Re: Wisconsin Assembly Bill 67
Testimony before Wisconsin Senate Committee on Health, Children,
Families, Aging and Long-Term Care
October 7, 2003
. . . I . . . experienced an onslaught of
disciplinary reprimands, retaliation, criticism and
ostracism. . . I was no longer assigned to train or
mentor new nurses despite my credentials and
qualifications. . . .I was denied career
advancement to clinical nurse three status, as the
research project which qualified me for advancement,
was resigned to another nurse without my prior
knowledge or consent. I was grilled as a "second
class nurse" or "nobody". . .
My name is Beth LaChance. I am a registered nurse
with over 25 years of experience. I very much
appreciate the opportunity to tell you my story in
hope that you will appreciate the importance of
Assembly Bill 67.
I want to be clear from the outset that I loved
my work on a labor and delivery unit at Waukesha
Memorial Hospital in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I had deep
roots in the hospital that I was employed with just
about ten years. This was my community hospital that
afforded essential health care for my very own
neighbors, friends and most importantly, my family.
Over long years of dedicated service, I had
advanced to the position of charge nurse. I had
earned the respect of nursing management, nurse
colleagues, as well as other physicians and nursing
staff. But sadly, I must tell you about the hardship
I endured since our hospital informed staff of a new
abortion policy. While not a single abortion had
been performed, I felt compelled, as a matter of
conscience, to resign my cherished position as
charge nurse. I believed that, as a leader, I would
have to become involved in either staffing or
otherwise supporting the performance of abortion
Thus, I felt compelled to gather signatures form
co-workers on a petition that sought reconsideration
of the new abortion policy. A great many co-workers
joined me in our shared expression of solemn dissent
based on our religious and ethical beliefs. Over one
hundred co-workers signed the petition, expressing
serious moral objection. The petition was presented
up the "chain of command" within the organization,
to the CEO, the Ethics Committee, and finally the
Board of Trustees. These solicitations were obtained
peacefully, courteously and properly.
But regrettably, since then I had experienced an
onslaught of disciplinary reprimands, retaliation,
criticism and ostracism. Far from respecting the
religious and ethical beliefs of so many employees,
hospital manager derided and ridiculed the
dissenters. Petition signers were publicly denounced
by our CEO in the hospital bulletin as "single issue
militant detractors". Indeed, many employees who had
freely expressed their moral reservations over the
abortion policy were intimidated into hurried,
secretive retractions of their signatures.
Our vice-president of human resources and nurse
manager both interrogated me about allegedly
inducing employees to abandon their patients in the
workplace to attend an Ethics Committee meeting.
This was an utterly false charge. The thought of a
nurse turning her back on her patient is abhorrent
I was also interrogated about "whether or not" I
have been "sick" and about "how do" I "get my work
done", as if I'd abandoned my own patients in
securing signatures - another false charge.
I was no longer assigned to train or mentor new
nurses despite my credentials and qualifications.
I was denied career advancement to clinical nurse
three status, as the research project which
qualified me for advancement, was resigned to
another nurse without my prior knowledge or consent.
I was grilled as a "second class nurse" or "nobody"
- despite my credentials - when I interviewed for a
transfer to a parish nurse position within the
organization. Again, the interviewers assailed me
with their litany of false accusations, including my
leading pickets and protest against the hospital as
well as spreading bad publicity to the press.
Finally, I was told that the vice president of
nursing didn't "want me interviewed" for this
position, but that I was "so qualified" that they
had to interview me.
Under these circumstances, I felt I had no choice
but to curb my ambitions, for the moment and simply
go about my nursing duties. I've been rebuked by my
superiors for "showing disrespect" for others views
and causing unnamed "other nurses" to feel
uncomfortable. It seems as if hospital management
was determined to use me as a scapegoat to teach the
rest of the staff that you will suffer bias,
discrimination and retaliation if you dare dissent
from the new orthodoxy or express your own differing
moral or religious views.
What seems clear more than ever to me was that the
hospital preferred silent acquiescence on the part
of morally neutralized employees, rather than any
genuine sort of pluralism. For dissent is equated
with disloyalty. Opposing views merit only rebuffs
rather than respect, let alone any reconsideration.
Yet, true pluralism entails mutual respect; not
blind domination on the one hand, and meekly silent
submission, on the other.
Approximately 18 months ago, I terminated my
employment when the first abortion was committed at
Waukesha Memorial Hospital. This abortion was
performed for reasons other than to save the mothers
life. I have lost 10 years of accrued seniority and
other benefits that accompanied the place I had once
Employees who exercise their right of conscientious
dissent, therefore, need remedies to support their
dissent; lest their dissent should merely sound a
prelude to their farewell. Rights are fragile and
ephemeral, unless their protectors may seek and
obtain redress against those who infringe them. This
right to redress is the protection that Assembly
Bill 67 affords. We are in dire need of that
protection. For here we stand. We can do no other .