The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that the University of Vermont Medical Center was guilty of forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion procedure, even though she had a conscientious objection to being a part of the operation. While hospital officials maintain that they did no such thing, the Trump administration outlined the extent of the allegations, saying that University of Vermont Medical Center was guilty of violating the “Church Amendments,” which protect healthcare employees from being forced to participate in abortions if those employees raise religious or moral objections.
Under this law, certain federal funds are tied to the hospital’s agreement with those amendments. The Vermont hospital in question, however, reported in 2018 that they had received $1.6 million in federal funding over the three years prior.
“Forcing medical staff to assist in the taking of human life inflicts a moral injury on them that is not only unnecessary and wrong, it violates long-standing federal law,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, said in a statement. “Our investigation has uncovered serious discrimination against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience, assist in elective abortions.”
HHS Office of Civil Rights officials say they tried numerous times to contact the hospital directly so that the matter could be resolved outside of the public eye. Unfortunately, University of Vermont Medical Center staffers refused to cooperate with the government, and indeed “refused to conform its policies to federal conscience laws,” according to the HHS statement.
Instead of assuring the OCR that they will come into compliance, the Medical Center continues to deny any wrongdoing.
“The University of Vermont Medical Center has robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees’ religious, ethical, and cultural beliefs, and our patients’ rights to access safe and legal abortion,” their statement said. “We do not discriminate against any employees for exercising their rights to opt out of procedures to which they object. These procedures cover initiation and cessation of life-support, organ transplant, sterilization, and termination of pregnancy.”
Well, we have to imagine that the Department of Health and Human Services has better things to do than to go around making up fictitious claims like this about various hospitals and clinics, so there’s something to the story, regardless of what the University of Vermont Medical Center is saying now. And if they don’t clean up their act, they’re going to find themselves short a few million dollars in federal funds.