UVM Medical Center fights federal claim it discriminated against nurse

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 12:26 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2020 at 4:50 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The UVM Medical Center says federal officials continue to threaten legal action after a government civil rights agency accused the hospital of forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion. But the hospital says it is in compliance with federal laws.

This started a year ago when the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services accused the hospital of forcing a nurse to participate in an abortion despite her moral objections, violating what’s called the “Church Amendment.” The feds threatened to pull funding.

Hospital officials said then that the claim was investigated and is not supported by facts.

UVMMC says two federal district courts ruled against the government and now the government is appealing. But they told the hospital they would not pursue additional legal action while these appeals are happening.

This week, the hospital says they were served papers and they still feel strongly that they didn’t discriminate against the nurse.

“I want to be very clear we are very sensitive to our employees’ religious and moral beliefs, and we believe are very confident that we have a policy that protects our employees’ rights while being certain to offer all legal and safe procedures for patients that seek our care,” said Dr. Stephen Leffler, the president and CEO of the UVM Medical Center.

Vermont’s attorney general is calling this a last-ditch effort from the Trump administration to infringe on women’s rights.

“The idea that you’re going to file this type of lawsuit 35 days to go before there is a change in the administration where you will have a new attorney general, frankly, is baffling,” said T.J. Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General.

The hospital says the next step is for the feds to take them to court. But as the attorney general stated, with 35 days until a new administration, he believes it will be hard to push any case through.

Related Stories:

UVM Medical Center denies discriminating against nurse over abortion

Bishop responds to US agency’s report of forced abortion participation at the UVM Medical Center

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