Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Jersey Nurses Sue to Avoid Abortion Care

The University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey recently and abruptly changed its conscientious objection policy to require nurses to provide care to hospital patients before and after they undergo abortion procedures. Previously, the University had permitted nurses to avoid caring for abortion patients at all, if they objected morally to abortion; but the new policy requires them to deliver pre- and post-operative care. Nurses are still free to decline to participate in, or to be present in the room during, the abortion procedure itself. A dozen nurses have sued to stop the implementation of the policy, and in November a judge granted a restraining order barring the hospital's training of nurses in pre- and post-operative abortion care until after its December 5 hearing on the case. Conscientious objection laws for healthcare providers are problematic, particularly if they reduce access to necessary medical services; but here there seems to be no question of the availability of the procedure. It seems to me that being required to take care of a pregnant mother just prior to her abortion, and then again just after it, is seriously offensive to a nurse who's morally opposed to abortion. If the nurses who feel strongly about this issue are a small minority of available nursing staff (which they seem to be), then I think the University ought to return to its previous, more sensitive, conscientious objection policy.

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