A Second Student Files a Complaint as Vanderbilt Spins

by David French

Yesterday afternoon, I wrote about Vanderbilt’s requirement that applicants for a nursing residency sign a “Women’s Health Acknowledgment” stating that applicants “will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy.” Further, the acknowledgment notes that if an applicant is not willing to provide care “during” an abortion, they should “apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program.” This acknowledgment clearly violates the Church Amendment, which bars discrimination against any “applicant” for residency programs who are unwilling to “in any way participate in the performance of abortions.”  

Shortly after my post went live, a second applicant came forward and filed a complaint with HHS. Vanderbilt now faces two discrimination claims with the Office for Civil Rights.

Vanderbilt responded in The Tennessean (Nashville’s largest-circulation newspaper):

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, said Howser, who noted that nursing students are not required to sign a similar letter of acknowledgment.

“If you choose to participate (in the nurse residency program), you will be around patients who have had or are seeking terminations, and you may be asked to care for them,” Howser said. “It does not say that you are required to participate in performing or in the performance of terminations.’’

If Vanderbilt doesn’t require nurses to participate in abortions, why is this not clearly stated in the acknowledgment? Why does the acknowledgment instead say that applicants will be expected to provide care “during” abortions and should apply to other programs if they have a problem? The conflict between the Church Amendment and the acknowledgment could not be more clear.

One final note: The Tennessean quotes two law professors who apparently believe that the nursing students don’t have “much of a case.” Following my rule of “always Google the alleged experts,” I discovered the reporter flipped through his rolodex (or thumbed through his Blackberry) and found an expert in election law and an expert in labor unions to opine on an abortion case. One wonders if they’d even heard of the Church Amendment before yesterday.

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