Vanderbilt’s Shocking Abortion Illegality

by David French

As a matter of common decency, as a matter of law, and as a matter of conscience, it is hard to imagine a more invasive and reprehensible act than to require individuals who understand that an unborn child is a distinct human life to pledge to participate in killing that child. Yet that is exactly what Vanderbilt requires of nurses in the Women’s Health Track of its Nurse Residency Program. The university’s nursing residency application contains a specific, separate letter (called — in the Orwellian language of the abortion movement — a “Women’s Health Acknowledgment”) noting that nurses in the Women’s Health Track will be “expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy.”  If they do not sign the letter, their application “will not be considered.”

As my Alliance Defense Fund colleague lays out in considerable detail, this requirement blatantly violates federal law. The Church Amendments — passed three decades ago by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress — could not be more clear:

No entity which receives . . . any grant, contract, loan, loan guarantee, or interest subsidy under the Public Health Service Act [and additional other HHS administered laws] may deny admission or otherwise discriminate against any applicant (including applicants for internships and residencies) for training or study because of the applicant’s reluctance, or willingness, to counsel, suggest, recommend, assist, or in any way participate in the performance of abortions or sterilizations contrary to or consistent with the applicant’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.

As of fiscal year 2008, Vanderbilt received more than $313,000,000 in HHS grants, making it the nation’s 15th-largest HHS grantee.

This morning, ADF filed a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights on behalf of a pro-life nursing student, calling on the Obama administration to enforce federal law and to protect health providers’ most basic rights of conscience. Will a pro-abortion administration step up and force Vanderbilt to comply with its legal obligations?  

This is an ideal opportunity for the House Pro-Life Caucus to hold Vanderbilt — and the administration — accountable. Universities cannot ignore the law, and in an era of record deficits, the taxpayers should not be forced to fund institutions that so blatantly violate their students’ rights.