ADF Doesn’t Think Christians Should Be Required to “Provide Compassionate Care”

I don’t have very high expectations for the Religious Right, but their willingness to engage in utter misrepresentation still never fails to amaze me.

Take, for instance, the Alliance Defense Fund which has filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services against Vanderbilt University claiming that the university is “requiring nursing residents to participate in abortion procedures”:

ADF attorneys filed the complaint on behalf of a fourth-year nursing student at another university who wishes to apply to Vanderbilt’s nurse residency program but is unable to do so because the admission forms require her to promise to participate in abortions.

“Christians and other pro-life members of the medical community shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions to pursue their profession,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “People enter the medical profession to protect and heal the helpless. Federal law protects them from being required to kill the helpless. The law clearly states that grant recipients cannot accept taxpayer dollars and require health care workers to participate in abortions, which is precisely what Vanderbilt is doing.”

Here is what the application actually says [PDF]:

Often women are faced with many difficult decisions about their lives and health care. Nurses in the Center for Women’s Health support women through these decisions and provide professional evidence based care specific to each situation. One difficult decision women face is termination of pregnancy. If you are chosen for the Nurse Residency Program in the Women’s Health track, you will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy. Procedures performed in the Labor and Delivery unit include vaginal deliveries, cesarean deliveries, bilateral tubal ligations, dilatation and curettage, cerclages, inductions of labor, amniocentesis, chorionic villi sampling, terminations of pregnancy and fetal surgery procedures.

It is important that you are aware of this aspect of care and give careful consideration to your ability to provide compassionate care to women in these situations. If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals.

The application says that nurses in the program are expected to provide care to women who may have had or may be having an abortion, not that they will be required to participate in the process:

Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser said the acknowledgment was created to inform applicants that they will be asked to provide care to women who have had, or are seeking, abortions.

It does not mean to suggest that residents with religious or moral objections will be required to participate in the actual procedures.

“The letter was added in order to create an awareness that terminations are performed here at Vanderbilt,” Howser said. “If you choose to participate (in the nurse residency program), you will around patients who have had or are seeking terminations, and you may be asked to care for them. It does not say that you are required to participate in performing or in the performance of terminations.”

Vanderbilt has a long-standing policy that exempts employees, including nurse residents, from participating in activities due to religious beliefs, ethical beliefs or other associated reasons, Howser said.

But apparently ADF thinks Vanderbilt ought to be required to accept Christian candidates who refuse to “provide compassionate care” to such women.

UPDATE: I see that Vanderbilt has actually put out a statement explaining the policy:

There has been some publicity via traditional news media and conversation on the Internet that reflects a misconception of Vanderbilt University’s policy and practice regarding health care providers (e.g., physicians, nurses and trainees) participating in the termination of a patient’s pregnancy.

We recognize and respect that some health care providers may have religious beliefs or ethical convictions that conflict with this medical procedure. No Vanderbilt health care provider is required to participate in this procedure if such participation would be contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

However, they may be asked to care for the patient before or after the procedure in the same professional and compassionate manner that is expected of all Vanderbilt health care providers.

A Vanderbilt University Medical Center policy has been in place for years which clearly defines boundaries, respecting employees’ religious, moral and ethical beliefs. This policy allows all employees the ability to request not to participate in certain workplace responsibilities that may conflict with their personal beliefs. This policy also applies to applicants for Vanderbilt’s Nursing Residency program.

Vanderbilt University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, or military service, or genetic information in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other University-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression consistent with the University’s nondiscrimination policy.