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Protection of Conscience Project

Service, not Servitude
Repression of Conscience

Supervisor demands nurse assist with abortion

Nurse quits at Shaughnessy Hospital

Vancouver, B.C. Canada (1987)

Sean Murphy*

When Gina Fraser applied to work in the operating room at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver in 1983, she made it clear that she was unwilling to assist with abortions.  The supervisor told her that other nurses were willling to do so, and she would be accommodated.  For the next four years she worked in the operating room under the terms of this unwritten agreement.

However, in late 1987 her supervisor died and was replaced by a new supervisor, who told her that she had to do "her share of abortions" or move onto the wards.  The demand was particularly distressing because it came at a time when a family member was to have major surgery.  Ms. Fraser was unwilling to participate in abortion but, given her family situation, also unwilling to be subject to the added stress that would be involved with contesting the supervisor's demands.  She quit nursing altogether and retrained for work in another field.

At about the same time, two operating room nurses who refused to participate in abortion continued to work at Shaughnessy, apparently because they had been hired before the hospital began to do abortions and perhaps had some kind of protection under their terms of employment. 



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