New York, New York — A New York City hospital has agreed to change its policies and procedures requiring medical personnel to participate in surgical abortions after it was investigated by the federal government.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nationally recognized legal organization, contacted the United States Department of Health and Human Services in March 2010 to ask that a formal investigation be conducted into Mt. Sinai Hospital after it threatened a nurse with disciplinary action if she did not assist with an abortion.
Its letter, addressed to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was signed by numerous members of Congress, including Todd Akin, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Mike Pence, Chris Smith and James Sensenbrenner. It also spoke of an issue at Vanderbuilt University Medical Center.
“Both of these situations are precisely the type of discrimination against health care providers that federal conscience statutes were meant to redress,” the letter stated.
Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, a Catholic, was represented in the matter, which also included a lawsuit in Kings County Supreme Court. The lawsuit asserts that Mt. Sinai Hospital violated state conscience laws in mandating that DeCarlo participate despite her religious beliefs, and that it also trespassed against statutes regarding religious discrimination. ADF also alleges that the hospital inflicted emotional distress on the nurse by its actions and ultimatum.
While the lawsuit is ongoing, the federal investigation has now concluded. As a result, officials at Mt. Sinai Hospital have agreed to make several changes. One of the most notable adjustments is its amended policy.
“It is the legal right of any individual to refuse to participate in these procedures,” it now reads.
In addition to the policy change, the hospital agreed to put in writing that it will abide by conscience protection laws, train its employees about these laws, and to keep records regarding which staff members wish to opt out of being involved in abortion procedures. Officials state that they will also update their human resource policy to outline that hospital staff will not discriminate against any employee based on their refusal to participate in an abortion.
“Pro-life medical personnel shouldn’t be forced to participate in abortions, and the new policies and procedures at Mt. Sinai reflect that,” commented ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman in a written statement. “The hospital seems to have decided to do the right thing and respect the conscience rights of its employees, who are protected by both federal and state law. We will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the new policy is followed.”
According to the hospital website, Mt. Sinai Hospital was founded in 1852 by nine Jewish men who sought to make a reality “a shared vision of free medical care for indigent Jews in New York City.” It was named to the US and World Report Honor Roll of elite hospitals for 2012-2013, ranking 14th out of 5,000 hospitals nationwide.
DeCarlo had filed a federal lawsuit against the hospital in 2009 over its requirements, but the court threw out the case.