A unnamed, Catholic nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt filed suit against the hospital in 2018 alleging it forced her to participate in an elective abortion.
In 2017, the complaint alleges, the nurse was misled by her employer to believe she was assisting in a procedure scheduled after a miscarriage. “After [she] confirmed that she was, in fact, being assigned to an abortion, [her employer] refused her request that other equally qualified and available personnel take her place,” the complaint reads. She then participated in the procedure and “has been haunted by nightmares ever since,” according to the complaint.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights threatened to pull federal funding for the hospital because it allegedly violated a “law that protects people who object to helping with abortion or sterilization procedures.”
The hospital disputes the nurse’s allegations and stated, “The University of Vermont Medical Center has robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees’ religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, and our patients’ rights to access safe and legal abortion,” the hospital said. “We do not discriminate against any employees for exercising their rights to opt out of procedures to which they object.”
HHS normally handles about one religious discrimination case a year. Since Trump took office, the agency has literally reviewed hundreds of cases.
The agency has given the hospital 30 days to work with them to change its policies “and to take immediate steps to remedy the effect of its past discriminatory conduct.”