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Nurse wins conscience ruling from state Supreme Court

Posted By Bob Unruh On 05/22/2009 @ 12:20 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A pro-life nurse has won a victory for the conscience rights of health-care providers at the Louisiana state Supreme Court which has sent her complaint over religious discrimination down the path towards a trial.

The case being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund was brought on behalf of nurse Toni Lemly who had worked in the St. Tammany Parish Hospital, but 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 to try to obtain that ruling. The high court, however, issued a single-word ruling on the hospital’s demands: “Denied.”

That means Lemly’s complaint now is headed towards a trial, according to the ADF, although there always is the possibility of a settlement being reached.

“The hospital acted unlawfully when it refused to make a reasonable accommodation for Ms. Lemly and instead terminated her fulltime position,” said Brian Arabie, a Lake Charles attorney who is allied with the ADF and is working on the case.

The hospital declined to return a WND call requesting a comment.

The nurse had told the hospital she objected to administering the abortion chemicals because of her religious beliefs, and in response the hospital fired her from her fulltime position and gave her only part-time work, costing her pay and benefits.

“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.”

Eventually Lemly sued the hospital over its decision, and the district court denied the hospital’s motion for summary judgment in 2007, leading to the hospital’s decision to pursue its action to the state’s highest court.

“Toni provided St. Tammany Parish Hospital with options that would have accommodated both her fulltime position and their wish to distribute the morning-after abortion pill,” Arabie said. “Instead, the hospital chose to engage in discrimination based on her courageous commitment to the unborn. We are hopeful that the hospital will change course, do what’s right for a dedicated nurse and her constitutional rights, and discontinue the need for any further litigation.”

The ADF noted that the Louisiana legislature, in the meantime, has launched an effort to protect such conscience rights.

H.B. 517, which would protect those individuals from retaliation when they exercise their right not to participate in medical procedures such as abortions that violate their religious beliefs, just days ago passed the state House of Representatives and now heads to the Senate. Also awaiting Senate approval, after overwhelming approval by the House, is H.B. 340, a constitutional amendment that would protect religious liberty rights from violation by the government, the ADF said.

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.

President Bush, at the closure of his presidency, installed a rule requiring that doctors could not be forced to perform procedures which they find morally objectionable – especially abortion.

But President Obama’s is considering a campaign to rescind the conscience protection.

Physicians already have forecast that if morally objectionable procedures are forced on doctors and nurses, multitudes will simply leave health care, and hospitals even could be closed down.

According to LifeNews.com, a poll of 800 Americans found 87 percent believe it is important to “make sure that health-care professionals in America are not forced to participate in procedures and practices to which they have moral objections.”

Charmaine Yoest, president and chief executive officer of Americans United for Life, the oldest national pro-life organization in the country, said Obama’s election actually is invigorating the pro-life movement.

“Immediately after the election, our servers melted down from so many people looking to take a stand against an abortion agenda,” Yoest told WND. “Subsequently, what we’ve found over the last several months is that every time we’ve asked people on that list to do something, the response has been overwhelming.”

“A lot of activists are waking up,” said Joy Yearout, political director of the Susan B. Anthony List, to Politico. “For eight years we had President Bush and his veto pen to protect us – and we don’t have that anymore.”

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 rabidly pro-abortion politicians, including former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now Health secretary.



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