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Vanderbilt

Only one day after WND reported on a complaint filed by a team of Christian attorneys over Vanderbilt University’s requirement that nursing students pledge to participate in abortions, the requirement has been dropped.

A statement from Alliance Defense Fund today confirmed the school “modified” its nurse residency application “so that it no longer requires applicants to pledge that they will participate in abortion procedures.”

The ADF said the school’s announcement came in an e-mail to applicants just a day after the ADF filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Christians and other pro-life members of the medical community shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions to pursue their profession. That’s what federal law says, and that’s why Vanderbilt is doing the right thing in changing its policy and application,” ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said in a statement today.

“We will be monitoring the situation to make sure the university continues to comply with the law. It’s ironic that Vanderbilt changed its policy one day after denying that it required the pledge,” he said.

The school announcement said there had been some publicity about a “misconception” about the school’s practice.

“While Vanderbilt expects all health care providers, including nurses who participate in the Nurse Residency Program’s Women’s Health Track, to provide compassionate care to all patients, no health care provider is required to participate in a procedure terminating a pregnancy if such participation would be contrary to an individual’s religious beliefs or moral convictions,” the school said.

However, the ADF had complained about a Women’s Health Acknowledgment Letter that is one page of a 16-page application that the applicant must sign:

“Often women are faced with many difficult decisions about their lives and health care. Nurses in the Center for Women’s Health support women through these decisions and provide professional evidence based care specific to each situation. One difficult decision women face is termination of pregnancy. If you are chosen for the Nurse Residency Program in the Women’s Health track, you will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy,” the application letter originally read.

The application letter added that if the candidate could not sign the letter, they should consider applying elsewhere.

“It is important that you are aware of this aspect of care and give careful consideration to your ability to provide compassionate care to women in these situations. If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals,” the letter added.

The letter that was to have been signed by the candidate concluded with this acknowledgment.

“By signing this letter, I acknowledge that I am aware that I may be providing nursing care for women who are having the procedures listed above that may be performed in the Center for Women’s Health,” the letter concluded.

Bowman had explained the Vanderbilt policy violated the law providing that any institution receiving federal grants cannot force, coerce or otherwise require an individual to assist in abortions.

“No entity which receives, after September 29, 1979, any grant, contract, loan, loan guarantee, or interest subsidy under the Public Health Service Act [42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.], the Community Mental Health Centers Act [42 U.S.C. 2689 et seq.], or the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 [42 U.S.C. 15001 et seq.] 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,” the law stated.

In a statement one day earlier, Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser said the ADF was mistaken.

“Allegations by the Alliance Defense Fund that Vanderbilt’s nursing students, or other employees of the Medical Center, are somehow required to participate in terminations of pregnancy or in other activities that may be contrary to the employee’s religious beliefs or moral convictions appear to have arisen due to a misunderstanding by the Alliance Defense Fund,” the statement said.

The statement added that Vanderbilt’s Medical Center has a religious freedom policy in place.

“A Vanderbilt University Medical Center policy has been in place for years for employees, including nurse residents, so they may be excused from participating in activities due to religious beliefs, ethical beliefs or other associated reasons,” Howser’s statement continued.

The ADF said it had filed the complaint with the federal government on behalf of two fourth-year nursing students who wished to move to Vanderbilt but could not because of the prior requirement.

It said since Vanderbilt gets more than $300 million a year in federal tax dollars, and federal law prohibits grant recipients from forcing students or health care workers to participate in abortions contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, the policy needed to change.

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