaten to shut down thousands of life-affirming, faith-based hospitals and clinics that provide care in some of the nation’s most underserved communities.

Maybe that’s what it will take for Americans to penetrate the fog of abortion propaganda and recognize that breaching the foundational right to life imperils all other rights.

Don’t doctors deserve a choice on abortion?

Letter to the Editor
Baltimore Sun

13 November, 2008

Reproduced with permission

Jonathan Imbody*

The acerbic editorial “Bush rules” (Nov. 11) ironically accuses the Bush administration of attacking “personal rights” and then lambastes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for proposing a regulation to protect the civil rights of health care professionals.

The Baltimore Sun protests “extending the right to refuse to participate in an abortion to include an array of health care workers.” Which medical professionals does the paper deem unworthy of civil rights so that they should be forced to violate their conscience and the Hippocratic Oath?

Thankfully, shortly after the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade wrested decision-making control from the states and the people, a prescient Congress began passing laws to prevent coercion and discrimination against health care professionals on both sides of the abortion debate. Yet three major civil rights laws have never been implemented. Meanwhile, “pro choice” advocates, provoked by the fact that the vast majority of physicians refuse to perform abortions, have resorted to seeking to require participation in abortion.

A recent official statement of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists not only requires that physicians perform or refer for abortions but also demands that pro-life physicians relocate in order to refer patients to nearby abortion clinics. Our members report losing jobs and promotions over their commitment to life-affirming standards. The proposed HHS regulation is urgently needed to protect compassionate and conscientious physicians who are simply extending the life-affirming ethic and patient protections of the Hippocratic Oath.

Proposed rule would protect doctors from discrimination

The Hill
24 September, 2008

Reproduced with permission

Jonathan Imbody*

The uproar over a modest proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reveals a widening culture chasm in healthcare, created by disparate views of medical ethics and civil rights.

When HHS recently proposed a regulation to finally implement 35 years of civil liberty laws protecting conscience rights in health care, opponents railed against an alleged conspiracy to “deny women access to contraception.”

That’s quite an implausible protest against an agency that this year will spend over $1.6 billion on “family planning” programs.

The real reason for the abortion lobby’s protest stems from years of frustration in attempts to persuade physicians to violate their commitment to heal and to the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition on abortion and the mandate to “do no harm.” The last remaining strategy to achieve their goal of involving more physicians is to literally force them to perform or refer patients for abortions, through state laws and medical organization policies forbidding the exercise of conscientious objection.

The only thing standing in the way of that coercive agenda is implementation of federal civil rights law.

Ironically, coercive laws and policies, though instigated in the name of insuring access to women’s healthcare, in fact threaten to significantly decrease access — by eliminating physicians who hold to life-affirming standards of medical ethics.

Discrimination and coercion appear to be infiltrating many sectors of medicine. Over 40 percent of our members report having experienced pressure to compromise their commitment to medical ethics standards. Medical school applicants with life-affirming values report discrimination in entrance interviews. Residents report being denied clinical learning opportunities because they refused to perform abortions. Physicians report the loss of jobs and academic promotions based on their life-affirming stances.

The public likewise remains ignorant of existing federal civil rights protections. A scientific national survey by The Polling Company Inc. revealed that 42 percent of American adults incorrectly believe that federal law obliges a physician to either perform or refer for abortions.

The HHS regulation is urgently needed to remedy discrimination and coercion in healthcare before patients lose access to some of our bestand most compassionate medical professionals.

By implementing existing conscience-protecting laws and by initiating education, the regulation can take a vital step toward restoring a culture in medicine that honors professional standards and respects civil rights.

Re: Sept. 8 editorial “Leavitt should drop proposed health care rule.”

Letter to the Editor
Austin American Statesman

15 September, 2008

Reproduced with permission

Jonathan Imbody*

The editorial characterizes as “a back-door way to limit access to contraceptives” a regulation recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to protect conscience rights in health care.

The regulation in no way prohibits access to either contraception or abortion. The regulation merely implements 35 years of civil rights laws to protect health care professionals from discrimination merely for adhering to life-affirming medical ethics such as the Hippocratic Oath.

More than 40 percent of our members — physicians and medical students — report that they have experienced pressure to violate standards of medical ethics. Medical students report eschewing careers in obstetrics and gynecology for fear of coercion to do abortions.

This regulation is urgently needed to prevent forcing these principled professionals out of their careers through discrimination and coercion, which results in less access to health care for women.

Rights Commission threat “blasphemy against the human spirit”

College of Physicians secrecy said unacceptable

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Protection of Conscience Project

“Blasphemy against the human spirit.” That is how the Protection of Conscience Project describes a threat by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission to punish doctors who refuse to do what they believe to be wrong. The rebuke is found in a submission to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Citing writers and philosophers in the democratic tradition, as well as the landmark Morgentaler decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Project argues that to force doctors to act against their conscientious convictions is “to deprive them of their essential humanity.” It calls the proposed policy “profoundly offensive and demeaning.”

“To abandon one’s moral or ethical convictions in order to serve others is prostitution,” states the submission, “not professionalism.”

The brief denies that doctors who refuse to do what they believe is wrong are violating the Human Rights Code. It explains that they are concerned about “complicity in wrongdoing,” not race, sex or other patient characteristics.

The Project submission addresses the College draft policy, Physicians and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Deadline for comment on the policy was extended to 12 September following protests when news of it became public.

The President of the College told the National Post that the draft has been revised, but refuses to make it public. Project Administrator Sean Murphy finds College secrecy unacceptable.

“At least two substantial briefs reached the College only on Friday,” he said. “The National Post story appeared Saturday. It seems very unlikely that College officials could have considered either submission before revising the draft. This brings into question the validity of the consultation process.”

“But the more important issue,” he said, “is that decision-making that impacts fundamental freedoms should be conducted transparently, not secretly. Why keep the revised draft secret? Is there something to hide?”

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