Catholic nurse ordered to help with abortion

Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City

A lawsuit has been filed against Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City for requiring a nurse who had a long record of expressing conscientious objection to abortions to help in the dismemberment of a live 22-week-old preborn child.

The case is being brought by the Alliance Defense Fund, which also is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the hospital from retaliating against the nurse, Catherina Lorena Cenzon-DeCarlo.

"Compelling Mrs. DeCarlo to assist in this abortion against her religious beliefs exposed Mrs. DeCarlo to brutal psychological harm," said the document seeking the injunction. "By assisting she was forced to witness the killing of a 22-week-old preborn child by dismemberment.

"Because it was included in the requirements of her nursing duties as an assistant on the case, Mount Sinai forced Mrs. DeCarlo to watch the doctor remove the bloody arms and legs of the child from its mother's body by with forceps, and then after the surgery, to view the bloody body parts in the specimen cup, put saline in the cup, and take it to the specimen area," the injunction request explains.

This happened even though according to the hospital's own protocols, the abortion was not so urgent that it would have required her assistance, and there was more than enough time to summon another nurse, the complaint said.

A hospital spokesman declined to comment in a WND telephone call seeking information, instructing that the request for a statement be submitted via e-mail. An e-mail response said the hospital wouldn't comment.

The ADF explained that the hospital has known of the nurse's religious objections to participating in the death of a living unborn baby since 2004. Nevertheless, they ordered her to participate, threatening her with disciplinary measures if she refused, she allged. The hospital then dramatically cut her on-call assignments after she refused to sign a statement promising to participate in future abortions.

"Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs," said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of conscience. Federal law requires that employers who receive funding from tax dollars must not compel employees to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs, but this nurse's objections fell on deaf ears."

The case alleges the abortion was set up by the hospital because the mother had been diagnosed with preeclampsia, but DeCarlo knew such a condition can be treated without the necessity of an abortion.

When she was told the unborn child was alive, she immediately objected to Dr. Noel Strong, the resident assigned to the case. A series of calls to the nursing supervisor, Fran Carpo, and her supervisor, Ella Shapiro, followed.

The orders came back from Carpo that DeCarlo must assist in the procedure.

"Mrs. DeCarlo repeated her longstanding objection and pleaded with Ms. Carpo that Mount Sinai not force her to assist in this abortion against her strongly held religious beliefs. Mrs. DeCarlo asked Ms. Carpo to call other nurses to the case since so little time had elapsed before Mrs. DeCarlo had voiced her objection. Ms. Carpo said that Ms. Shapiro had insisted that Mrs. DeCarlo assist on the case, and had prohibited Ms. Carpo from even trying to call other nurses to cover the case. Ms. Carpo also said that Dr. Silverstein had yelled at her over the phone in opposition to any delay in the case as a result of Mrs. DeCarlo's request for accommodation," the document explains.

Then the threats began.

"Ms. Carpo said that if Mrs. DeCarlo did not participate in the case, Mrs. DeCarlo would be brought up on charges of 'insubordination and patient abandonment,'" the complaint states. "A charge of patient abandonment would severely jeopardize Mrs. DeCarlo's employment and her nursing license and consequently her career and her and her family's livelihood."

Even DeCarlo's tearful pleas to be allowed to get her priest on the telephone to explain her religious objection were ignored.

The case at the time was designated by the hospital as Category II, which means the doctors wanted the procedure done within six hours – more than enough time to bring in a replacement nurse, the lawsuit said.

According to the request for the injunction, federal law doesn't allow the hospital to do what it did.

"Mount Sinai is bound to respect Mrs. DeCarlo's conscience rights by virtue of several laws, but most notably 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c). Mount Sinai has voluntarily subjected itself to this statute by receiving hundreds of millions of federal Health and Human Services dollars in recent years," the request said. "This statute … states in no uncertain terms that Mrs. DeCarlo is protected from discrimination by Mount Sinai in the conditions or privileges of her employment on the basis of her religious objection to assisting in abortion.

"Mount Sinai blatantly violated Mrs. DeCarlo’s rights under 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c) on May 24, and it continues to do so by condoning the violation and insisting that it can compel her or other employees again or penalize them by removing them from on-call shifts," it said.

It said the injunction is essential because of the imminent danger to employees.

"Mount Sinai must not and cannot force employees to assist in procedures they consider to be brutal murder. But rather than honoring that trust it has resorted to brash bullying tactics against the one employee to ask that her rights of conscience be respected," the request said.

DeCarlo's injuries include the trauma from the procedure.

"She has felt intense emotional, psychological and spiritual suffering from having to participate in something she considers profoundly immoral and unjust. She has missed several days of work, has had trouble sleeping, and has had nightmares about the killing of this child. She has even had to deal with feelings of estrangement from God and family members," the law firm said.

According to the allegations, after the incident, the hospital retaliated against DeCarlo "because of her request that it honor her religious objection to assisting in abortion, and because of the grievance procedure that she filed. First Mount Sinai officials failed to assign Mrs. DeCarlo to her usual 8–9 on-call shifts in August."

WND previously reported on a similar conscience rights case brought by a nurse in Louisiana in which the state Supreme Court ordered a trial.

The hospital in the case had demanded that the nurse's complaint be dismissed.

That case also is being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund. It was brought on behalf of nurse Toni Lemly, who had worked in the St. Tammany Parish Hospital. She sued when she objected to dispensing the "morning after" abortion pill because of her religious beliefs and was demoted.

The hospital's lawyers sought to have her case dismissed out of hand, and when that attempt failed, went to the state Supreme Court. The high court, however, issued a single-word ruling on the hospital's demands: "Denied."

"The hospital declined several reasonable suggestions made by Lemly, a nurse for 23 years, that would have enabled the facility to continue administering the pill while allowing her to abstain from dispensing it herself," the ADF report said. "The hospital chose not to act on any of her suggestions."

WND reported earlier when Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, urged people to contact the White House to express their views on the subject of conscience rights.

"We don't want to kill our patients," she said in an interview with Greg Corombos of Radio America/WND.

There also is an online petition campaign on the issue at Freedom2Care through which people can contact the Department of Health and Human Services.

The issue is getting hotter under President Obama's leadership. Since his election, Obama also has repealed a ban on U.S. taxpayer funding of foreign abortions and overturned the nation's ban on experimenting on human embryos for stem cell research.

He's also installed in his administration's highest levels several strongly pro-abortion politicians, including former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now health secretary.

Contact: Bob Unruh
Source: WorldNetDaily
Publish Date: July 23, 2009
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