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Regulators Say Vermont Nurse Coerced Into Assisting Abortion

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Health officials have accused the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM) of violating the civil rights of a Catholic nurse, after she was reportedly coerced into helping with an abortion procedure in 2017.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the complaint contends that the nurse “was forced to assist an abortion in violation of the nurse’s conscience rights,” Vermont Public Radio reported.

The unnamed nurse filed a conscience and religious discrimination complaint in May 2018, informing officials that her employer, UVM) in Burlington, misled her to believe that she was assisting in a dilation and curettage procedure after a miscarriage. The nurse didn’t know the procedure was an abortion until she had walked into the patient’s room, while the doctor reportedly told her, “Don’t hate me,” according to the Washington Examiner

“After [the nurse] confirmed that she was, in fact, being assigned to an abortion, [the UVM] refused her request that other equally qualified and available personnel take her place,” the complaint states. 

The nurse then participated in the abortion, and “has been haunted by nightmares ever since,” said Roger Severino, director of the HHS’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The OCR Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom announced a notice of violation to the UVM on Aug. 28, accusing the hospital of violating “church amendments” over “conscience-based objections.” The investigation concluded that the nurse had expressed her religious objections for many years, and had even been put on the hospital’s list of known “objectors.”

In a statement, UVM said that after conducting its own investigation, it concluded that the allegations are “not supported by the facts,” and expressed its disappointment over the OCR’s filing.