The Department of Justice has opted to drop a lawsuit against a hospital which the Trump-era Department of Health and Human Services had alleged forced a pro-life nurse to participate in an abortion procedure against her will.
The HHS and DOJ are both under the leadership of the new presidential administration, however, and have decided not to pursue legal action against the University of Vermont Medical Center with little explanation as to why.
Fox News reported last week that the notice of dismissal filed July 30 simply reads: “Defendant University of Vermont Medical Center has not served an answer or motion for summary judgment in this action. The United States accordingly notices voluntary dismissal of this action, without prejudice.”
A spokesperson from the HHS told Fox News that “After a detailed evaluation of the underlying legal theory used to issue a referral to the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services withdrew the original referral and requested DOJ dismiss the suit against the University of Vermont Medical Center, a request which was granted.”
The spokesperson added that the HHS “continues to evaluate the underlying facts of the matter and notified all the parties” about the dismissal.
For the record—this is what the Trump administration found that the hospital had done:
UVMMC forced the nurse complainant to assist in an abortion against the nurse’s religious or moral objection. The nurse had expressed an objection for many years and was included in a list of objectors, but UVMMC knowingly assigned the nurse to an abortion procedure. The nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until the nurse walked into the room, when the doctor—knowing the nurse objected to assisting in abortions—told the nurse, “Don’t hate me.” The nurse again objected, and other staff were present who could have taken the nurse’s place, but the nurse was required to assist with the abortion anyway. If the nurse had not done so, the nurse reasonably feared UVMMC would fire or report the nurse to licensing authorities.
The Trump administration had argued that forcing the nurse to perform the abortion was a clear violation of the Church Amendments, which prohibit employers from forcing health care workers to participate in abortion or sterilizations against their conscience.
2 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c)(1) of the Church Amendments state:
(1)No entity which receives a grant, contract, loan, or loan guarantee under the Public Health Service Act [42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.], the Community Mental Health Centers Act [42 U.S.C. 2689 et seq.], or the Developmental Disabilities Services and Facilities Construction Act [42 U.S.C. 6000 et seq.] after June 18, 1973, may—
(A) discriminate in the employment, promotion, or termination of employment of any physician or other health care personnel, or
(B) discriminate in the extension of staff or other privileges to any physician or other health care personnel, because he performed or assisted in the performance of a lawful sterilization procedure or abortion, because he refused to perform or assist in the performance of such a procedure or abortion on the grounds that his performance or assistance in the performance of the procedure or abortion would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions, or because of his religious beliefs or moral convictions respecting sterilization procedures or abortions.”
The University of Vermont Medical Center has received federal funding in the past, so it seems this would most certainly apply.
The Biden administration did not bother to specify if they believe that a hospital should be allowed to force nurses who oppose abortion on religious grounds to assist in the performance of one, which is perhaps the most disturbing part of all of this.
Not only will the hospital administrators and doctors who allegedly had no interest in protecting her religious rights not face accountability for this heinous act of discrimination, but the door could now be open for other institutions to do the same.
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